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New Harlem Campaign Shines Light on Straight Black Men and HIV

By Ikè Nwankpa

October 31, 2011

Iris House, a New York-based campaign founded to help women living with HIV/AIDS and their families, is bringing heterosexual men into the conversation about the epidemic by launching the "Keep it 100" campaign.

It's hard to deny the lack of programs aimed at informing straight men about their risks of contracting the disease. With the help of volunteers, online postings and large-scale advertisements in bus shelters around Harlem and the South Bronx, the message of "Keep it 100" is loud and clear.

NewsOne reported:

The idea of targeting heterosexual men came about, after [Iris House] analyzed data on their female clientele, which revealed that 90 percent of them said that they contracted HIV/AIDS from their male partners. Floyd said the Iris House decided to analyze the data after they noticed a pattern in its clientele and the national rates of women infected by men.

"We decided in 2008 when completing our strategic plan that we had to begin providing services for the men in their lives and in the community since no other places were targeting heterosexual men," Floyd said.

"We wanted to figure out a way to engage the men in the prevention education so that we don't just put the responsibility on the women."

The black and Latino populations account for the highest rate of new infections per 100,000 people in the United States, according to 2009 federal data from the Centers for Disease Control. The center also cites New York as the state with the highest number of AIDS diagnoses. Among racial and gender demographics, black men accounted for the highest new infection cases, according to Centers for Disease Control data.

Central Harlem and East Harlem, where the Iris House does most of its outreach, have the second and third highest infection rate in the city, according to 2008 data from the New York City HIV/AIDS Annual Surveillance Statistics.

Iris House has crafted several programs to boost its advocacy efforts. "Keep it 100" participants have the opportunity to attend group workshops. The workshops are aimed at helping at-risk men "avoid unprotected sex" and other situations that may lead to HIV transmission. The program also offers free HIV testing and personal counseling.

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