Message with an Edge
Daniel O'Neill and Brant Miller have a success story to share. At their Gay Men's Health Summit Workshop, ''Repackaging the Condom Question: Using Sexually Explicit Messaging to Inform and Eroticize Condom Use Among MSM,'' their frontline tale boils down to one phrase, ''FUK!T''
They want safer-sex educators to know how the program of that name, produced by the HIV Working Group at The DC Center, D.C.'s LGBT community center, has grabbed gay men's attention. With that name - as well as an edgy online presence that's gone so far as to feature porn stars in safer-sex videos - why wouldn't it?
''From the outset, we wanted [FUK!T] to be scalable, easily replicated,'' says O'Neill, a fourth-year medical student.
The program, which has put free packets of condoms and lubricant in venues across the city, thanks to volunteer labor, a $60,000 grant from the city, and the dedication of organizers like O'Neill, followed time O'Neill spent in Manchester, U.K., in 2005.
''I was amazed at how ubiquitously condoms were packaged in bars,'' he remembers. Today, the D.C. version of FUK!T - along with its more genteel counterpart, ''TOOLK!T'' - has already migrated to Seattle.
''They gave it their own spin,'' O'Neill says with apparent pride that the very grown-up safer-sex campaign is catching on. ''Free condom distribution is a great idea.''
People at the condom workshop will learn about not just what FUK!T has already accomplished, but what's up the group's sleeve, so to speak.
''We're in the process now of developing an application, kind of a one-stop shop for gay men's survival,'' O'Neill promises, saying that the mobile app may be packed with all sorts of audience-appropriate information, from where to find free condoms, to who might offer post-exposure HIV prophylaxis treatment. ''The challenge is getting it approved by Apple and all of these groups, making sure it's 'PG' enough.''