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    Team Friendly Louisville is a chapter of an international movement to counter the stigmas of HIV and of HIV-positive individuals. Their umbrella organization is Mr. Friendly, which currently has 20 chapters in the U.S. and Canada. Each chapter helps fight HIV stigma in “friendly ways,” through social media, events, and community involvement.
    Mr. Friendly was founded in 2008 by Dave Watt, an HIV Prevention Specialist from Michigan. Time and again, Watt had witnessed the common dismissal of safe sex practices and the lack of or avoidance of conversations about sexual health and HIV. Watt also saw how HIV positive individuals were affected by not only physical ailments but also mental strain inflicted by an uninformed community. To raise awareness and combat discrimination, Watt created Mr. Friendly: an organization that helps HIV positive people find support, learn, and to speak up. Says Watts, “regardless of one’s [HIV] status, we are all in this together.”
    The Louisville chapter of Mr. Friendly was organized in 2012. Currently, Jeff Henken is the President of the Board for Team Friendly Louisville. When we spoke, Henken emphasized that Team Friendly Louisville hopes to “change the way we talk about HIV in Kentuckiana” through the use of compassion versus judgment. In order to do so, they make a Friendly promise:
    “To discuss HIV without judgment
    To encourage their friends to test for HIV
    To let their friends know that positive or negative, I’m here for you”
    This friendly, judgment-free zone provides information on HIV testing. More importantly, people who come to Team Friendly for aid know that they will not be shunned for being positive.
    Henken mentioned that Team Friendly Louisville is also a member of the Kentuckiana AIDS Alliance and have made several appearances throughout the area. They’ve participated in Yelp’s Art in Action, partnered with Derby City Sisters, Derby City Bears, and AIDS Interfaith Ministries, and supported other Team Friendly chapters in Cincinnati and Dallas-Fort Worth. In all their efforts, they wish to spread their message, their open arms, and their services to whoever may need the information and resources.
    Currently, Team Friendly Louisville is working to become a recognized IRS 501c3 charitable organization, and they are always looking for new members and supporters. They are also putting together a “Friendly partners” list as a resource guide to the Kentuckiana area.
    After all, as Henken reiterates:
    “When it comes to ending HIV, we are all in this together. No matter your status, HIV-positive or HIV-negative, we’re here for you.”
    Images courtesy of Team Friendly 
    Irena Tran's picture

    About Irena Tran

    I studied Art at UofL and now physical therapy at Bellarmine University. I love art, sports, and good food. I'm always looking for something new to try and new concepts to photograph!

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