FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Chris Viveiros
THE FENWAY INSTITUTE RECEIVES $2.2 MILLION 5-YEAR CDC GRANT TO SUPPORT HIV PREVENTION PROGRAMMING FOR GAY AND BISEXUAL MEN
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have awarded The Fenway Institute a $2.2 million 5-year grant to support HIV prevention programming for gay and bisexual men. The award will allow The Fenway Institute and its partner on the project, the Multicultural AIDS Coalition (MAC), to dramatically enhance existing prevention services.
Dubbed Boston Respect, the new initiative will consist of a series of bundled interventions designed to help gay and bisexual men respect themselves and each other by promoting good sexual health. Gay and bisexual men are the only population in the United States with rising numbers of new HIV infections and Boston Respect hopes to address that by promoting HIV and STD testing and encouraging people to know their HIV status and build skills to keep themselves and their partners safe.
Central to Boston Respect is a two-session individual level intervention for at-risk gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM). This CDC-endorsed intervention is designed to reduce risk-taking behaviors for both HIV-negative and HIV-positive people by making use of a “teachable moment” and providing them with the tools and support they need to stay healthy. Boston Respect is the latest in a long series of collaborations between Fenway and the MAC designed to reach diverse communities of high risk gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.
“Boston Respect as adapted by Fenway and MAC with community input is something we have a lot of faith in, but it is only as strong as the support programming around it,” says Jon Vincent, Program Director for Prevention and Education at The Fenway Institute. “By coupling it with a revised HIV counseling and testing model, access to STD services, and linking it with our state- and city-funded services, we are looking to create a holistic prevention, education and screening program.”
Early formative work on smaller projects was critical in developing the new plan. In 2007, the Boston Public Health Commission funded Fenway and MAC to conduct targeted Health Navigation for special populations—Black MSM, transgender individuals and MSM struggling with substance abuse. These models will inform the scaled up program aimed at addressing the needs of the entire gay, bisexual and other MSM community in greater Boston.
Respect will benefit from internal linkages at Fenway and MAC, providing a multi-layered support system for program participants through the use of Health Navigators to assist them in everything from health insurance enrollment, keeping their medical appointments and even basic life coaching. The goal is to offer participants one-stop shopping for HIV testing, STD screening, hepatitis screening and vaccinations, insurance enrollment, access to a specialized medical provider, access to an array of support groups and one-on-one mental health counseling.
“In the past, we haven’t always had the resources to create comprehensive prevention programming for MSM, especially gay and bisexual men of color. This federal support will allow us to bridge some of the existing gaps and take a holistic approach to individual and community health,” says Gary Daffin, Executive Director of the Multicultural AIDS Coalition.
“The timing is excellent,” says Rodney VanDerwarker, Administrative Director of The Fenway Institute and the Project Director for Boston Respect. “By providing a continuum of behavioral interventions in connection with HIV and STD testing services and a strong connection to care, we will be able to provide at-risk men with the information and resources they need to make healthier decisions for themselves and their partners. And The Fenway Institute’s role in biomedical prevention research like pre-exposure prophylaxis and microbicides allows us to keep on top of potentially emerging new prevention tools.”
Beyond counseling, testing, and access to services, Boston Respect will also offer a community level prevention program that will train individuals to support their friends and associates. These groups of leaders can use their influence and knowledge to help change potentially destructive attitudes within a community.
The Multicultural AIDS Coalition (MAC) is the oldest Minority AIDS Service Organization in New England. Since 1988, the MAC has provided the Boston Metropolitan Area with a range of programs to fight HIV & AIDS, including prevention & education programs, advocacy, strategic planning, outreach to individuals at high-risk of HIV infection and programs to bridge service gaps for underserved communities. More online at www.mac-boston.org.
For nearly forty years, Fenway Health has been working to make life healthier for the people in our neighborhood, the LGBT community, people living with HIV/AIDS and the broader population. The Fenway Institute at Fenway Health is an interdisciplinary center for research, training, education and policy development focusing on national and international health issues. The Fenway Institute is the home of the Center for Population Research in LGBT Health, the first federally-funded research center to focus specifically on sexual and gender minority population research. More online at www.thefenwayinstitute.org.
Boston Respect is fully funded under a grant by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.