Jack Mackenroth just launched his latest project VOLTTAGE.com, a dating and hookup website for HIV + guys. He hopes to create a stigma free online community for poz men.
We love Jack Mackenroth!
(Reuters) – At an ill-fated press conference in 1984, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Margaret Heckler boldly predicted an effective AIDS vaccine would be available within just two years.
But a string of failed attempts – punctuated by a 2007 trial in which a Merck vaccine appeared to make people more vulnerable to infection, not less – cast a shadow over AIDS vaccine research that has taken years to dispel.
A 2009 clinical trial in Thailand was the first to show it was possible to prevent HIV infection in humans. Since then, discoveries have pointed to even more powerful vaccines using HIV-fighting antibodies. Now scientists believe a licensed vaccine is within reach.
“We know the face of the enemy,” said Dr. Barton Haynes, of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and recent director of the Center for HIV AIDS Vaccine Immunology (CHAVI). The research consortium was funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), founded in 2005 by the National Institutes of Health to identify and overcome roadblocks in the design of vaccines for the human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS. NIAID’s funding of CHAVI ended in June.
Unlike many viruses behind infectious disease, HIV is a moving target, constantly spitting out slightly different versions of itself, with different strains affecting different populations around the world. The virus is especially pernicious since it attacks the immune system, the very mechanism the body needs to fight back.
“The virus is far more crafty than we ever thought,” said Haynes, who will outline progress in vaccine research at the International AIDS Society’s 2012 conference being held in Washington from July 22-27.
FIRST SIGN OF HOPE
Thanks to drugs that can control the virus for decades, AIDS is no longer a death sentence. New infections have fallen by 21 percent since the peak of the pandemic in 1997 and advances in prevention – through voluntary circumcision programs, prevention of mother-to-child transmission and early treatment – promise to cut that rate even more.
Justin Monroe sits down with the men behind BeautifulMag in an up close and personal interview.
JM: Tell us a little bit about the history of BeautifulMag? How did it all begin?
BM: We started BeautifulMag in 2005 when blogging was still relatively new. It was quite exciting to have a way to build a website platform allowing you to update it easily and frequently; sharing your thoughts with the rest of the world. Thinking about it, it is almost a bit exhibitionistic. We soon realized that, if we wanted to make a difference, we needed to find a niche. At this time most blogs were dealing with only two subjects: personal glorification of the blogger or porn. We wanted to be different. We wanted this thing to be a real contribution. We wanted BeautifulMag to be a window allowing gay artists to display their work and their artistic vision, knowing that for them it was – and sometimes still is – very difficult to get recognition. In contrary to many other blogs and sites we consciously decided to create an editorial page, meaning not only showing images, but also actually talking about them. Over the years BeautifulMag has grown into an authority in its field.
JM: Who are the men behind the blog? What is your personal connection with homoerotic photography?
BM: Mind you, as big as BeautifulMag has become over the years, for us it is still a side activity. We are just 2 guys with daytime jobs and BeautifulMag is a hobby and a passion. We aren’t photographers and don’t aspire to be, even though we are working in this creative industry. Regarding our connection with homoerotic photography, let’s just say, we love men and we love great photography. However, BeautifulMag is about more than just that. First, it is not all about homoerotic; it is mostly about the beauty of men. Second, we do think that we have an obligation to share that beauty in all its glory. We have been accused of being pornographic and its true that there is a thin line in what is acceptable and what is not. We like to push the boundaries a bit, showing that men are sexual, beautiful and yes, erotic.
JM: What is your vision and goal for BeautifulMag.com?
BM: Our vision is to share the beauty of male art with the rest of the world. To create understanding and respect of the male form as a sexually beautiful being. Since BeautifulMag is not our source of income, we take it as it comes though we do some objectives. It needs to be relevant; meaning it needs to be entertaining and fill the desires for both artists and readers. However, the most important thing is that it needs to be fun! As long as we enjoy doing this together with the amazing talents we work with, we’ll keep going. It also allows us to actively sponsor artists, gay events and charitable foundations such as AIDS/HIV education. As I mentioned earlier, we like to see BeautifulMag as our little contribution to the world and if this means that through our site we been able to open some people’s mind towards homosexuality, male beauty and AIDS prevention; I’d say we reached our overall vision and goal.
