Gilead finds new way to raise HIV awareness, locking in with dancer for voguing workshop

Gilead Sciences is bringing its HIV awareness campaign to the ballroom, partnering with actor and dancer Jason A. Rodriguez for a workshop about the dance style voguing and sexual health. 

The Gilead-sponsored class, which will take place April 12 in New York, will teach the importance of sexual health, through voguing, and share the history of the HIV epidemic to around 100 participants. Specific areas of focus include the importance of preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Gilead sells the PrEP drug Descovy. Attendees will also have the chance to meet Rodriguez and other dancers. 

“This collaboration with Gilead allows me to use my passion for dance and voguing as a platform to talk about sexual health and HIV prevention. To me, the connection between voguing and prioritizing your sexual health is all about confidence. In my experience, it’s important to encourage confidence in our community, to celebrate our bodies and our identities, and to use this as motivation to break down stigmas around HIV and sexual health,” Rodriguez said in a statement.

Rodriguez played Lemar Khan in FX’s “Pose,” a TV series about New York City's ball culture in the 1980s and 1990s. The series covered the impact of the HIV epidemic on the community, which includes groups such as men who sleep with men and transgender individuals of color who were at particularly high risk as the virus began spreading. 

Key groups in the ball community are still disproportionately affected by HIV. That fact informed Gilead’s decision to work with the community on the awareness campaign, as Manny Rodriguez, director U.S. public affairs, HIV communications at the biotech, explained.

“At Gilead, we are always looking for unique ways to reach and engage with different communities impacted by HIV. I’m excited to see this creative activation come to life as a platform to not only raise awareness of the importance of prioritizing HIV prevention, but also as a way for us to help provide information and resources to the community,” Manny Rodriguez said.

Gilead is far from the first organization to identify the ball community as a partner that can help raise awareness. The nonprofit GMHC has worked with the community for years, including by hosting the Latex Ball as an annual tribute to people lost to AIDS-related complications since 1993. Project VOGUE also worked with the community to raise awareness of the virus and HIV vaccine clinical trials.  

The drugmaker is involved with the Latex Ball. Last year, the organizers of the event asked people to help create a social media campaign to communicate what they learned at a workshop hosted by Gilead. This year, Gilead is hosting another presentation the day before the ballroom dance class. Attendees that go on to create videos about topics such as PrEP will have the chance to win a $5,000 prize at the Latex Ball.