LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth
CAMPSafe - 2005
|by Sondra N. Arkin|
|Channeling Dr. (Gramma) Ruth
My Grandmother always told me "if you can't be good, be careful," and it is advice I freely dispense. Although most people don't know this, since the first year of CAMPsafe when Michael Cover and I schemed up the "Gladys Kravitz: don't run with scissors" campaign, I've had a finger in the annual promotions. Most years it is all ten fingers as I am often the one responsible for the words. And though I also get the credit (thank you anyway!) in recent years Mary Beth Ramsey is the graphic whiz making it all look so fabulous.
The CAMPsafe programs are funded by a grant from the State of Delaware and are specifically aimed at MSMs (men who have sex with men). We work hard to create something that works for the diverse population that lives and visits Rehoboth Beach.
Usually we start out with a couple of ideas of how we can tie the prevention messages into something sexy, silly or clever. Or timely, like last year's Olympic theme, or the serious tone we thought appropriate for 2003.
This year the genesis was all really Sal Seeley and volunteer Michael Muller's idea: Game Plan. Games have lots of potential for a fun promotion.
We've always considered that the more fun we can make the CAMPsafe promotions, the more people will notice them. We've focused on the prevention message condoms, condoms, condomsand know that the sexier our models, the more cards get taken and hung up on refrigerators.
But are we getting the message across?
Safe Sex, especially at the beach, has always been a hard message to develop people who visit Rehoboth come to have fun, be spontaneous, get away from the rigors of the weekit seems the last thing anyone wants to hear repeatedly is Be Responsible, Be Responsible, Be Responsible.
So, how is Game Plan different?
Well, I'll tell you right off that this is not one of those "make 'em all look sexy" years. Not that our volunteer models weren't sexy before we put them in silly costumes and poses. But this year our motive was to get people involved. We want to relay some facts. Explain some policies. Test your knowledge. Revive what some see as weary news about a decades old pandemic. This year is not all the same prevention blah, blah, blah.
And thus Game Plan.
We wanted to emphasize that when you know what is ahead, you can act responsibly to protect yourself and others. Game Plan might be your preparedness plan. Game Plan has to do with knowing what is going on. Game Plan is your road map.
There are three components of this year's program: Game Plan Event Cards; Trick Question: Rehoboth's Dating Game; and Trick Question: Gay Trivia Game Package.
The Game Plan Monthly Event Cards will replace the postcards used successfully for the past 6 years. Instead, we have created a monthly Game Plan card listing the events in the local area for each month (June, July and August, each covering about six weeks of activities) to help you plan ahead. At least you can decide where to go on a Friday night.
Similar to the Safe-Tea Dances, our Trick Question: Rehoboth's Dating Game will be a gathering not to be missed. Loosely based on the familiar Dating Game format, our contestants will be asked questions about our trivia categories: CAMPsafe Services, General Gay, STDs, Entertainment, Travel & Leisure, AIDS/HIV. Our winner will be the most knowledgeable, witty and charming of all of our candidates. A trivia game package (for you to play at home) will be distributed at these events.
Trick Question: Gay Trivia Game Package has been created to involve and educate on facts related to CAMPsafe services, our prevention messages, and all things gay and fabulous. These limited-edition games will be distributed at the events only. The games will also include "Wild Card" coupons that players can bring to the designated CAMPsafe spots for discounts and gifts to be supplied by CAMPsafe business supporters.
There is no doubt in my mind that we've made this year's campaign about as hard to create as we could. There are a lot more components, reams of writing, and lots of niggly bits: from our concept meetings to costume creation to prop collection to a photo shoot in the hallway of an old school (you get what you pay for). Throw in lots of handsome models who we asked to look
quite goofy, hours of Photoshop work to clip them out of the background, agonizing over just the right word for every piece....
So call me Dr. Ruth. Ask me anything about gay trivia, STDs or HIV, and I will give you an answer. Granted, it might not be the exact right answer, but that has never stopped me before.
Ironically, after working on the CAMPsafe program for the past seven years, I thought I knew everything about safe sex and had read every fact there was out there. But that just wasn't the case.
Each year I am stunned at some of the statistics. The reality is that the epidemic is still raging. Maybe not as much at home as abroad...maybe we don't know as many people dying from AIDS today as we did a decade ago. But infections are still on the rise. STDs are on the rise. Crystal meth has changed many people's ability to make responsible decisions. Some men are choosing to "get infection over" to live with the virus rather than live with the fear of infection.
While Federal and State funding, essential to our ability to sustain our programs, may insist that we focus on reducing the spread of disease with a stronger abstinence messageor laying more of the burden of prevention responsibility on those who are already infected I believe that as long as one person can infect another that it is all of our responsibility to work on stopping the spread of this virus.
So, although the administration and I may not see eye to eye on this point: If you can't be good, be careful. Or be good at it. Or be marvelous. But follow a Game Plan every time.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 15, No. 5 May 20, 2005