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. 

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