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Casey House edits 'Friends' to show characters confronting HIV stigma

TORONTO — A Toronto-based HIV-AIDS hospital is campaigning to dispel stigma about the disease with a little help from “Friends.”

Casey House released two edited episodes of “Friends” and “The Office” featuring new storylines that revolve around HIV.

In “Losing Friends,” Chandler’s diagnosis tests his friendship with Joey, while “Toxic Office” shows manager Michael disclosing an employee’s HIV-positive status.

The executive creative director behind the campaign says vocal impersonators and actor look-alikes performed new dialogue, which was inserted into existing footage through post-production techniques.

Joseph Bonnici of ad agency Bensimon Byrne says the goal was to “harness the power of pop culture” to debunk myths that people with HIV face every day.

Bonnici says the creative team didn’t seek permission from copyright holders to use the TV shows for the campaign, but he hopes they’ll be able to get on board the message.

AT&T’s WarnerMedia, which owns “Friends,” and NBCUniversal, which owns “The Office,” did not immediately return requests for comment.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 20, 2020.

The Canadian Press