AIDS Project RI Launches New Website
In an effort to keep men who have sex with men safe in the Ocean State, AIDS Project Rhode Island has launched a new website. Designed to address health needs for gay and bisexual men, the site is called Men2MenRi.org, and was created by APRI and the Rhode Island Alliance for Gay/Bisexual Men's Health. The site has a dual purpose, explained APRI Executive Director Thomas Bertrand.
Men2MenRi.org is meant to inform gay men about how to stay healthy and HIV-free as well as to provide a forum for them to connect with each other socially. In 2012, APRI conducted a statewide survey of gay and bisexual men to gauge their needs. The response indicated that a website would be welcomed.
The site recently went live, and the response has been enthusiastic. Since the launch of Men2MenRi.org in May, there have been more than 500 visitors, according to Bertrand.
"I'm quite pleased with that," Bertrand said. "It's a new website, so we're in the process of figuring out the ways to best market it. I see interest (in the website) growing. I'm also seeing it become more common on Google searches."
Bertrand also aims to promote Men2MenRi.org on college LGBT sites and the state health department’s web site.
Men2MenRi.org features an interactive HIV Risk Quiz, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Men’s Health, lists of HIV test sites, and links to LGBT-friendly health care providers, including doctors and dentists and mental health specialists. The site also provides safe sex info, and tips on PEP and PrEP (pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis) for those who haven’t played it safe.
Dr. Phil Chan answers questions from site visitors, who may all remain anonymous. Chan is an internal medicine and infectious diseases physician at the Miriam Hospital in Providence.
Bertrand believes what makes Men2MenRi.org unique is its embracing of several facets of LGBT culture, besides HIV/AIDS issues.
"It’s multidimensional and very interactive," Bertrand said. "This is one of the most progressive web sites for gay men in the United States. I’ve seen a lot of them and none have this many features."
For example, the site also features resources for those who haven’t yet dealt with their sexual orientation and need a safe place to share their feelings. It also provides a social component, with a community calendar for groups to post events. A section called Friends and Boyfriends invites single gay and bisexual men to share advice on how to meet men outside of the bar scene.
Fun Stuff and Good Eats provides a listing of alternative ways to connect with LGBTs, and dining-out options that support AIDS Project Rhode Island. Another section gives people information on how to become an activist, with links to Marriage Equality Rhode Island, Rhode Island Pride, Democratic Party LGBT Advocacy and more.
In a section called Living With HIV in Rhode Island, people can share their own stores. One of the featured stories is from a man who came to terms with his alcoholism and HIV status, who wrote that, "The thing I find impossible to accept, though, is the current thinking among some young people that HIV is just another term on the list of chronic illnesses that they make a pill for now. Knowing that people, young and old, put themselves purposely at risk because they are being taught that this is not a death sentence is horrifying to me. While it is true that the number of HIV/AIDS-related deaths has dramatically declined due to modern medicine, this disease is nothing to be taken lightly."
APRI Site Bolsters State’s Largest ASO, AIDS Care Ocean State
The new website will serve to bolster the service provided by the state’s largest AIDS service organization, AIDS Care Ocean State, which has an extensive outreach program for gay and bisexual men.
"Our street outreach program goes to all parts of Rhode Island, said ACOS Prevention Supervisor Ray Joseph.
ACOS conducts free HIV and Hepatitis B and C testing and vaccinations, as well as provides a needle exchange program. Condoms and other health materials are also distributed at bars and clubs.
"What we do primarily in the MSM community is do testing at Gay Pride," Joseph said. "We also have testing at one of the bathhouses, Club Body Center (in Providence) 8 or 10 times a month."
Joseph notes that AIDS Care Ocean State provides services for anyone affected by HIV/AIDS. According to a study conducted by the Rhode Island Community Planning Group for HIV Prevention, there were 97 HIV infections reported in 2011. Of those, 86 percent were male and 14 percent female. In the classification by risk factor, 64 percent were MSM.
"We try to reach out to everybody," Joseph added.
AIDS Care Ocean State is located at 18 Parkis Ave., Providence. Their web site is www.aidscareos.org. AIDS Project RI is located at 404 Wickenden St., Providence. Their web site is www.aidsprojectri.org