m4mHealthySex.org: Using social media to reach men who have sex with men in Pennsylvania

In a recent study published in the September issue of AIDS Behavior, researchers were able to shed some light on the use of dating aps and Websites by men who have sex with men (MSM). The study showed that 3 in 4 MSM use Internet-based social media venues for the purpose of meeting other men. More than half reported frequent use.

Considering that gay and bi men make up less than 2 percent of the population but account for roughly 70 percent of new HIV infections (based on surveillance data obtained in 2014), and given the recent announcement by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that the number of reported chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis infections are at an all-time high in the United States (with gay and bi men making up a disproportionate number of new syphilis infections), it makes sense that gay-related dating aps and Websites would be a logical place to reach out to MSM with important prevention and testing information. In fact, the previously mentioned study’s authors concluded the ability to target MSM through social media “ensures that the right prevention message can be received by the intended audience…and could be an effective strategy for sexual health prevention research, interventions, and communication efforts.”

That’s our mission in a nutshell.

As part of the HIV Prevention and Care Project, and with the experienced input of the Pitt Men’s Study medical staff (both housed within the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health), m4mHealthySex.org strives to get important health information to the people who need it, via the social media venues they frequent the most. Our sexual health educators reach out on Grindr, Scruff, Jack’d, Adam4Adam and Craigslist, in areas around the state that are particularly hard hit by HIV and other STDs. In the last six months, we referred more than 800 MSM in Pennsylvania to free HIV/STD testing, sent a variety of Health Alerts (short bulletins alerting MSM to critical health issues) to more than 8,000 recipients, and added to our archive of 450-plus informative posts concerning HIV and other STDs, PrEP, sexual health and the general well-being of men who have sex with men.

Being informed about sexual health can protect you from serious sexually transmitted infections. It can also keep our community healthy and strong. So if you see us online, don’t be afraid to ask questions. You can also browse through our helpful links related to STD/HIV testing, PrEP and general health.

For more information about m4mHealthySex.org, the HIV Prevention and Care Project, and/or sexual health in general, contact us at m4mInformation@pitt.edu. We’re here to help.

Grindr, virtual reality and vlogging: new ways to talk about sexual health

From the Guardian.com

Almost half the world’s population is online and billions of young people use social media. So why doesn’t more sex education happen across these channels? The first Global Advisory Board for Sexual Health and Wellbeing brings together a group of individuals who are using innovative ways to reach more people with information about sex and relationships. Here are some of the projects they’ve been working on:

Grindr to reach patients at risk of HIV in the US

In 2015, Antón Castellanos Usigli, a male nurse working in New York, started working in an HIV/sexually transmitted infections (STIs) prevention clinic at a hospital in Brooklyn. The goal was to increase the number of at-risk patients that came into the clinic for sexual health prevention services. Initially, the clinic tried outreach in clubs and bars in Brooklyn, but not a single client came in through this approach.

Usigli thought about using Grindr, a dating app for gay men, to raise awareness of HIV. He set up a profile as a male nurse to tell at-risk patients about the services offered at the clinic. He then developed a script for healthcare professionals to use.

The success rate has been astonishingly high. In the first month of using the app in this way, more than 20 new at-risk patients came to the clinic for a variety of preventative services, such as sexual health counselling, HIV/STI testing and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). In little over a year, more than 100 new at-risk patients came into the clinic. Some of those tested positive for HIV and Usigli was able to link them to medical care. Others tested positive for STIs and Usigli was able to treat them.

Read the full article.

Video series tackles bareback reality of HIV prevention

From South Florida Gay News

One film student is showing a “fun, sexy and outrageously frank 21st-century sex-ed for gay adults.”

“PrEP is an HIV prevention strategy that deals with sex, namely bareback sex,” film student Chris Tipton-King told Queerty. “And I got tired of people tip-toeing around that fact.”

PrEP stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis and reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by more than 90 percent. Truvada is the drug prescribed for the treatment.

Tipton-King wasn’t happy with depictions of PrEP, which he felt was too sanitized and “awkward.” So as one of his assignments for his master’s degree in cinema, he created “The PrEP Project.” It’s a four-part video series that shows a more realistic side to gay men, their sex lives and the use of PrEP. Each video is 5-minutes long.

Read the full article and watch the videos on South Florida Gay News.

