Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Fighting HIV Stigma | the Mpowerment Project

The Mpowerment Project can play an important role in reducing HIV stigma among young adult gay and bisexual men. We need to be able to talk about HIV stigma in ways that we can support our brothers living with HIV. HIV stigma is harmful in many ways - it keeps guys from knowing their status, from engaging in care, from disclosing to partners, and from getting the care they need to stay healthy. 

Significantly, we need to dispel myths about treatment and medications. HIV medications have far fewer side effects than they used to. Medications today do not change your physical appearance like they did in the past. Bottom line: the treatments REALLY work. In addition, assistance with the cost of medication is available to many.   

RELATED:  What is the Mpowerment Project? Download Module 1: Mpowerment Overview.

M Society | Mpowerment Houston TX

Here are a few ideas about HIV Stigma to work on with your Mpowerment Project:

Core Group:  Have your Core Group and volunteers think about ways to make Formal Outreach events welcoming for everyone. HIV stigma affects the health of all gay and bisexual men and is affecting our ability to halt HIV transmission. In particular, discuss HIV stigma and discrimination and how stigma affects the health of peers and their community. We can all learn to be supportive when someone 'comes out' as living with HIV. 

Project Space:  Think about the messages that are on your Project Space walls. Be sure to have signage that lets every participant know they are in a safe space. In addition to posting house 'Ground Rules' you may add: "Never assume anyone's status". Take a look at the posted resources below and locate house posters that are appropriate for your space.

Themes to consider in a MP publicity campaign. Go beyond awareness about HIV stigma and let participants know what they can do about HIV discrimination in their communities. Let young men know what they can change about their behavior. We would like your stigma-free campaign to address one or more of these issues:
  • Reducing gossip about others' HIV status.
  • Shaming others about their status is not okay and is not our norm as a community.
  • There's no shame in having HIV!
  • If you are aware that someone is living with HIV, don't tell other people, unless you know it's OK with the person.
  • Support your brothers, those living with HIV as well as those who are HIV neutral.
Q Austin | Mpowerment Texas

Create Safer Sex materials for men living with HIV:  With respect to sexual risk reduction among men living with HIV, it is important that safer sex materials are framed as reducing sexual risk behavior regardless of one’s HIV status by “protecting yourself and protecting your brothers and your community.” In addition, some materials (and posters hung in the project space) can promote sexual risk reduction specifically for men living with HIV.

Formal Outreach events: Some social activities just for men living with HIV can be helpful. That way men can talk about the real issues they are facing.  Also these activities can address sexual risk reduction (among both positives and negatives) as well as supporting men living with HIV to get into and stay in care. 

DENIM | Mpowerment Washington D.C.


Use these resources to continue the conversation. These sites are helpful to generate ideas for discussion nights and/or larger public forums.

HIV Stops with Me - this campaign features HIV positive members talking about real issues.

Mr. Friendly
Mr Friendly is an international, yet grassroots movement to reduce stigma of HIV, encourage testing for HIV, and improve quality of life for those living with HIV.

I'm Still Josh - "HIV is a virus. Stigma already has a cure!" - Josh Robbins - This site features examples of HIV stigma and how to deal with it. 

SOMOS | Mpowerment Wilton Manors FL

Read more about the Mpowerment Project in the manual.   The manual is a free download when you register at Both the Core Group and the non-Core Group volunteers are essential Core Elements of the Mpowerment Project. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Prevention with Positives via Adaptation of the Mpowerment Project for young Latino MSM

via Adaptation of the Mpowerment Project for young Latino MSM a free download when you register at 

HIV-Positive Young Latino Men who have Sex with Men (YLMSM)

The U.S. National HIV/AIDS Strategy is promoting particular attention on HIV-positive people, including Prevention with Positives, linkage and maintenance of care, and support for adherence to treatment. Some of these issues can be addressed through application of MP methods, whereas some specific needs of HIV-positive YLMSM may merit some separate activities for them, particularly if some or many of them do not feel comfortable publicly disclosing their HIV status to other participants in the project. 

SOMOS | Mpowerment Wilton Manors FL

Implementation Issues 

One of the projects is implementing a support group for HIV-positive men separate from other MP activities, which is only open to HIV-positive men. For privacy reasons, and since most YLMSM are not open about their HIV status, the group meets at a location other than the project space. 

With respect to sexual risk reduction among HIV-positive men, it is important that safer sex materials are framed as reducing sexual risk behavior regardless of one’s HIV status by “protecting yourself and protecting your brothers and your community.” In addition, some materials (and posters hung in the project space) can promote sexual risk reduction specifically for HIV-positive men. It should also be clear when promoting Informal Outreach that men are reminded to talk to their friends about sexual risk reduction regardless of their friends’ HIV status.

Recommendations from Center for AIDS Prevention Studies (CAPS) UCSF 

Often young men disclose their positive status to CBO project staff. When this occurs, the staff should, in addition to providing support to the men about their emotional issues regarding being HIV-positive, assess if the individuals are linked into care and receiving treatment. If the CBO already provides treatment, then the young men should be referred to that part of the organization. If the CBO does not provide treatment, it is important to make referrals to other organizations that do. Importantly, however, the staff member should stay actively involved until that linkage is complete. In other words, it is not adequate simply to give the HIV-positive participant the name of an organization, but instead it is necessary to be involved in assuring that the young man actually get to the treatment facility. Then over time, the young men should be provided support to remain linked in treatment, which may involve the staff periodically inquiring how it is going to be obtaining treatment. 

