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Changing How We Think about HIV Awareness

Posted Sep 28 2010 2:39pm

By Deb LeBel , AIDS.gov Partnerships Specialist

AIDS.gov funded 17 organizations serving communities of color, other communities at highest risk of HIV, and people living with HIV. The funding was intended to stimulate and support the organizations' efforts to use new media to plan for and support HIV prevention, testing, treatment and care activities and to share best practices within communities at highest risk of HIV. These projects received their microgrant awards in April and completed their funded activities in early September. Each project proposed the populations they wanted to reach and tools they wanted to use (from social networking to video and texting and more), so we've heard a wide range of project results so far.

Today, we start a four part series to share what these projects have learned. Because of the recent observance of National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (September 27), we start with a look at how four of the programs worked to address the needs of men who have sex with men (MSM).

St. Hope Foundation

In Houston, St. Hope Foundation - the Fusion Center Exit Disclaimer worked with its community and young adult advisory boards and others to launch www.myFusiontea.org Exit Disclaimer . The website targets young African American MSM (YAAMSM), encourages holistic wellness, and provides HIV prevention information. Tim’m T. West, the Project Coordinator, said

[Our effort] truly changed the face of how we think about HIV awareness and prevention...[and] enabled FUSION to launch…a new way of mobilizing YMSM about HIV awareness and prevention.

Family Health Centers of San Diego logo

Family Health Centers of San Diego’s Exit Disclaimer COMRADE project wanted to increase the agency’s influence on San Diego’s MSM community through online social networking . Working with its STD clinic, and two HIV prevention programs, La Nueva Cara Exit Disclaimer (reaching Latino MSM) and Brothers United Exit Disclaimer (reaching African American MSM), FHCSD now has an online presence via Facebook Exit Disclaimer and started a pilot text messaging/email system for appointments. Fran Butler Cohen reported that her agency “has further realized the enormous value of social networking and web based communication strategies.” FHCSD will continue to explore new media to reach MSMs and others, and may expand the pilot.

HIV/AIDS Resource Center (HARC) logo

HIV/AIDS Resource Center Exit Disclaimer (HARC) Evaluation, Planning, and Innovation: Working to Create a Sex-Positive Online Community for MSM project unfolded in several phases. HARC evaluated its new media use and then trained staff to support development of a new media strategy. To create the strategy, HARC conducted focus groups and a survey with young MSM of color. The team then created a demonstration version of a mobile-based website to promote HIV awareness and health for young MSM. The project has poised HARC to strategically move ahead with social media, including an intervention to promote testing among young MSM.

In the Meantime Men’s Group logo

In the Meantime Men’s Group Exit Disclaimer started ITMT411, a text messaging intervention to engage and inform YAAMSM. The agency held focus groups to develop messages, built a group of peer leaders who give ITMT411 visibility, and texted approximately 580 YAAMSM about prevention events. On average, five of these men called the program each day to learn about services. Attendance at group sessions also increased. The agency plans to continue to work with youth to find the most effective ways to reach this population.

The enthusiasm among these programs mirrors our excitement in seeing how local programs are adding new media strategies to reach people at disproportionate risk. Are you using new media to reach out to MSM? What lessons can you share? Please let us know.

Stay tuned for the following post in this series next Tuesday.

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