Reality TV star joins forces with non-profit to stop HIV stigma

Volttage and The Stigma Project Partnership

In honor of World AIDS Day, Project Runway star, Jack Mackenroth and HIV awareness organization, The Stigma Project, joined forces to neutralize the stigma that is associated with people who are HIV-positive, representatives announced on Nov. 30

The joint venture officially kicked off on Dec. 1, which is recognized as World AIDS Day. The Stigma Project is a grassroots non-profit whose mission is to lower the rate of HIV infection, as well as “amplify messages of acceptance, understanding and education through our campaigns,” Founder and Executive Director, Chris Richey said.

The partnership is one of layered parallels and benefits. Mackenroth, who was on Season 4 of Project Runway, is also well-known in the LGBT community for his work as a model. “What The Stigma Project is doing is revolutionary. By using a slick and compelling advertising model, they draw attention to an important issue,” Mackenroth said.

However, the obvious benefits of having an attractive reality TV star as a spokesperson may pale in comparison to Mackenroth’s personal experiences. He is HIV-positive and has himself been stigmatized.

In addition to his work as an HIV awareness activist, Mackenroth is the spokesperson and co-creator of, a dating website that caters to HIV-positive men who experience rejection and backlash because of their HIV status.

“After the frustration of feeling like a pariah on other social networking sites, and after a series of negative emails from ignorant people about his status, [Mackenroth] decided to create a new site where HIV-positive men wouldn’t have to worry about disclosure or risk dealing with the stigma of being HIV-positive,” Volttage representatives said.

The fear of rejection or even harassment upon disclosure of their status is a constant and heavy weight for HIV-positive people, according to Volttage representatives, who hope their site will eliminate those concerns, at least while in pursuit of a partner.

“Volttage offers The Stigma Project a strong and targeted platform to reach a growing community of empowered HIV-positive men,” Richey said of what the two organizations hope will be a lifelong and mutually beneficial partnership.

Both organizations plan to fight the stigma by encouraging visibility and dialogue among HIV-negative and HIV-positive people through cross promotion, social media and visual campaigns.

“The partnership makes perfect sense because we are both targeting HIV stigma. We are doing it in different ways but our efforts can build exponentially by working together,” Mackenroth said. “Both organizations understand that unapologetic and often provocative visibility is a powerful way to convey information.”

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