Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada (The Center) are partnering together to launch the "Protect Yourself at All Times" campaign in response to the high rates of HIV-infection among those under 30.
Last year, about half of the 50,000 people newly infected with HIV were under 30, which is often attributed to a lack of awareness of safe-sex practices and ignorance of the dangers which HIV presents. Ironically, this situation may be the result of the incredible success HIV activist groups had in the 90s, when a combination of successful education initiatives decreased the rate of infection and new anti-viral drugs helped prolong and improve the lives of those already infected.
Both UFC COO Ike Epstein and The Center CEO Bob Elkins expressed dismay over these facts. They believe their partnership will be effective in reaching this younger demographic, and fight back against complacency. The emphasis of the campaign will be on awareness and education, with the two key messages being: get tested and know your status, and practice safe-sex.
According to UFC Hall of Famer Forrest Griffin, a spokesperson for the campaign, the issue is about respect for one's partners: “I had 15 fights in the UFC Octagon during my career, and before each and every one of them, I had a HIV test. I’m encouraging everybody to show themselves and their partners the same respect I showed my opponents by getting tested and protecting themselves at all times.”
Liz Carmouche, an openly lesbian UFC fighter and spokesperson, echoed these sentiments and added that the focus on the young was important because "there’s a feeling of invincibility that comes with being young, with being fit and the prime of your life. But I learned when I was in the US Marines just like I’ve learned as a UFC fighter, no one is invincible, and that you have to protect yourself at all times.”
"The UFC knows how to protect its fighters in the ring, and now they are using that knowledge and reach to educate and inform," said GLAAD's National Spokesperson, Wilson Cruz. "This partnership with the Las Vegas Gay and Lesbian Center demonstrates a strong commitment to all their fans, including those who are LGBT."
The campaign will continue through World Aids Day on December 1st., and will include the following actions:
- The UFC will fully support The Center’s LGBTQ+ program, which offers free HIV tests to the wider Las Vegas community
- UFC athletes and personalities visiting centers nationwide who offer free HIV tests and educational initiatives
- The UFC will be creating public service announcements which will be distributed across its powerful media platforms
- The UFC will also be donating promotional inventory to the campaign, beginning with a full-page ad in next month’s UFC 360 magazine, and ask its partners to donate similar space to raise issue awareness.