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Group launches
online HIV prevention tool for young gay men

Group launches
online HIV prevention tool for young gay men

MySexyCity.com aims to help young gay men develop harm-reduction strategies.

The Institute for Gay Men's Health, a collaboration between New York's Gay Men's Health Crisis and AIDS Project Los Angeles, on Tuesday launched a new interactive Web site, called MySexyCity.com, that serves as an HIV prevention tool for young gay and bisexual men. The site includes a cast of animated characters, which visitors can maneuver through various situations and make decisions for them, with information provided as to the health-related impact of those choices.

The goal is to provide visitors to the site with information about HIV, sexually transmitted diseases, substance abuse, and other topics to help them develop harm-reduction strategies of their own.

"We are always looking for new and exciting ways to make HIV prevention relevant for the members of our communities at highest risk for infection," says Marjorie J. Hill, interim executive director of GMHC, in a press statement. "The need for this type of intervention is critical, as we enter the 25th year of the AIDS epidemic and studies show that one in two black gay or bisexual men are infected with HIV."

Geared toward gay and bisexual men ages 18 to 29, with a particular emphasis on gay men of color, the site is divided into four key areas: animated interactive scenarios; online magazines available for downloading; research and referral information; and online survey and data collection. An online connection component is currently under development and will be added later to the site.

Content on the site and the various scenarios presented to the animated cast of characters were drawn from feedback from focus groups. Scientific and health-related data were culled from health agencies and HIV experts. In addition to sexual risk taking, the site also addresses homophobia, racism, discrimination, coming out, substance use, and drug dealing. Some of content on the Web site is adult-oriented, with animated scenes showing some of the characters using drugs or having sex. A disclaimer upon entering the site warns visitors of this content. During such scenes, numerous pop-up messages also appear that include harm-reduction messages and information on how to avoid HIV and other STDs.

The developers say the outreach effort is rooted in the popularity of the Internet among young gay men, many of whom use the Web to meet sex partners. "MySexyCity acknowledges the pivotal role of the Internet in the lives of younger gay and bisexual men," says APLA executive director Craig E. Thompson in a press statement. "The site provides an opportunity to educate and entertain Web users while at the same time creating a community based on HIV and health awareness."

The site can be accessed online at www.MySexyCity.com. (Advocate.com)

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