Hike Toward Health; For Gay Men, Self-Worth the Core of HIV Prevention
October 31, 2008
"Adventure Out!" is an HIV/AIDS awareness group that operates out of the Adult Health Services Program at the Santa Fe Mountain Center (SFMC) in Tesuque.
Designed for gay men and transgendered persons, Adventure Out! uses the outdoors in place of more traditional gay gathering spots. The group hikes the local trails, and its discussions about safe sex and HIV/AIDS are unstructured.
"Most of our clients know all the knowledge part, how to use condoms and what puts them at risk," said Martin Walker, program manager at SFMC. "Our goal is to enhance that knowledge. We work on the overall picture of why they don't use condoms if they know how, why they put themselves at risk."
According to Kahlo Benavidez, SFMC's program coordinator, self-worth is the core of HIV prevention: "That you're something worth protecting. There's value to your life and it's worth guarding."
"Gay men don't have that whole brotherly, father-son, male kind of camaraderie a lot," explained Walker. "It's part of the problem growing up gay. You don't hang out with your dad a lot, you don't have guy friends you just hang out with. There's a huge gap in mentoring possibility."
"It's about getting the group to feel comfortable together, talking to each other, knowing how to feel in safe situations versus unsafe situations," Walker said. "That knowledge raises their ability to know how to help themselves. The reason gay men still get HIV is they're not comfortable with themselves."
The effort is paying off, said Walker. His data show 82 percent of clients are tested regularly for STDs. Eleven percent said they plan to limit the number of their sexual partners, 32 percent say they will practice safe sex more often, and 55 percent consistently practice safe sex.
10.27.2008; Phil Parker
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.