“Union Suit Union” – The Aliveness Project Raises Awareness By Making Minneapolis See Red

Photo courtesy of The Aliveness Project
Photo courtesy of The Aliveness Project

A cry for help causes a bespectacled newspaper reporter to duck into an ill-lit alley. Here, with only randy tomcats and spotted banana peels bearing witness, this rescuer doffs his glasses and strips away his outer garments. His liberated cape fluttering in the wake of his own passing, he steps into the urban light, lantern jawed and ready for action, revealing red trunks outside of a blue leotard clinging to his classically Homeric frame.  

That’s one version of heroism.  

A local nonprofit is providing an opportunity for a somewhat similar version of valor—without the blue leotard, but with nipples as hard as speeding bullets. Yes, fellow citizens, neither bird nor plane, the Aliveness Project’s World AIDS Day Red Undie Run is here to grant you the opportunity to let your inner champion out.  

December 1st is World AIDS Day, wherein Planet Earth takes a 24-hour pause to remember those who have died of HIV/AIDS-related causes—and wherein Planet Earth reminds itself of those who continue to struggle with those same causes, rallying behind the color of blood, of love and life. And the Aliveness Project, of course, is that stalwart body that describes itself as “Minnesota’s leading community based organization of services, advocacy, and education for people living with or at risk for HIV,” whose beneficiaries are known by the shame-free term “members.”

As for the Red Undie Run, it’s “a premier community event that brings awareness to World AIDS Day and the work of the Aliveness Project,” according to the organization’s website. This happening’s tagline is, “Strip Down, Shed Stigma,” and boy-howdy, does the Aliveness Project ever mean it. “While the science around HIV has advanced, the stigma associated with it has not,” notes Dylan Boyer, Event & Communications Manager at the Aliveness Project. “That is why we run, to end the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.”

Photo courtesy of The Aliveness Project

If your own magnanimous sensibility is parked at the intersection of Exhibition Street and Masochism Avenue, you’re welcome to serve your community as a Red Undie Runner, too. Online registration is free in terms of money…but you’re likely to pay with a downright Shakespearean pound of gooseflesh before all is said and run.  

Check-in is scheduled for 11:30am on December 4th, 2021, at the Mill Ruins side of the Stone Arch Bridge. (If cartography isn’t among your superpowers, following the gaggle of bouncy men, women, and others whose bareness is barely covered in crimson should get you where you need to be.) Here, you’ll find clothing checks and changing booths. There, stigma will be stripped away—especially if you spell “stigma” M-Y-[space]-C-L-O-T-H-E-S. Conversely, footwear of any color is not only allowed but highly encouraged.  

At nigh noon, your heroism (among other things) will be on full display when the Red Undie Run of 2021 begins. You will proceed from one end of the landmark to the other, then back again, grinding out roughly a mile of skin-tingling, eye-tingling, and everything-else-tingling distance. Like all the best heroisms, yours will be rewarded with a 1:00pm warm-up after-party at the Eagle BOLT Bar.  

Of course, heroism can manifest in less quixotic forms, as well, as evidenced by the Aliveness Project’s Holiday Gift Program. This enterprise has worn many guises over the years. In some iterations, participating members would be “adopted” by a donor after submitting their gifty preferences; in other versions, gifts would be acquired and accrued by the Aliveness Project so that members could walk up and down the decked halls, matching their needs with what had already been provided.

The physical generosity that the Aliveness Project has proved equally Protean, manifesting as cookies, toys, cookies, winterwear, gift cards, cash donations, more cookies, stockings, poinsettias, personal protective equipment, whole meals, and cookies—always with an eye toward building community through giving.

Photo courtesy of The Aliveness Project

If this brand of heroism is more to your liking than that of the Red Undie Run—well, as of press time, the particulars of 2021’s Holiday Gift Program are still being hammered out in Santa’s shop—but when these naughty words can be read by nice would-be helpers like yourselves, those deets should be posted on the website below. “I can say that we are looking to expand the Holiday Gift Program to ensure all our members have access to our Holiday Celebration,” Boyer reports. “We know how difficult the holidays were for everyone last year, and we want to make a joyful occasion for everyone this year.”

Wearing nothing but your scarlet unmentionables is (probably) an option when volunteering for the Holiday Gift Program, but the practice is not, as with its bawdy sister event, a requirement. Indeed, on December 4th, during the Red Undie Run, the day will be saved at the iconic Stone Arch Bridge by heroes of every shape—although, thanks to the effects wrought by the sub-freezing temperatures, the heroes themselves will probably all be the same, you know, size.  

The Aliveness Project 


The smartest heroes preempt the hues and the cries that compose their raison d’etre.  In that spirit, the Aliveness Project has announced the opening of Minnesota’s first free PrEP clinic. PrEP is more than just a cool acronym—it means “pre-exposure prophylaxis,” which is Middle-High Doctorese for the administering of (FDA-approved) medication to high-risk individuals who are currently HIV negative, and who are determined to keep their risks as low as possible. Observes Dylan Boyer, Event & Communications Manager at the Aliveness Project, “With biomedical advancements like PrEP, we know that people live long, healthy lives with HIV and have zero risk of transmitting the virus.” The specifics of this service can be found at https://aliveness.org/member-services/#get-tested

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