The City of West Hollywood has enlisted YouTube celebrity Todrick Hall to help promote its effort to make residents aware of PrEP.
In a video titled “Hakuna Truvada,” a play on the Swahili term “hakuna mutata (“no worries”), Hall and other performers call out the fact that Truvada has been found to be effective in reducing the chance of contracting HIV when used as part of a pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) regimen. It has been the subject of some controversy, however, because of indications that many gay men using PrEP are not using condoms, which increases their risk of infection by other sexually transmitted diseases.
The city’s campaign also includes outdoor advertising and targeted printed information with details about obtaining a PrEP prescription and about healthcare services available locally that help prevent the spread of HIV. HIV is of particular concern in West Hollywood given that 40% of its population consists of gay men, a group with an exceptionally high HIV infection rate.
The campaign is part West Hollywood’s “Let’s get to zero together” effort — an HIV zero transmission strategic plan — in collaboration developed with HIV and substance abuse treatment service providers. “Hakuna Truvada” is supported by The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation (ETAF).
“I have been an eyewitness to the AIDS epidemic from the very beginning. I believe that PrEP is part of the beginning of the end of the epidemic,” said West Hollywood Councilmember John Duran. “Thirty years ago we prayed for a medication that would prevent transmission. It is here.”
“West Hollywood wants every person to access the tools and opportunity needed to avoid an HIV infection. It’s important,” said Councilmember John D’Amico. “Talk to your healthcare provider to see if PrEP is right for you.”
The PrEP PSA was produced and conceived by Todrick Hall, a singer, actor, director, choreographer and dancer who rose to the semi-finals of American Idol in its ninth season. He received international acclaim for his creative role in the CLIO Award-winning safety video for Virgin America airlines. His YouTube channel, with more than 2.1-million followers, features his music-inspired projects, including past PSAs with the City of West Hollywood, such as Alice in WeHoLand to encourage pedestrian safety and Pretty Boys to promote voting and public participation.
Hakuna Truvada is a fun and lyrical West Hollywood-themed parody of Elton John’s and Tim Rice’s Oscar-nominated mega-hit song Hakuna Matata, which is featured on the score and soundtrack of Disney’s The Lion King based on the Swahili phrase In the PSA video, dancers are adorned in wild-animal prints as they dance and prance in West Hollywood’s own jungles and plains in a jaunty West Hollywood-style twist of the famous scene from The Lion King — the characters sashay as a group to the Los Angeles LGBT Center WeHo for a health checkup and a PrEP prescription.
Nearly two dozen dancers, models, and actors appear as characters in Hakuna Truvada, including Kory DeSoto as Timon; Daniel Franzese as Pumba; Todrick Hall as Simba; Willam Belli as sexy nurse, and Tre Melvin as healthcare assistant.
“When you look at the statistics and see that 1 in 4 new HIV infections each year occurs in those aged 13 to 24, it’s evident that young people aren’t paying attention to traditional methods of education about HIV,” said Joel Goldman, managing director of the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. “This PSA is a brilliant concept from the City of West Hollywood and Todrick Hall to break through the clutter and reach young people with really important information about HIV prevention. ETAF is thrilled to support initiatives like this.”
In addition to the Hakuna Truvada video, the City of West Hollywood, in collaboration with AIDS Project Los Angeles and the Los Angeles LGBT Center, has just released a new slate of printed materials in English and Spanish with PrEP information targeted to multiple communities, such as gay men and transgender people.
This includes postcards, pamphlets and pocket cards, as well as promotional ads on online apps such as Scruff and Grindr. In addition, with Pride month coming up in June 2016, WeHo Life is “PrEPping for Pride” by creating PrEP condoms and condom packaging with PrEP details.
To obtain location-based information about local PrEP providers, text “PREP” to 41411. Transgender people can text “Trans” to the same number for a link to the West Hollywood Transgender Resource Guide. Texting “PrEPare” will generate a link to Spanish-language information. All text links connect to information based at www.pleaseprepme.org.
For more information about PrEP, please visit www.weholife.org.
For additional information about the City of West Hollywood’s efforts to end HIV and to promote awareness about PrEP and sexual health, please contact the city’s Social Services Division at (323) 848-6510. For people who are deaf or hearing impaired, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.