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Web Series Increases Safer Sex Among Gay Men

Web Series Increases Safer Sex Among Gay Men

A new online video series that hopes to raise HIV awareness screened at Manhattan's LGBT Center on June 11. The series, which is called "HIV Is Still a Big Deal," follows the story of a young New Yorker named Josh who has unprotected sex one night. According to research done by Public Health Solutions, the series has been effective in motivating other gay men to have safer sex and get HIV-tested. "Our major interest was in encouraging men to disclose to their partner their HIV status," said Dr. Mary Ann Chiasson, vice president for Research and Evaluation for Public Health Solution. "Not only to disclose their own status, but to ask about their partner's status as a way of beginning the discussion of negotiating safer sex." The series pairs the growing interest in online videos with story narratives and research-based education methods that are designed to clarify HIV misconceptions and promote critical thinking when it comes to having sex. The target audience for the series is males ages 25-32, who did not endure the AIDs devastation in the 1980s. The two episodes screened Wednesday night were titled "The Morning After" and "The Test," which chronicle Josh as he struggles with modern HIV issues such as online hookups, disclosing HIV status, and getting tested. More episodes have been planned and will begin shooting later this year. "It's very exciting to be part of something larger, something that can actually mean something to people," said David Lavine, who plays Eric, Josh's HIV-positive love interest in the series. "I hope they will relate to the story." When a sample of 500 men was surveyed three months after viewing the first episode, the results found that these men were three times more likely to disclose their status and about 1.5 times more likely to get an HIV Test. When asked about future infections of HIV, co-project director Francine Shuchat Shaw told The Advocate, "It won't always be a death sentence. Maybe 25 years from now I would think there will be something that would help. Maybe a cure at some level. At least, like cancer, if you catch it early enough. I think it will be like cancer research, they'll keep at it until they can get it all." "HIV Is Still A Big Deal" is a collaboration between Chiasson and Shaw, in which they both serve as project directors and writers. The series was directed by documentary filmmaker Todd Ahlberg. In order to ensure widespread viewing of the series, the first episode is available on YouTube and Myspace. For more information or to view the episodes, visit (Paul Florez, The Advocate)

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