California: Gay Men Find It's Not Easy Being New in Town; Programs Address Problems Inherent in Relocating to San Francisco
September 6, 2005
Several new programs in San Francisco hope to welcome gay newcomers with a friendly reception, and one has HIV prevention as its main focus.
According to a 2001 city Department of Public Health survey, the average gay man leaves San Francisco after only four years. Many say they feel the community is unwelcoming. That alienation can lead to depression, substance abuse, and risky sexual behavior. The department estimated that 13.5 percent of gay men had lived in the city for less than a year.
Starting this month, the San Francisco Newcomers' Assistance Program (SNAP) hopes those fresh new faces stay around and remain healthy. SNAP is an HIV program of the San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center. The center's director, Anthony Philip, anticipates the men-only program will enroll 75 people this year and hopes it is successful enough to expand to other groups.
"Risk assessments and studies indicate that living in San Francisco less than one year is a predictor of high risk [for HIV]," said Jason Riggs, spokesperson for Stop AIDS Project, which is not affiliated with SNAP.
A young man from Kansas may think condoms are only necessary for sex with older men and not for men of his own age. "That's a harm reduction strategy, but there's a higher risk in San Francisco than in Kansas," said Riggs. A quarter of gay men in San Francisco have HIV, according to city and federal statistics. Health department figures indicate men who have sex with men account for 77 percent of the city's new HIV infections each year.
Likening the city to a playground, Philip said, "We want people to know when to play and when not to play and, if you fall down, what to do."
San Francisco Chronicle
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.