Albuquerque's Mpowerment Project, a safer-sex program for gay and bisexual men, has overcome a nationwide trend of increased unprotected sex among gay men by providing its participants with the ability to talk openly with their peers about risky sex, the Albuquerque Journal reports. The rate of unprotected sex among gay men in the city dropped by 12% from 1996 to 1999, according to city health officials, who credit part of the drop to the success of the program. By comparison, rates of unprotected sex climbed by 42% during the same period among gay men in Austin and by 26% among gay men in Phoenix.
"Before this program came along, I never really talked about sex with my peers," said John Hamiga, 32, who coordinates the Albuquerque program. "It was an accepted thing that, 'Oh, some guys are going to get HIV.' What we've proved is that people want alternatives."
The program is run out of Mpower House, operated by New Mexico AIDS Services. Mpowerment Project events typically include large and small group gatherings at which participants talk about safe choices regarding sex, drugs, alcohol, and relationships. About 100 people attend events at the facility every night, Hamiga said. The program's success has led to the establishment of similar programs in Atlanta; Boston; Denver; Honolulu; Miami; Boulder, Colo.; San Jose, Calif.; and Walnut Creek, Calif.