Tuesday, May 26, 2015

5 important questions for the Mpowerment Project to ask itself

Why is it important to conduct monitoring and evaluation? 

The Mpowerment Project (MP) was carefully designed and tested in several different communities to see if it was successful in reducing sexual risk behavior among young gay/bisexual men. 

The intervention’s success has been established through carefully controlled scientific studies. However, every community and community-based organization (CBO) is somewhat different, and each community and organization that decides to adopt the Project will need to adapt the intervention to its own unique circumstances.

It is better to have small, measurable goals and objectives than sweeping, unrealistic ones. 

Attend the Mpowerment Training. Contact Ben Zovod at 415.476.6428 or ben.zovod@ucsf.edu

Evaluation can help answer some basic and important questions 

Five important questions the Implementing Agency and the Project should be asking itself include:

1. Are we implementing the Project with all the Core Elements and following the Key Characteristics of the MP

2. If we adapted the MP, are we conducting it with fidelity to the Guiding Principles of the original model? 

3. Was something left out or changed from the MP that may make the intervention more or less effective than originally demonstrated? 

4. What MP Core Elements are being delivered and to whom? How well are the MP Core Elements being implemented? 

5. Are we obtaining the necessary information we need to satisfy our funder? 

RELATED: 7 issues that will facilitate or impede MP implementation

RELATED: 8 ways to provide agency leadership for the Mpowerment Project

RELATED: 11 themes to address in implementing Mpowerment for YBMSM

U-BE | Mpowerment Dallas TX
READ ME. Module 12 Monitoring and Evaluation and all MP evaluation documents in word.doc format are free downloads.

MP monitoring and evaluation resources can be copied from the manual or downloaded from the mpowerment.org website

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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

11 themes to address in implementing Mpowerment for YBMSM

The following themes about important issues to address in reaching Young Black Men who have Sex with Men (YBMSM) emerged from our research. We spent time understanding what the themes each mean, and then how they should be incorporated into the Mpowerment Project's guiding principles and core elements

Every core element was analyzed to determine how to incorporate each issue into it. These adaptations are addressed in the rest of the manual, Adaptation of the Mpowerment Project to Young Black MSM

United Black Ellument | Mpowerment Dallas TX
Internalized Racism / Internalized Oppression

YBMSM may have internalized negative societal messages related to their sexual or racial identities. This internalized oppression can affect young Black Gay and Bisexual Men in a variety of ways, including low self-worth, self-esteem, and self-love. It may also affect their desire to get tested or to avoid contracting HIV. 

Additionally, internalized oppression may also affect how YBMSM treat each other in sexual relationships, which is relevant to preventing HIV transmission, and prevention for positives. The project should deal with internalized oppression by integrating pride, both in Black heritage and in having same sex desire, into all core elements, as well as exercises that create conscious awareness of internalized oppression.

RELATED: Exercises addressing homophobia

ME + U Mpowerment New Orleans LA
Whole-man Approach

The project needs to focus on the “total” young man and not just on young men’s sexuality. 
This is particularly important since Black men are often stereotyped as being overly sexualized. Thus a holistic approach means not solely focusing on YBMSM’s behavior (sexual, or otherwise), recognizing that the participants are part of a larger Black community, and that many are faced with a wide-range of life issues including discrimination; socio-economic challenges; a biased criminal justice system; institutional and/or overt acts of racism; a sense of fatalism, hopelessness, and loss of control over their lives; and a “mainstream” gay community that has not been accepting of or welcoming to them. Additionally, a holistic approach includes supporting YBMSM to take on adult responsibilities and think about the future; a focus on wellness, such as exercise, diet, prayer; and supporting a connection to religion and spirituality. Yet the Board of Cultural Experts (BOCE) were also adamant that HIV prevention should not get lost in conducting these activities, and that HIV prevention should be woven into all activities.

Diverse Sexual Identities

YBMSM have a wide variety of sexual identities (gay, bisexual, “down low”, same gender loving (SGL), heterosexual, “just me”). Many men may be reluctant to join an overtly “gay” project and attend activities marketed “for gay men.” Yet in Dallas we have found that many men do want to attend a program that is described as “for gay men.” This should be explored in any new community implementing the Mpowerment Project.

