Atlanta's Evolution Project, which helps young black men who have sex with men (MSM) navigate the transition to adulthood, recently moved to the heart of the city's heavily gay Midtown neighborhood, nearly tripling its space in the process.
Funded by CDC grants, Project Evolution was created in 2006 by AID Atlanta to promote HIV prevention among young black MSM, a population particularly at risk. Though prevention remains key to its mission, the project has broadened its scope considerably. "We want to make sure our programming reflects the diversity of the community," said Kevin Hatcher, activities and linkages coordinator.
Regular programs include support groups for both HIV-negative and HIV-positive males; a workshop on dating; a physical education program discussing topics from yoga to anal health; a writers' group; a book club; a facilitated weekly session in which members open up about the stresses and realities of young black life; and a group especially for young professionals and graduate students.
"It's like being in an environment that's more accepting to the way I am," said one young man. "It can teach you a lot of things about protecting yourself from STDs and things like that, and it's a good place to come if you're just coming out of the closet ... because it shows you that it's OK to be who you are, and gives you the support of your peers."
"We're all about empowerment here, so it's not just a place you come when you need something, it's also a place for you to come when you want to grow, when you want to hang out, when you want to be involved in something," said Hatcher.
For more information on Project Evolution, visit www.evolutionprojectatl.org.