October / November 2013
by Trenton Straube
Meet the new face of HIV awareness.
When Dave Watt competed for the Mr. Michigan Leather title in 2008, he wanted to address the issue of HIV stigma. He encouraged folks to not use phrases like “clean” and “DDF UB2.” With the help of his husband, a graphic designer, he came up with a button to get his message out: the “Mr Friendly” (sans period) smiling face, which includes both a positive and a negative sign, each given equal weight. “The symbol,” Watt says, “is designed specifically to not indicate the bearer’s status, but to help initiate a discussion about HIV.”
Watt won the Mr. Michigan Leather title, which gave him and Mr Friendly a larger platform to speak. He also began working as a prevention specialist at Community AIDS Resource and Education Services (CARES) in Kalamazoo, which offers case management for people living with the virus in all of southwest Michigan. In 2009, CARES adopted Mr Friendly as a program offering 501(c)3 nonprofit status.
Today, Mr Friendly has grown into an international movement, spanning beyond leather, fetish and Pride events. “We have teams of volunteers trained to reduce the stigma of HIV one conversation at a time in over a dozen U.S. cities,” says Watt, who boasts about Team Friendly Atlanta like a proud papa. There are also two Mr Friendly workshops, one about disclosing status and the other about discussing barebacking with friends who choose not to wear condoms. “It’s an important topic,” Watt says of the latter. “The conversation preceding sex ideally needs to be more than, ‘Are you good? Me too. Let’s go.’”
Now that’s some friendly advice we can all use.
Search: Dave Watt, Mr Friendly, stigma, Community AIDS Resource and Education Services, CARES,
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comments 1 - 9 (of 9 total)
Jose A. Pimentel, Provincetown, 2014-01-10 07:18:16
I applaud Dave Watt for initiating this much needed contribution in the development of gay male culture . " Don't ask , don't tell" shouldn't be our mantra . Dialogue , information to younger generations and starting a respect for each other . Releasing our culture from the shame that I believe still rules it . No twinks , no fats , no fems haven't we been bullied enough !
fernando, mexico city, 2013-12-21 22:20:35
vih positivo desde 1984
Sida por toxoplasmosis en 1992
jockdaddy, toronto, 2013-11-07 10:03:13
And it goes like this ;+) Now how about we get a real bad ass emoticon professionally designed/campaigned and flood all smartphone/IOS emoticon app creators out there to include it and GET with the digital age. Hey you! HIV/AIDS gov/foundation/Slush fund/Condom Preacher ....yes Im talking to you..get with the digital age! Folks at the grassroot level are telling you something here...or is there way too many volunteers turning the light bulbs within these organaziations? To my FB friends....just smile...and wink ;+)
harleymc, , 2013-10-20 23:15:21
The practicle impact of Mr Friendly is to dismiss the very real differences the HIV positive community have from the wider community. It is about making our lives invisible, thereby increasing stigma.
Ed B, Mendham, NJ, 2013-10-17 17:06:19
Mr. Friendly gave me an avenue to take the message back home to Northern New Jersey and introduced me to some amazing men from all over the east coast at Pride 2013 in NYC. Policemen/woman, firefighters, doctors and lay people ask about the "dog" tag i wear proudly everyday.Thank You David Watt for helping break the ice and fight the stigma.
Kris, Portage, 2013-10-16 16:17:51
Mr. Friendly is an awesome symbol that helps with the stigma that goes along with HIV. The Mr Friendly facebook page is another great way to make connections with wonderful people all around. Dave has put a lot of hard work into Mr. Friendly to make it the success that it has become today. Another thanks to POZ magazine on the wonderful article about Mr. Friendly and helping to get the word out.
Josh F, Sterling Heights, MI, 2013-10-03 20:36:51
The Mr. Friendly symbol is an amazing way to open up discussion about HIV, getting tested and lending a stigma free ear or shoulder to someone living with HIV. I suggest everyone visit the Mr. Friendly website and like the Facebook page. A stigma free environment starts with you! Thank you Dave! You and Ken have changed this world for the better! Let's all jump on the Mr.Friendly band wagon! Have a friendly day! Let's all be stigma free of HIV!
Jack McNulty, Cleveland, OH, 2013-10-03 17:45:43
What a tremendous undertaking. I wish Mr. Friendly the greatest success in this important mission.
Dave Watt ;+), Kalamazoo, MI, 2013-10-01 12:00:23
comments 1 - 9 (of 9 total)
Thank you Poz Magazine for posting this story!
Web links- MrFriendly.info,
Facebook- "Mr Friendly" with 4,500 likes ;+)