The Evolution Project | Mpowerment Atlanta GA

Creating Young Black Gay/SGL Community Amidst Great Diversity

The project needs to help YBMSM envision and create for themselves a healthy, supportive community that recognizes and accepts the tremendous diversity among YBMSM. 
There are many diverse social networks that young men are involved in, which includes having their own clothing styles, activities, music, communication patterns, and slang. The project needs to facilitate a process wherein YBMSM consciously build a broader community in their own vision that encompasses diverse social networks, as well as men who are isolated. Yet class divisions in particular are likely to be challenging, and the BOCEs expressed concern about building a YBMSM community in which many life experiences of lower-income and middle-class YBMSM are very different.


Many YBMSM have concurrent sexual relationships with women and men, regardless of how they identify. Thus sexual risk behavior with women is also important to address. Yet most of the YBMSM who attend this program are unlikely to have sex with women since the intervention is most likely to attract men who are more “out” about their same sex attraction, and therefore, most activities should focus on sex with men.

United Black Ellument | Mpowerment Dallas TX

Lack of Role Models

Many YBMSM have had few adult men in their lives. This sometimes results in YBMSM having a lack of information about how to handle adult responsibilities. In addition, since many older Black MSM are not completely “out” in the Black community, many young men do not have a vision of how older MSM live, have long-term relationships, financially support themselves, deal with their families, have children, and so forth. Group mentoring activities at the project space, with older men serving as role models and being sources of information to younger men, may be helpful.

Privacy Concerns

Many YBMSM are very concerned about “sharing their business” with others, feeling that too often people in the Black and Black MSM community gossip about each other. It was felt that out of concern about not “spreading my business,” people often do not share their private issues with others until they are quite comfortable and familiar with them. Activities that involve disclosure of personal information may need to include the development of trust and rapport building, as well as continual reminders about not gossiping with others about what is heard at the project.

High HIV Seroprevalence among YBMSM, Many of Whom Do Not Know

While the MP has never been solely a project for HIV-negative men, earlier research was conducted in low seroprevalence communities, and most participants were HIV-negative. In contrast, there are far more HIV-positive YBMSM, some of whom have not been tested or tested recently. 

The Mpowerment Project has an explicit focus on: a) supporting HIV-positive men to be safe sexually; b) reducing stigma of HIV-positive men; and c) encouraging men to get tested at least every 6 months so they know their current HIV status.

RELATED: High Impact Prevention (HIP) and the Mpowerment Project

Religion and Spirituality Must be Addressed

Most YBMSM were raised going to church most Sundays, spirituality and religion are constant themes in many men’s lives, and many phrases sprinkled throughout daily converse pertain to religion. Yet religion has also had a deleterious impact on many men as they continually heard negative statements about homosexuality and gay men preached from the pulpit. Their families often time have repeated these statements at home. Therefore, religion and spirituality must be addressed, both explicitly and implicitly in various ways throughout the intervention.

RELATED: The Mpowerment Project: Faith and spirituality exercise 

Stigma (Prejudice) Against HIV-Positive YBMSM

There are considerable negative attitudes about men who have contracted HIV, which are expressed in a large variety of ways. This may cause HIV-positive men to hide their HIV status from everyone, including best friends, lovers, and family. 

It can cause them to feel quite isolated and marginalized. Feeling ashamed when they learn their HIV-status, they sometimes avoid seeking treatment or drop out of care, and lack emotional support for staying in care or taking medications as prescribed. They may avoid disclosing their HIV status to sex partners out of fear that the sex partner might gossip about them. Some young men do not even tell their boyfriend that they are HIV-positive out of fear of rejection or of it being gossiped about if they break up. Many social networks are close knit, and thus gossip gets around very quickly. Fear of being marginalized if one finds out that he is HIV-positive may even make it very difficult to seek HIV-testing. Instead of believing the adage, “Knowing is power”, many men would say that, “Knowing means you must recognize that you are an awful [dirty, sick] person.”

RELATED:  The Mpowerment Project: Fighting HIV stigma

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Using a Culturally Appropriate Pedagogy

It is not only important to focus on what issues are addressed in the intervention, but how they are addressed is important as well. All parts of the intervention need to be conducted using culturally appropriate methods, including visual images, music, and exercises. Scenarios that are presented for role plays need to be tailored, and the use of affirmations, music, and spoken word exercises may prove very useful, with less emphasis on written materials. 

RELATED: The Mpowerment Project: Gay, sex, and Black affirming

RELATED: 17 African American & Men of Color Mpowerment Projects

RELATED: Center for AIDS Prevention Studies (CAPS) UCSF | Resources for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

RELATED: HIV among African American Gay and Bisexual Men | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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READ MORE about implementation of the Mpowerment Project for young adult Black Gay and Bisexual men. These adaptations are addressed in the manual, Adaptation of the Mpowerment Project to Young Black MSM.