HIV prevention is a decision
July 30, 2012 | 11:00 am
(Updated: February 22, 2013 | 3:54 pm)
To most people the word “prevention” inspires simple images; condoms and lubricant accompanied by some sort of judgmental lecture about safer sex practices. It is a message that has been present in the gay male community for as long as most people can remember.
“You should not have unprotected sex.”
“Limit your number of partners.”
“Do this, don’t do that.”
Spikes in rates of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, have shown that this messaging hasn’t had the impact that many have hoped for over the past 30 years. Now, as a result of this, the world of prevention is shifting and my work at Denver ELEMENT is shifting along with it. With two new programs forming the foundation of our new direction, we hope to continue our mission to create an empowered and loving gay male community in the Denver area.
Our newest program, The “Mpowerment Program,” will work to build community among Denver’s gay, bisexual, and questioning young men ages 18 to 24. Allowing members to define and plan this program themselves will provide a sense of ownership to the community as the staff will act as a support system and resource. Integral to the community building aspect of the program and the events associated with it will be positive and non-judgmental messaging around sexual behavior related to decision making.
Another new program, “Positive Impact,” is already in full swing working to empower Denver’s gay and bisexual, HIV-positive men who are coping with injection drug usage. Positive Impact is a five-session class that works to reduce stress among participants by addressing, in-depth, the decision-making process around status disclosure and partner negotiation scenarios.
Both of these programs have an important similarity to be noted; they focus on empowering the community and putting the power of decision back into the hands of the individual. Gone are the days of the one-line lecture. Today we realize that there is nothing more powerful than an individual’s choice – and we are here to make sure that those choices are informed and supported absent of judgment.
Beyond these programs The Denver ELEMENT is still taking an active role in Denver’s community. Volunteers participate in outreach at Hamburger Mary’s Drag Queen Bingo every-other week, we continue to advertise and engage the community and continue to be supportive of other community efforts that benefit and engage our gay male community.
We will also be participating in the Colorado AIDS Walk this year and are looking forward to another opportunity to engage and support our community! ]
Cody Shafer is the Positive Impact program coordinator for The Denver ELEMENT. Cody just recently relocated to Denver from Iowa City where he spent the past six years working in HIV testing and prevention with a local health department. He truly believes that creating a caring and compassionate gay male community is the key to preventing the spread of HIV. Although he admittedly bleeds Black & Gold (GO HAWKS!) he is excited for his new adventures in Colorado and is thankful to have found a program that aligns with his view of prevention and community.