Earlier this month, ViiV Healthcare, the only pharmaceutical company solely focused on HIV, returned with their award winning HIV prevention campaign, Me in You, You in Me — adding a city and a brand new cast. Building on last year’s success, this year the campaign is focused on normalizing HIV prevention and increasing awareness among the communities who are disproportionately affected by HIV. This includes Black women, Latinx/e men, Black queer and gay men and trans women.
Me in You, You in Me is unlike most PSAs in that it is both a campaign and a community movement-building initiative. At a national level, it brings together people from different backgrounds to experience and model what it feels like to strip away our culture’s pre-existing biases and stigmas through a unique social experiment.
Ambassadors featured in ‘Me in You, You in Me’ include some of the most pivotal creatives and public figures spanning across an array of specialties. It includes singer, dancer and actress Tinashe, actor and author Taye Diggs, actor and choreographer Nicco Annan, rapper and artist Villano Antillano, social media star and model Nicky Champa, and actor Rafael De La Fuente.
At the local level, the campaign is focused on four key cities—Atlanta, Dallas, Miami, and New Orleans—where it brings together a unique cross section of groups to build community awareness and engagement around HIV prevention from the ground up. This includes local cultural influencers, local businesses and organizations, along with ViiV liaisons. Together this group creates programming and messaging activities to talk about prevention in the places that people live, work and play. This includes everything from partnering at food drives to nontraditional advertising in bathrooms at evening venues to co-creating community art.
Produced by award-winning creative and entertainment studio Harley & Co. and directed by Sarah Hall and Arthur Vallin., Me in You, You in Me aims to normalize open and honest conversations about HIV prevention within the communities where they are most needed and to provide people with the resources needed to act.
In celebration of this new initiative, Diggs and Annan spoke with ESSENCE about how finding community in others and overcoming bias are crucial to ensuring that everyone can play a part in HIV prevention.
Okla: Nicco, can you tell me a little about this initiative and why you decided to become involved with it?
Nicco: I decided to attach myself to this initiative, because I think it’s something that needs to be done. I think it’s absolutely perfect that it starts the conversations and conversations not just about our community, community being Black, brown community, community being a queer community, community being heterosexual, elderly, all parts of our community. I think that this campaign was actually something, not just representing our community but actually starting conversations, especially within our community. I think it’s something that we need to hear, we need to know.
I think that sometimes people think that HIV medication, the stigma of HIV in general, is one thing that’s a monster for a lot of people. But I also think that the preventative measures that actually exist in the world, a lot of us or don’t meet some measure for whatever that reason. So, I feel like, with this campaign, it was a way to get the word out. It was a way to be able to touch people whom HIV touches in our lives, whether that’s personal, whether that’s friends, families, parents, loved ones. And it made sense to me. It made sense to me. The “Me In You” Campaign, when they even first brought it to me, I thought about empathy. I thought about transposition, like me being in your…I thought about me being in someone else’s shoes and vice versa. And the Me In You, I don’t know who came up with that name or what the initial thought behind it was, but that’s what I took from it. It really just highlighted the tone of empathy, and if we could have more empathy with one another, we could help eradicate some of the shame that exists out there and be able to really do what we need to do as a community to take some of these preventative measures.
Taye: You got that right, Nicco. And not to overtake, but yeah “Me In You, You in Me,” it was kind of a pun, but it was also about finding ourselves in each other, right? So, “Me In You and You In Me,” and how we sort of come together and find community, that was the thinking behind the name.
So Taye, with our higher rates of HIV infection in our community, why do you think the conversation of HIV has been so taboo in the Black community?
I have no idea, but what I can surmise, I think fear. I think people fear things that they don’t know or that the information has been kept from us. That, coupled with the idea that I think that people could learn so much more if we tried harder to delve into what we feared. In this case, going to the doctor, getting checkups, that’s a common theme amongst people that I know.
So, I know you two, do you guys know each other prior to this initiative? Did you guys meet before, prior to this initiative?
