The Vaccine-O-Licious Mini Tour Takes Harlem!
Most years, Project ACHIEVE and Columbia Research Unit (PACRU) host a drag pageant called Vaccine-O-Licious: Performers Uniting for an HIV Vaccine. The contest crowns one drag artist as Mx. Vaccine-O-Licious, an HIV vaccine research advocate and liaison between the local LGBTQIA+ community and PACRU. The most recent edition of the pageant, Vaccine-O-Licious 17, was held on May 18, 2022, at Hush in Hell’s Kitchen.
Following VOL 17 (and in the lead-up to VOL 18—scheduled for May of this year), PACRU organized the Vaccine-O-Licious Mini Tour, a pair of smaller drag shows that each featured performances by drag queen advocates, educational speeches, free food and a raffle.
With the date for Vaccine-O-Licious 18 fast approaching, the second installment of the VOL 17 Mini Tour took place on March 31, 2023, at the 4West Lounge in Harlem. More than 150 people came out for a night of drag and advocacy organized by PACRU, with sponsorship by AIDS Healthcare Foundation and HIV Stops With Me.
The evening began with a buffet catered by the venue and served by PACRU staff. Afterward, the official programming, hosted by Queen of Vaccine Jus Jahlisa, kicked off with a series of testimonials by HIV-positive advocates. Jus Jahlisa and Gia Thee Warrior Princess—the first runner-up of VOL 17—dazzled the audience with two lip sync performances each. Their sets were bookended by speeches delivered by Jorge Soler and Reggie Juste of Project ACHIEVE, as well as Jorge Benitez of CRU, who highlighted ongoing HIV and COVID-19 research. The event wrapped up with a raffle for prizes including a big-screen television.
Filling the 4West Lounge wall to wall with standing room only, this edition of the Mini Tour saw the largest turnout to date. Coming off the heels of this successful show, the PACRU community engagement teams now turn their focus to the main event of the year: Vaccine-O-Licious 18, which is scheduled for May 28, 2023, at the award-winning 3 Dollar Bill in Brooklyn.