Gilead Sciences knows it takes two to tango, which is why it’s bringing in Jason Rodriguez, star of FX’s Pose, for a dance-themed HIV prevention event.

On Friday, Rodriguez will host a ballroom dance class for about 100 participants at Open Jar Studios in New York City to underscore the importance of sexual health and HIV prevention, particularly through the use of pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP.

The primary style of dance he’ll be teaching is voguing, a modern dance that originated from the Harlem ballroom dance scene in the 1980s. He told MM+M that voguing is a form of self-expression and identity exploration for the LGBTQIA+ community, particularly those who are Black or Brown. 

Rodriguez said he’s excited to collaborate on an event that expands access to safe HIV prevention tools for others, something he benefited from in his youth.

He shared his personal experience of finding community through the Hispanic AIDS Forum while growing up in Queens, noting that the nonprofit provided him with critical information about HIV prevention.

He said the goal of the event is to make sure attendees know how many tools and resources they have at their disposal to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS. The choice to do so through a dance class is meant to connect with the community in a comfortable, relatable manner.

“I feel like Gilead is shedding light [on this topic] and using me as a vessel to communicate with my community, the youth and any other individual that obviously this would benefit,” he said.

The event has the potential to renew focus on PrEP, which has been a remarkable asset in the fight against HIV since its approval by the Food and Drug Administration over a decade ago.

Still, despite PrEP’s safety and efficacy, the treatment has been hampered by lack of uptake and awareness, both from patients and healthcare professionals. According to a 2022 survey, about half of general care physicians said they don’t know enough about PrEP medication to discuss with patients.

That’s a problem considering that while rates of new HIV infections are low compared to historical highs, more than 1 million Americans still live with the disease.

Gilead is looking to change that dynamic with other offerings beyond dance lessons. In addition to the class, Gilead is supplying participants with a history of the HIV epidemic by way of mini stories as well as resources on nearby testing locations.

Manny Rodriguez, (who is not related to Jason), is the director of U.S. public affairs and HIV communications at Gilead. He told MM+M that the event will provide a platform for necessary conversations about HIV prevention and reinforce the importance of advocating for oneself in healthcare settings.

He added that this activation is tailored to appeal to Black and Hispanic gay men, with the aim of increasing engagement through fun public health messaging.

“The unforgettable part of these experiences may lead a person to act and say, ‘Let me go and get an HIV test tomorrow,” he said.

By meeting consumers where they are and continuing the push to destigmatize HIV, Rodriguez said he sees this event as fitting in with the company’s long-standing commitment to support the LGBTQIA+ community.

To read a May 2024 article about R&B artist Raheem DeVaughn singing a soulful tune for Gilead to combat HIV, click here.