The PrEP Squad
I think that a lot of efforts to get PrEP to people who need it stop short of actually diving into communities and adapting to the needs of the people that need the medication the most.
Engaging with communities about PrEP
The internet has given us many new opportunities to reach communities of people that are traditionally left out of the conversation when it comes to HIV.
Online communities like H-I-V.net provide a place for anyone to connect with like-minded people and share experiences and stories. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram all are avenues to connect individuals with each other and with resources.
A lot of community engagement involves talking about sex in very general terms. I think an opportunity to be transparent with adults 18 and older is missed when we gloss over the sexiness in sex for a more clinical approach to public health initiatives.
PrEPSquadDC: an advocacy jackpot
While I was scrolling through the Twitter universe, I happen to find the PrEP advocacy jackpot.
PrEPSquadDC.org popped up and, to my surprise, it featured content for adults that integrated PrEP awareness side-by-side with posts that mainly aimed to get the attention of men interested in men. Situating PrEP awareness and advocacy in places where MSM populations consume erotic content only makes sense.
Sexual health wellness and education for MSM
PrEP Squad is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to promoting sexual wellness among men who have sex with men and their primary goal is education.
Their approach to reaching this population focuses on providing information on a number of prevention and other sexual health tools including PrEP, condoms, lube, vaccinations for Hepatitis A, B, and HPV, sexually trusting monogamous relationships with responsible testing, abstinence, and treatment as prevention.
By prioritizing all of these options, they are empowering people visiting their site to explore options that work best for them. They even have an app for PrEP pill reminders called PrEPTIME App for Android and iPhone.
Tackling other male sexual health topics
The website even tackles other issues of male sexual health including testicular cancer checks, how to use condoms, and tips on having great sex without having insertive anal sex.
What I appreciate about sites like this is that they actively try to reach people by using erotica to pique interest and then they drop some good knowledge in fun and interactive ways. People have donated their time to projects like #UndetectableMan. He is a superhero that is out to fight stigma and educate people that Undetectable = Untransmittable (U=U).
The power of grassroots efforts
What is even more exciting about grassroots efforts like this is that the content is coming from regular people and even adult performers of color.
In a city like DC with high rates of HIV infection among Black men, seeing peer educators that are relatable makes the content more accessible. It makes sexual awareness seem less like a class and more like a part of my regular online browsing experience.
When it comes to HIV awareness, why shy away from erotic content to reach adult audiences? The internet has allowed these communities to grow and it will only help in spreading the word about PrEP and other strategies to prevent the transmission of HIV.
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