The Bronx's BOOM!Health Films the Zombie Apocalypse to Fight AIDS Stigma & Promote Testing, Treatment, and Care

Stigma toward people with (or at risk for) HIV, hepatitis C and drug addiction means they end up being treated like zombies, shunned away from support and care.

NEW YORK, Dec. 3, 2013 /PRNewswire-iReach/ -- Stigma toward people with (or at risk for) HIV, hepatitis C and drug addiction means they end up being treated like zombies, shunned away from support and care.


That's the message of this edgy, funny new video pegged to World AIDS Day, from BOOM!Health, an $12-million Bronx nonprofit:

There is also a Spanish version of the video:

BOOM!Health was formed this summer from a merger of two longtime agencies, Citiwide Harm Reduction and Bronx AIDS Services. The new agency's one-stop-shop model removes the barriers to accessing primary medical care, as well as HIV and viral hepatitis prevention services, while supporting clients and program participants on their journey towards wellness and self sufficiency.

"We wanted to stress that stigma around these issues can make you feel like a zombie in your own community, but that here at BOOM!Health, you'll find a safe, nonjudgmental home for health testing, treatment and supportive services," said Robert Cordero, BOOM!Health President/Chief Program Officer.

"We've got it all here, from clean syringes to stop the spread of HIV and hepatitis C among drug users, to comprehensive access to primary care, a full-service pharmacy, mental-health counseling and support groups," he continued. "We're a harm-reduction model. We don't turn people away based on their drug use. Instead, we give you a safe place, off the streets. And there's a great daily hot lunch, too.

"The video also incorporates a new social marketing ad campaign that BOOM!Health launched in October on 60 MTA buses and multiple subway stops. The posters encourage Bronx residents to know their HIV and hepatitis C status by getting tested and engaging in treatment. The Bronx-based nonprofit provides comprehensive prevention, health, housing, legal and wellness services for over 8,000 New Yorkers.

The Bronx is the uncontested epicenter of the HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C and overdose epidemics, in addition to struggling with severe homelessness and health disparities that are all driven by poverty. And the South Bronx has death rates which are 30% higher than those in wealthier NYC neighborhoods.

"We decided to create this short zombie video to highlight the fact that every day individuals in our community are treated as stereotypes based on a particular profile," says Jose M. Davila, MPH, BOOM!Health's President & Chief Administrative Officer.

"They may be teenagers, Blacks, Latinos, immigrants, drug users, people living with or at risk for HIV or hepatitis C, the homeless, gay men, lesbian women or transgender sex workers. All often face extreme disapproval based upon grounds that are perceived, and serve to distinguish them, from others. But the issue is much more complex, especially in the Bronx, New York.

"In the video, the zombie characters, played by BOOM!Health staffers Carlos Rosario and Glorisel Acevedo, are a metaphor for how stigma is almost permanently assigned to certain groups by society. In no way should this video be interpreted as labeling those BOOM!Health serves as zombies.

"Our newest video dismantles the idea that there is a permanent mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality or person," says Alan Goldberg, BOOM!Health Board Member and CBS 60 Minutes Sports Producer.

At least half of all recorded NYPD stops involve youth between the ages of 13 and 25. Most are Black or Latino Almost 90 percent of stop-and-frisk incidents citywide yield no drugs, guns, open containers, or anything else illegal. (Vera Institute of Justice, Center on Youth Justice).

Drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death in New York State, exceeding even motor vehicle accidents. (Drug Policy Alliance). It is legal in New York State for non-medical persons to administer Naloxone to another individual to prevent an opioid/heroin overdose from becoming fatal. Naloxone (Narcan) is a prescription medicine that reverses an overdose by blocking opioids in the brain. (New York State Department of Health)

Almost 40% of new HIV infections are among young people ages 13 to 29. South Bronx residents have the highest AIDS-related death rate in NYC. There's no cure for HIV/AIDS, but a variety of drugs can be used in combination to control the virus. Treatment is available. (CDC). According to the NIH, "The current CDC guidelines for HIV testing are too conservative, and more frequent testing is cost-effective for all risk groups.

"75% of those with hepatitis C don't know it. Hepatitis C is treatable and can be cured in many cases. (CDC)

Already, the video is earning raves from local health officials. "Society often treats those living on the margins like zombies just because of their life circumstance," says Dr. Monica Sweeney, former Assistant Commissioner of the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. "This amazingly beautiful video teaches us that we need less judgment and more acceptance, engagement and respect.

""This video is funny, shocking and relevant," says Gabriel Sayegh, director of the Drug Policy Alliance's New York City office. "BOOM!Health confronts stigma and discrimination head-on.

"Health | Wellness | Safety for all.No Judgment. Even Zombies.

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To view this video on YouTube, please visit:

Media Contact: Robert Cordero, BOOM!Health, 917-640-6274,

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SOURCE Boom!Health



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