So the good people of mtvU and the Kaiser Family Foundation launched PosOrNot yesterday, an HIV-awareness site in which visitors try to decide, based on a few personal facts, whether the attractive young people popping up on the screen are HIV positive or negative. Every picture features that individual’s full HIV story once you’ve clicked through, and celebs like Will.i.am, Alyssa Milano, and Wyclef Jean, plus bands like Fall Out Boy have signed on to support the project. At the top of the page, it has options like "Get Informed" and "Get Tested." The full effect is also 97 percent better designed and nicer to look at than the site it clearly takes its concept from.
Now, I grew up in the height of the AIDS crisis, and circumstances caused me to understand the disease earlier than some people my age. Through my teenage years — the same demo I’d assume PosOrNot.com is trying to reach — I found myself powerfully affected by the AIDS Memorial Quilt that traveled the country, as well as musicals like Falsettos and Rent. In fact, while talking to original Rent cast members for our oral history earlier this spring, almost each and every one of them expressed shock and surprise at how readily this disease, now that it’s manageable, has been swept under the rug… but that doesn’t mean people aren’t still transmitting it, suffering from it, dying because of it.
I don’t know if this website can have the same emotional heft as those things that moved me as an impressionable youth, but it’s reassuring to see someone try. So, PopWatchers, take a second to stop by PosorNot.com, play it for a while, pass it on to your friends. Even if you don’t need educating about HIV/AIDS, use this opportunity to remember the folks we’ve lost. And then pray that, for some ungodly reason, this total downer of a game catches on with the youth of America, so that they might learn something today before they resume their usual busy schedules of posting drunken pictures on Facebook and having sex with strangers they met on the Craigslist.