JM: What has been your biggest life challenge? And biggest triumph?
BM: That’s a really tough question. I think there are many answers possible here. Accepting our sexuality was a challenge, with coming out to be a triumph. Building a strong and solid relationship and having succeeded in doing so. Personally, I’d like to say that I also overcame my fear of heights (to a certain degree), which is quite an accomplishment. There are still many mountains to climb though, no pun intended. I’m planning to have a talk with my boss this week regarding my salary. That is quite a challenge and I’m not sure if I will triumph. Going to the gym and finally seeing some change… yeah, that is quite a win as well J. Oh and yes, we are thinking about a second book publication. Our first one, BeautifulVision was a challenge, but we were very happy with the outcome.
JM: You guys have always supported my photography and been instrumental in my success over the years. I would personally like to thank and acknowledge you for doing so. Is there anyone out there you would like to thank and why?
BM: We’d like to thank all those wonderful artists who submit their work freely and enthusiastically. We’d also like to thank all the loyal visitors and readers we have gathered over the years. I know, it sounds a bit cheesy, but even though we do it for all you guys; we couldn’t do it without you.
JM: Who are your favorite artists in music, fashion or art? Why do they inspire you?
BM: Tough question. We don’t really have a real idol. I think it would be easy to name the obvious: Andy Warhol, Madonna and Yves Saint Laurent. Yet, there are many people who aren’t that famous and still inspire us. Our good friend Eduardo Suner, the man behind the fashion brand ES Collection is a great example. He came with a revolutionary innovation for underwear and swimwear. Though he was initially laughed at, he believed in what he wanted to do, didn’t give up and built a brand in a period of just a few years, which is now a major player in the industry. It is that thinking, that courage and that determination that inspires us.
JM: Do you like smooth or hairy men?
BM: Both of us we have always been attracted to smooth men, but we have come to discover that body hair is quite a turn on as well. We do like it cultivated though. There is something exciting about a nice groomed chest or a perfectly trimmed beard. I think the attraction is not so much related to hair or no hair, but more to the total picture of the guy. Tattoos are a big turn on as well. I know they have nothing to do with hair or no hair, but it kind of relates to the same thing. I’m always a bit surprised to see the negative comments we receive whenever we show a beautiful inked guy on BeautifulMag. Let me suffice by saying that men are hot, sexual beings and we just love them. So bring them on.
JM: What is your guilty pleasure?
BM: See the answer above. Besides that watching TV on the couch with a bowl of ice cream.
JM: If you were an animal what would you be and why?
BM: I’m going to go with a dog. Yes, definitely a dog. I LOVE dogs! In fact I love dogs so much that I have been accused of actually showing some dog-like behavior patterns, which by the way doesn’t include peeing in public or humping strangers (though that last one could happen occasionally).
JM: How long has BeautifulMag been around? And what have some of the challenges been?
BM: We started BeautifulMag in 2005. During these 7 years we have faced several challenges. As I said earlier, the creation of our anthology book was quite an exciting one. Also, the production of The Prophecy, one of BeautifulMag’s biggest accomplishments when it comes to sharing male art with the rest of the world. However, if we have to narrow it down, I think I can say that the biggest challenge has been and continues to be sticking to our believes and to keep going. We believe that men are desirable so we keep fighting to voice this believe by keeping BeautifulMag going, even in the face of strong criticism and threats. This has been our biggest challenge.
JM: Do you experience issues with censorship? If so how do you deal with it?
BM: You would be shocked to see some of the emails and comments we receive. Sometimes we feel, that whatever we do, we will be judged for it. Whether it is showing tattoos, hair, no hair, a smoking model, aggression, ass and dicks. Criticism easily finds its way into our mailbox and comes from every corner of society. We moderate our publications, but we do not believe in censorship. The most shocking is to see how narrow minded certain fellow gay men are. I have to admit, in the early years it was quite difficult to deal with this. Though over the years we have come to realize that those who love what we present outweigh those who have moral or religious issues. Now, those comments are only a drive to keep going and push harder. The only censorship we do believe in is moderation of the comment section on our site. We allow people to give their opinion, but draw a line where it comes to hatred and discriminating messages towards the artists we work with.
JM: What does it take to be a BeautifulMag cover boy?
