The toughest athletes in the world remind fans to “PROTECT YOURSELF AT ALL TIMES”
A clever play on words for a serious subject, the UFC is partnering with the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada aka “The Center” to raise awareness about HIV, specifically for young people under 30.
The 1980’s was the decade of discovery for the Human Immunodeficiency virus, and the 90’s was a call to action, which made great progress. Between breakthroughs in anti-viral drugs and a sustained educational plan mixed with widespread media attention, infection rates fell significantly and safe sex became the thoughtful Brazilian jiu-jitsu-like self-defense to ensure healthy future generations.
Sadly, it’s almost as if the fight against HIV was thought to be a won battle. The 2000’s brought about a complacency where there once was vigilance and the youth of today are gravely ill-informed about the disease. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention used terms like “shocking”, “astonishing”, and “unacceptable” when illustrating the ignorance of young Americans about HIV and AIDS. Even more shocking, in 2012, half of the 50,000 Americans infected with HIV were under 30.
That’s why the UFC and The Center are targeting a spinning heel kick comeback by launching “Protect Yourself At All Times”.
Octagon COO Ike Lawrence Epstein spoke about how the UFC’s connection with the young demographic in question worldwide will be used to educate and help keep them safe.
“As someone who grew up in the 1980s and saw the virus beaten back with education in the 1990s, I was stunned to learn from our friends at The Center that HIV is still having such a dramatic impact on young people,” said Epstein. “No other sport reaches the under 35 demographic like the UFC does and the UFC felt a duty to try and do something about this situation. It gives me great pride to announce the UFC will be partnering with The Center, LBGTQ+ and other organizations for a project we are calling ‘Protect Yourself At All Times’. This will be a local, national and ultimately international campaign designed to educate the UFC’s vast core audience of under 35s about the realities of HIV.”
As for The Center’s CEO, Bob Elkins explains how HIV has evolved from a concern for a minority of people to the majority and with that the UFC can assist in getting the word out like organizations did decades ago.
Liz Carmouche joins the UFC in support of raising awareness for HIV
“HIV stopped being a ‘gay issue’ long ago but, unfortunately, it has now very much become a ‘young issue’,” tells Elkins. “The jarring fact is that young gay men are becoming infected at a much higher rate. The lack of both awareness and accessible information for teenagers and young adults is truly frightening. It’s like the 1990s never happened in terms of education and public awareness. In the UFC, we have the perfect partner to fight this ignorance, and we thank them for joining us in this battle.”
Elkins speaks not only as a CEO, but as a positive example of someone who has personally fought the disease since contracting the virus 27 years ago. “Today, my viral load is virtually undetectable, thanks to my doctors and the meds,” adds Elkins who originally believed the virus to be a “death sentence”, but has been winning the war with the help of anti-retroviral treatment. “But through education and medical advances we began to fight back against the disease. Living with HIV is manageable, but we cannot allow advancements to take away our focus on preventing new infections through public awareness and education.”
Protect Yourself At All Times has two key messages: · Get tested; know your status · Protect yourself with safe sex practices
UFC Hall of Famer Forrest Griffin and #5 ranked UFC women’s bantamweight Liz Carmouche will serve as spokespersons for this campaign. “I had 15 fights in the UFC Octagon during my career, and before each and every one of them, I had a HIV test,” asserts Griffin who in retirement asked to take on a charity czar-like position for the UFC as the former light-heavyweight champ became involved and enjoyed participating in community outreach work outside of the cage. “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.”
As for Carmouche, who accepted the “Corporation of the Year” for the UFC from “The Center” on Sunday night, she added that being young and strong makes one forget the dangers that are out there. “There’s a feeling of invincibility that comes with being young, with being fit and the prime of your life,” adds Carmouche who was the first openly gay fighter to do many things inside the Octagon like fight for a title in it and headline a pay-per-view. “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 project yourself at all times.”
Protect Yourself At All Times is in training and will begin heavy sparring during the lead-up to the main event World AIDS Day on December 1st, which will include: · The UFC will fully support The Center’s LGBTQ+ programme, 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. For more information on The Center’s efforts with LGBTQ+ visit www.lgbtqpoz.org.