Canandian HIV activists: Your Nostalgia Is Killing Me

From thebody.com

[Chevalier and Bradley-Perrin’s] piece, titled “Your Nostalgia is Killing Me,” features that wry line, emphatically rendered in bright-yellow, drop-shadowed letters, against the backdrop of a computer-illustrated bedroom. Keith Haring and General Idea graphics serve as wallpaper; visual ephemera from the ’80s — ACT UP reproductions, Therese Frare’s famous photo of mourners at a patient’s bedside, promotional images for the films Philadelphia and Blue — are presented as teenybopper posters, plastered on the wall like pin-ups.

It was a bold comment on how romanticizing the past can obscure present priorities and impede real action. But not everyone read it that way. For many, especially those who had lived through those crisis years, the poster was a lightning rod. On social media, older activists attacked Ian and Vincent for what they perceived as undermining or dismissing the lived experience of survivors, calling them “stupid fucking brats” and accusing them, among other things, of committing “a little Oedipal murder.”

“It became really clear to me that there was this generational divide among people living with HIV, where younger people and older people interpreted the poster differently,” Ian says. He was struck, he notes, by how different generational experiences of HIV are from one another and he felt compelled to investigate that difference.

“It was personal, political, historical,” he continues. “That combination of factors is what my work is now, and what it has always been.”

The posterVIRUS clash was a particularly heated and visible example of Ian’s activist work, but it was far from his first foray into challenging the dominant paradigm. A lifelong critical thinker, Ian can trace the origins of his militant consciousness back to his time as a high school student in Oakville, Ontario, a well-heeled suburb of Toronto.

It was in his teens that the seeds of his current interest in the intersections of public health and marginalized communities were planted. In 2007, during Ian’s final year of high school, he began dating his first boyfriend, who was grappling with addiction and mental health issues and struggling to find ongoing care and treatment.

Through the lens of first love, Ian’s eyes were opened to the shortcomings in the Canadian healthcare system — the dearth of detox, addictions and recovery services, and the challenges of finding a therapist for someone struggling with serious mental health needs. In a time of crisis, the only option seemed to be to go to the emergency room. “I was watching the outer limits of what was possible in Canada for healthcare,” he says.

Read the full article.

Three reasons why language is important in media coverage of HIV

From the HRC… (by Diego Mora Bello, HRC Global Fellow)

Stigma and discrimination continue to be common barriers for people living with HIV. Fortunately, the media can play an important role in helping to remove these and other barriers. In my own survey of Latin American news articles mentioning HIV and AIDS, and in meeting with media professionals and advocates, I found that Latin American Media has room to improve its use of correct and destigmatizing language when talking about people living with HIV. Covering HIV both correctly and responsibly is important, because doing so is an essential part of raising awareness, debunking common myths, and giving voice to an already marginalized group of people.

The importance of using correct and responsible language in journalistic coverage of HIV inspired me to research this topic and share my findings. The ultimate goal of HIV in the Media is to report on this subject in a scientifically accurate and responsible way that inspires others to follow suit.

Based on my research, here are the top three reasons why language is important when covering HIV and AIDS in the media.

Read the full article on the HRC Website.

Campus environment tied to sexual assault risk for LGBT people

From Reuters.com

College students in the U.S. who say their campus is welcoming to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are less likely to be victims of sexual assaults at school, a new study suggests.

The researchers found that students who perceived their campus as an inclusive environment for LGBT people were significantly less likely to be the victims of sexual assault. “I believe this study provides proof of concept for how environment may influence sexual assault violence,” said lead author Robert Coulter, a researcher at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. Coulter and colleagues write in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence that sexual assault affects 2 to 15 percent of U.S. undergraduates.

In earlier research, they found that certain groups are more at risk of sexual assault than others. For example, women and transgender people in general are at greater risk of sexual assault than non-transgender men.

To see whether campus environment is tied to the risk of sexual assault, the researchers analyzed survey data collected in 2010 from 1,925 undergraduates who were LGBT or questioning their sexual orientation. Overall, 5.2 percent reported that they had been sexually assaulted on campus.

Read the full article.

HIV activist learning modules: engaging our community in HIV prevention policy advocacy

From thebody.com and the Treatment Action Group

While many of us who come from communities highly impacted by HIV have the lived experiences and the passion required for HIV prevention advocacy, developing an advocacy agenda and getting up to speed on the current state of HIV prevention science is not always easy. In order to support the efforts of prevention advocates across the United States, Treatment Action Group has developed a series of modules to help support activists’ capacity needs and to develop advocacy action plans. The slides, handouts, and webinars in each module focus on how to identify and change the governmental, organizational, and institutional policies that create roadblocks to comprehensive HIV prevention in our communities. The materials are useful for personal education or group discussion on HIV prevention and policy advocacy.

Go to thebody.com to find links to each of the learning modules.