BM: I wish I could say that it depends on how much pleasure they can give us, but that would be wrong, wouldn’t it? LOL. It is very hard to choose a cover. We see so many gorgeous men and just as many talented photographers. More often than not we have to decline request for cover positions. There are only so many covers we can fill during the year and they usually are booked months in advance. What we strive for is impact, originality and a healthy dose of sex appeal. Since most of the submissions we receive answer all three criteria, the choice doesn’t get easier. We do about 26 covers a year so all I can say to those who really want the place, but haven’t been able to get it yet is to not give up.
JM: What is your favorite quote of all time?
BM: Having sex is like playing bridge. If you don’t have a good partner, you better have a good hand (Woody Allen)
JUSTIN: When did you first realize that you were attracted to men?
JACK: I remember having a crush on a boy in my first grade class named Kirk Felton. We have since reconnected on Facebook and he’s married with kids but he thought it was funny when I told him.
JUSTIN: Is modeling your passion or do you have a deep dark secret you’re not telling us?
JACK: When I was in my 20′s I thought modeling would be an easy way to make money but for male models it’s actually a pretty grueling, competitive industry. I paid my way through school but now I do it just for fun. My real passion is making things like art and clothing. I’m also passionate about HIV education and fighting the stigma of living with HIV. I’ve also been a competitive swimmer since I was 6 and I still compete internationally in the masters circuit.
JUSTIN: Speaking of passions, we know that designing is one of yours. What are your future plans for the fashion world?
JACK: Right now I’m talking to a swim wear brand about coming on board as their head designer but its a massive commitment and I have so many other projects going on. Designing will always be a part of my life and I will go back to it full time at some point.
JUSTIN: Are you single or taken?
JACK: Single. But looking. You can easily find me on Facebook and Twitter @jackmackenroth. Applications are now being accepted.
JUSTIN: What kind of photo shoots inspire you?
JACK: Honestly I like it when the photographer has a vision–like Justin Monroe–and they do some work in advance to prepare to make something amazing. So often photographers see a model with a good body and they just want to shoot underwear or swim suits. It’s so much more fun when there are props and an mood or storyline.
JUSTIN: I know that you do a lot of charity work. Can you tell us about the foundation(s) you support?
JACK: Well I have been HIV+ for 23 years and I have traveled around the country speaking numerous HIV charities, organizations and events. I really want to work directly with amfAR in the future because they are always at the forefront of HIV/AIDS research.
JUSTIN: What is your astrological sign?
JACK: Taurus. My birthday is April 29th.
JUSTIN: What is the most terrifying thing that has happened to you in your life so far?
JACK: Being diagnosed with HIV in 1989. Statistically I should be dead. Everyone was dying then and there were no really effective treatments. It was truly a horrifying time. Thank god the medication has come a long way. Anyone diagnosed with HIV today should be very hopeful. Now we just need to continue to get the message out to know your status and fight the stigma.
JUSTIN: Describe the perfect mate?
JACK: I will tell you what I’m attracted to in my head but I never seem to end up with my “type”. I like a muscular guy with an edge. I don’t care if he has money but I want him to be passionate about something–his career, a sport, a hobby. I’ve had a fairly wild and interesting life and I want someone who brings something to the equation with a sense of humor. I also have a thing for bald heads. Certainly not a rule. At this point in my life I’d like to meet someone around my age–so 35-45ish.
JUSTIN: Where do you see yourself in the next ten years?
JACK: I really have no idea. I have so many interests and I could go in a variety of directions. I’d love to get into TV production. I will still be designing and swimming. Hopefully I will be happily married by then. Or super fat with 6 dogs living in Miami.
JUSTIN: What is your life long ambition?
JACK: I’d really love to have my own TV show. I’ve pitched dozens of ideas but the entertainment industry is a shit show. I will also continue to be an advocate for those living with HIV until we find a cure.
JUSTIN: What is your most under rated quality?
JACK: Humility. I think people assume I am full of myself because of assumptions they make about my appearance but I don’t believe the hype. Honestly I don’t put too much value in physical appearance. For the most part it’s just the genes I was born with. I’ve just worked hard to maximize their potential.
JUSTIN: What is your favorite quote of all time?
JACK: ”Accentuate the positives and medicate the negatives.”–Amy Sedaris