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Plus Jan/Feb issue: Celebrating Black male beauty, talking mental health, & more

Plus Jan/Feb issue: Celebrating Black male beauty, talking mental health, & more

<p><em>Plus</em> Jan/Feb issue: Celebrating Black male beauty, talking mental health, & more</p>
Photos: Eric Hart Jr. / Jay Ryko / Getty Images

In this special issue, we focus on the beauty and resilience of the Black community — and Mr. Gay World shares a message about mental wellness.

Another year has come and gone, and another not without extreme ups and downs in our nation and world. As we dive into 2024, we at Plus wanted to start things on as positive a note as possible, while still tackling the tough issues that affect us all.

Gracing the cover of our January/February issue (which you can read below) is the reigning Mr. Gay World, Troy Michael Smith. The title runs much deeper than physical beauty and fashion — its serves as a platform to spread awareness for issues that Smith is passionate about, like mental health.

In our cover story interview starting on page 14, Smith opens up about his own journey with depression and explains that there’s power in learning to be vulnerable. “My vulnerability is my greatest strength. When you find the courage to let people in, they’ll get a better understanding of what you’re going through and how to help you,” Smith told Plus. “Also, don’t be ashamed or embarrassed to ask for help. It can be uncomfortable at first, but therapy saved my life.”

Smith is also a big proponent for PrEP use, and notes how powerful a tool it is for preventing the spread of HIV. Statisically, PrEP is mostly being utilized by gay and bi white men, despite the fact that Black and brown communities continue to be the most affected by HIV. Fortunately, a new intiative led by students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) is helping to spread PrEP awareness, and making it easy and confidential for fellow students to access it. Check out the full story on page 38 for some feel-good inspiration!

Art has always been an important part of expressing the history, and current state, of HIV/AIDS. On page 30, take in the stunning images by photographer Eric Hart Jr. created for the “I Love Myself” initiative. The series features photos and videos of five men living with HIV, including media mogul, human rights activist, and Native Son founder, Emil Wilbekin. “These images give us agency and autonomy over our bodies, our health, our sexuality, and our Black Boy Joy,” Wilbekin says.

Also, on page 6, read about how British actor and art curator Russell Tovey recently took a deep-dive into the art of the AIDS era for a special project. And don’t miss our story about a young artist who is educating a new generation about the height of the HIV epidemic on page 42.

The Plus team is so proud to start another year of celebrating the amazing people and advancements made in the HIV community. We hope to continue being a go-to source for accurate information on HIV, sexual health, and wellness — and for a heaping dose a positive energy!


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