Compete Network Feature Stories

Community Hero: Jack Mackenroth



Jack Mackenroth has long been a positive role model for those who are HIV- positive (HIV+). When he was diagnosed as HIV+ in 1989 at age 20, his life expectancy was two or three years at best ultimately, it was a death sentence.

The fact that he has outlived his predicted death for the past 26 years has turned him into one of the most visible and committed advocates for HIV testing and treatment, and for eliminating the stigma attached to being HIV+.

Mackenroth has recently been appointed senior communications officer for The Global Forum on MSM (men having sex with men) and HIV (MSMGF). The advocacy network’s mission is “To advocate for equitable access to effective HIV prevention, care, treatment, and support services for gay men and other MSM, including gay men and MSM living with HIV, while promoting their health and human rights worldwide.” And it’s Jack’s job to get out the organization’s message via their website, blog, media interviews, press releases and social media.

Currently much of the MSMGF’s effort is focused outside the U.S., making sure that high-risk groups in middle and lower income countries have access to funding and services through the organization’s work with governments and organizations to protect marginalized MSM groups in those regions.

As a well-known fashion designer, reality television star, radio personality, an award-winning swimmer and Compete Magazine’s 2012 Athlete of the Year, Mackenroth brings to his new position not only his professional experience as a media strategist but also his creative, innovative approach to HIV activism. He became one of the most visible national HIV activists after disclosing his own HIV status on season four of Project Runway and it led to him being a national spokesperson for the HIV education campaign, “Living Positive by Design.”

As the director of public relations at World Health Clinicians in 2013, Mackenroth was the creative force behind the multimedia anti-stigma and HIV testing initiative, “HIV Equal.” He created the HIV Equal term to fight the stigma of being HIV+, illustrating that we are all equally valuable, regardless of our personal HIV status.

Following on the heels of the HIV Equal campaign, as a media strategist for Housing Works in New York City he was art director for a new HIV-related campaign. But Mackenroth doesn’t limit his support to work projects. He participates in lots of fundraising efforts for various HIV/ AIDS organizations, bringing his characteristic creative approach to his efforts.

Although only a novice cyclist, Mackenroth decided to take part in last year’s BRAKING AIDS® Ride, a three-day 300-mile ride from Boston to New York to benefit Housing Works in New York City. He figured while it might be challenging, it would certainly be doable and made the announcement that he’d raise $50,000 in only seven weeks for the AIDS advocacy organization that provides housing, medical, prevention and support services for those living in the New York City area.

With a massive social media reach of more than 500,000 followers, he thought donations would start to roll in. But when that didn’t happen, Mackenroth used his chiseled body as a billboard, “selling” personalized semi- nude selfies for donations over $250. Tagging the name, business, website or social media handle of any major donor, he posted photos on all his social media outlets; the larger the donation, the more provocative the ad place- ment became. By the time all the money was collected, he raised $52,300, setting an individual fundraising record.

Most recently he conceptualized and launched the HIV Shower Selfie Challenge with the hashtag #weareALLclean on World AIDS Day 2014 which went globally viral in multiple countries with over 26 million social media impressions. With today’s Internet providing the global village envisioned by Marshall McLuhan, it’s easy to see why Jack Mackenroth is the perfect community hero for our globally connected world.


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