February 15, 2013
In addition to my work on TheBody.com, I work full time at TPAN (Test Positive Aware Network). We are Chicago's oldest peer-led organization providing support to Chicago's most vulnerable populations. One of our newest programs, HOTTER (Healthy Outcomes Through Treatment, Empowerment and Recovery) provides mental health/substance abuse support for African American MSM ages 18 to 29, a population that has been, and continues to be disproportionately affected by HIV, mental health, and substance abuse issues.
In 2011 the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that new HIV cases among young African-American MSM rose nearly 50% between 2006 and 2009, the sharpest increase of any group. HIV services provided by organizations that understand the unique needs of this population are critical to effectively decrease HIV transmission rates.
On Monday February 4, 2013, TPAN rolled out this brand new treatment program!!! HOTTER is a low-threshold, group-level treatment program for African-American men who have sex with men. The ideal candidate for the HOTTER program must be between ages 18-29 years old, use alcohol and/or other substances, as well as have possible mental health issues, pre-diagnosed or due to daily life stressors. Candidates may also be HIV positive or engage in high-risk sexual behavior.
A unique program like this will attract many individuals who are all at different levels of the recovery process. We may often think to ourselves, "I have a job, a car and great relationships, so what if I have a few drinks a day?" Failing to realize that substance abuse isn't just the absence of those things listed above, but it could be a broader spectrum of other psychological, social or emotional stressors. The HOTTER program will provide candidates/clients the opportunity to delve/identify their reasons for substance use/abuse and assist them in developing a conscious decision-making framework and effort to change their ways. More specifically, we are hoping to recruit those candidates who have yet to examine their drug or alcohol consumption.