SOMOS OC | Mpowerment Orange County CA
At that time, the staff can also ask the young man how it is going in taking his medications, and if he is able to take them every day in the way that it is prescribed for him, and if not, remind him of the importance of regularly taking his medications and refer him back to the clinic. 

Again, Informal Outreach and the Project Space can be used to promote taking medications regularly.

This ties into previous recommendations that were made about developing good referrals. It is especially important to identify clinics that will provide culturally sensitive services for YLMSM, and that have good reputations in the community for addressing Latinos in general, and specifically men who are undocumented.If it seems possible to develop groups specifically for HIV- positive individuals, which require a sufficient number of men being willing to let others know that they are positive, discussions can focus on a variety of topics, including:

  • Coping with and normalizing and living with HIV
  • Health issues and health management
  • Getting into treatment and treatment adherence 
  • HIV/AIDS stigma & marginalization
  • Prevention with positives, including safer sex and STI prevention for themselves and their partners, and relationship to being in treatment to reduce viral loads and infectiousness
  • Emotional support from HIV-positive peers.

It is also possible to address some of these issues in periodic community forums. When the issues are discussed in a small group of HIV-positive men, confidentiality needs to be taken into account. This includes considering whether meeting somewhere else besides the community space or in hours when the space is not open to other participants would be important. 

via Adaptation of the Mpowerment Project for young Latino MSM a free download when you register at 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

We are here for you. Capacity Building Assistance (CBA) services available.

Let us know how we can assist your organization. We provide Capacity Building Assistance (CBA) to Community Based Organizations (CBOs), and you can always reach out to us directly. 

What is Capacity Building?

We are here to strengthen the abilities of your organization that will help facilitate achievable, measurable and sustainable results for your project.  Often times this is thought of as 'technical assistance'. Call us when it would be helpful to gain an additional perspective on the development and/or implementation of the Mpowerment Project. We can assist you in overcoming the obstacles that can inhibit your project from realizing its development goals.

RELATED:  7 issues that will facilitate or impede MP implementation

Think of us as people who can help clarify an issue, or someone to bounce ideas off of, or someone to work with to think about adapting the MP for your population.  
You could meet with us by Skype or conference call for a one hour one-on-one or team meeting session. Our technical assistance could be a series of three or four weekly sessions where we discuss Core Elements of your MP in more depth. You might sign up for a 3 day Mpowerment training. Together, we might decide a visit to your agency is best. Either way, all of our services are free and accessible.

We offer HIV technical assistance for Community Based Organizations and Health Departments. Contact us.

A few of our Skype sessions with Anthony, David, Liz and Charles.  Building communities for health.

We encourage you to open a CRIS request whenever you have questions about implementing Mpowerment. 

For in-depth or on-going assistance the best way to request assistance is through the CDC’s CBA Request Information System (CRIS). Be sure to include our name (University of California San Francisco CAPS) in your CRIS request.

Doing so will allow you to access technical assistance by our Mpowemrent Project (MP) specialists at the Center for AIDS Prevention Studies (CAPS) at UCSF, including phone, skype and web-based assistance. 

CDC directly funded agencies can access the CRIS request system here:  Capacity Building Request login | CDC funded sites | CRIS system.

If you are funded through your state or local Health Department (HD) you may access the CRIS system here:  Capacity Building CDC request system | non CDC funded sites  

Note: Your local/regional CBA coordinator will open the request for your agency.

Color in Common | Mpowerment Los Angeles CA

We encourage you to talk to us whenever possible. Call John Hamiga at 415.502.1000 ext. 66278 or Robert Williams at 415.476.6392. 

Our team plans to organize Mpowerment affinity sessions at most major HIV related conferences over then next few years and we look forward to meeting you.

Interested in attending the next Mpowerment 3-day training? We host them throughout the year in different locations. Call or e-mail Ben Zovod for more information 415.476.6428 or

We continue to be active on social media.  Follow the adventures of the Mpowerment Project global movement: 
SOMOS | Mpowerment Wilton Manors FL
The Mpowerment Project remains a popular intervention for Community Based Organizations (CBOs) who want to make a difference in the lives of young adult Gay and Bisexual men. The Project was designed from the very beginning to be tailored to the unique needs of each community. 

Those CBOs who have experienced the most success with the Mpowerment Project facilitated an empowering, community-building process among the young men in their community. They gave real decision-making authority to young men and found dedicated, skilled, and charismatic community members to work as paid staff, that is, as Project Coordinators. 

RELATED: 8 ways to provide agency leadership for the Mpowerment Project 
Learn more about the Project Guiding Principles and Core Elements. Download the Mpowerment manual when you register at  

Attend the Mpowerment 3-day training. Contact Ben Zovod at 415.476.6428 or

RELATEDJoin us. Attend the Mpowerment Project training
The Mpowerment Project is one of the Centers for Disease Control ( CDC ) effective interventions.  CDC Effective Interventions website

The UCSF Capacity Building Assistance PartnershipMaking high-impact HIV prevention possible with