Oh, I had known Nicco’s work from prior to the NAACPs, but we were both at that event and Nicco won. So, I went up and congratulated him without knowing that I’d be in a crazy conversation with him either the next day or the next two days or so, so. The whole outfit was pretty, they really caught me, it worked on me. They caught me off guard with giving us these interviews. And there what we do for Bang, where we work, a whole bunch of questions we weren’t allowed to ask. But in doing so, the questions that we did ask of each other ended up getting very… The answers were very intense.
It was a space where we really just had that kind of stripped down conversation, Okla, it was really because you didn’t know who you were talking to. You did not see them, I mean, you heard them, but you didn’t know what they looked like. Even though I say I heard the face in his voice, right? But I didn’t know who it was. In your mind, sometimes you think, oh, if I hear this voice, I know who it is. But when it’s random and it’s not associated, it’s like it’s not in the theater. If you don’t know if this person is, I didn’t know if this person was an actor, a singer, a doctor, a lawyer, a fire chief. And that didn’t matter to me because I didn’t know the person’s occupation because we didn’t know what each other looked like, how each other identified then, we didn’t know that and we just were asking questions. Taye, what’d we have? 10?
Around 10, yeah. I forget the esoteric, some of those questions were, some of them were really out there.
Yeah, it looks like something… I feel like one of them may have even been like, where do you feel the most safe?
Yes. Yes, that was one of them, absolutely.
I think that was one of the questions. So, these questions were not something that had to do specifically with HIV. These are questions where we were able to see one another as human beings, right? I didn’t know that this was another Black man on the phone, you didn’t know that. And I think that that added to the impact of it. That added to when you see in the campaign, when you see us first meet each other, that’s really us for the very first time seeing each other. We both are like, this is extra. They got us blindfolded walking around blind, leading us around like here’s the step, step up here. It was like, what are we doing? Yeah, that’s funny.
So, this question is for both of you. What would you tell the man, woman, or non-binary person that may be struggling with HIV, that may not be ready to have that discussion yet? What would you tell them?
Oh, I’m tough, I’m tough, I’m tough. I’m still learning – I have a 13-year-old kid and I’m still learning because part of me believes that when someone is ready, Nicco and I were actually just talking about something like this in the car right before this call. It’s like when do you decide to cross the line between being as supportive as you can to a friend and allowing them their space, and to do what they want or making suggestions, kind of crossing a boundary of sorts and delving into their head and their reasoning and their possible trauma or whatever they are carrying with them that allows them to act in a certain way. You know what I mean?
To me, I would say it may be hard if a person may not have someone in their personal life that they feel that they can open up to and let that wall down, let them into that space. That’s a very intimate space when you’re talking about your health. But the advice that I would say is that they could go to the website that’s on this campaign
No, I’m just saying that’s just a starter because one of the reasons why I feel like they even asked us to be a part of the campaign is because people know our faces. They know our work, right? But through the actual campaign, they get to see us stripped down. They get to see us go through a process that could be akin or similar to what a person might be going through when they have to go and get their status checked, and not or, but and take any preventative medications and know that there are resources out there with these. And other, just the organization in general, I think that the way that it’s been constructed, it has been constructed with care. I think that it is something that if you don’t have those resources in your personal life, you can actually go through the steps through the website and through the process to gain some type of access. You know what I mean? And I think that that is the beginning. I think it’s the beginning. I think that would be my piece of advice that I would say to someone that’s struggling with that.
Well said. Well said.
Because it’s just too much, Okla it’s too much. I said today when we were on Tamron, but the fact is, what is it? The 11% of Black people that actually qualify for preventative medication only receive it, 11% out of all of the people that actually qualify for this medication, or I should say these medications because there’s many that you can take, right? With your healthcare provider, what works best for you, your body, all the things. But compared to the 78% of our white counterparts that have access to the medication and everything, that’s insanity to me. In a day and age when we have in our hands all of this technology, all of these things that are literally at our fingertips and there is assistance, there is help available, we must capitalize on that.
For more information on Me in You, You in Me, visit www.hivpreventionforus.com