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MSM and the HIV epidemic
The more things change, the more they stay the same
Several months ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report titled “Estimates of New HIV Infections in the United States, 2006-2009.” According to it, men who have sex with men are most heavily affected by HIV. Young MSM (aged 13-29) are particularly impacted, representing more than one quarter of all new HIV infections, while overall HIV incidence has been relatively stable, at approximately 56,000 new infections per year. Congruent with the CDC findings, the National HIV/AIDS Strategy calls for intensified efforts for HIV prevention in populations at greatest risk of HIV infection.
The AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland has signed onto a statewide policy brief, prepared by AIDS Resource Center Ohio and supported by other major Ohio organizations, “Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: Gay/Bisexual Men (MSM) and HIV/Sexual Health Education in Ohio.”
The brief details the need for fair and proportionate funding levels and outlines recommendations and courses of action for effective efforts moving forward. These efforts range from programmatic to public policy initiatives.
As a mainstay within the HIV and AIDS community, the AIDS Taskforce continues to be committed to the needs identified by those we serve and those reinforced by statistical data. The MSM community has been among the hardest hit in this devastating fight against HIV and AIDS, and have also been among the powerful force leading to the progress made in care, services and eradication of the virus. The Taskforce has always prioritized our services based on the epidemiology and the communities impacted by HIV, because of his we have a long history of innovative programs that serve MSM.
So how is the AIDS Taskforce of today addressing the needs of MSMs, including MSMs who are HIV-positive?
EDGES Research Project
Currently the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland is conducting breakthrough research concerning social networks of African-American MSM. Findings from the Engagement of Diverse Groups Exploring Sexuality (EDGES) Research Project will provide us with greater in-depth knowledge about the African American MSM community that will guide the development of an HIV prevention intervention for targeted dissemination of prevention education and safer sex messages utilizing natural friendship circles. This type of intervention will afford us the ability to reach vulnerable groups of individuals who would not normally seek out prevention for HIV and sexually-transmitted infections.
The CDC-initiated project Healthy Relationships is a multisession, small-group, skills-building program for men living with HIV. The program is designed to reduce participants’ stress related to safer sexual behaviors and disclosure of their serostatus to family, friends, and sex partners. The program focuses on developing skills and building self-efficacy and positive expectations about new behaviors through modeling behaviors and practicing new skills.
Beyond Identities Community Center
The Beyond Identities Community Center is a prevention education program of the AIDS Taskforce that addresses the youth development needs of local LGBTQ youth of color ages 14-24 in an effort to reduce their risk for HIV transmission. This is accomplished by addressing the risk behaviors and co-factors which have been known to increase HIV risk for this highly susceptible population.
Ohio Advocates Youth Leadership Council
Lawrence, 20, knows more than anyone the challenges of being young, African-American, gay and HIV-positive. But he is much more than a statistic within a CDC report. He’s an advocate for effective AIDS public health policy. Through his involvement with BICC and currently the Ohio Advocates Youth Leadership Council, Lawrence is given the tools and opportunity to speak out for himself and his peers. Last month, Lawrence was invited to speak before the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS to speak about his experience and provide recommendations that were very well received. Lawrence has since been invited to speak at the United States Conference on AIDS next month in Chicago. Please continue to read Voice Positive+ for highlights from his address.
AIDS Resources Collaborative Housing
The AIDS Resources Collaborative Housing, or ARCH, program serves individuals and households who are homeless, housing insecure and communities that are denied equal access to safe and affordable housing based on HIV status and sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, social economics and other societal stigma. ARCH provides services to consumers that assist in attaining and maintaining their housing situation and that facilitate transition to permanent, safe and affordable housing. ARCH provides innovative direct services while working with community leaders and public officials to create systemic change. One of the leading-edge projects that have been created based on the need in the community is Archie’s.
The project consists of a small interim shelter with wraparound services for homeless MSM youth (18-24) who are highly vulnerable clients. The shelter assists in stabilizing the client before they move to permanent supportive housing where the focus is on health, education and employment. The ultimate goal is for the client to be independently living in permanent housing.
Judith Pindell is the director of public policy for the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland.