A series of principles guide this multi-level Project. They include:
- personal and community empowerment
- diffusion of new behaviors through social networks
- putting HIV prevention within the context of other compelling issues for young gay/bisexual men (e.g. social issues)
- community building
- using gay-positive approaches
The Project is run by a “Core Group” of 10-20 young gay/bisexual men from the community with the support of paid staff. The Core Group, along with other volunteers, design and carry out all Project activities. Ideally, the Project has its own physical space where most outreach events and meetings are held. The Project space can also serve as a drop-in center where young gay/bisexual men meet and support each other. The Project relies on a set of four integrated activities:
Formal Outreach A team of young gay/bisexual men goes to popular community locations to discuss and promote safer sex in a fun and engaging way. They distribute appealing HIV prevention material that they have developed themselves. Additionally, the team creates its own outreach events to attract young gay/bisexual men (e.g., dances, video parties, picnics, discussion groups) where HIV prevention is promoted in various ways.
Informal Outreach Through their participation in the Mpowerment Project, young men develop the necessary skills and motivation to effectively support and encourage their friends about safer sex.
Ongoing Publicity Campaign The campaign attracts young gay/bisexual men to the project through word of mouth, articles in gay newspapers, advertisements, web sites, e-mail notices, and other targeted strategies.
M-groups These peer-led, 3 hour meetings of 8-10 young gay/bisexual men discuss factors contributing to unsafe sex (e.g., misconceptions about safer sex, beliefs that safer sex is not enjoyable, poor sexual communication skills). Through skills-building exercises, the men practice safer sex negotiation and correct condom use. Participants receive free condoms and lubricant and are trained and motivated to conduct informal outreach with their friends.