Our Projects

SWAG – Sexual Wellness and Growth

Black men who have sex with men (BMSM) are not only the community most negatively impacted by the HIV epidemic, but also experience the least access to holistic, trustworthy sexual health education and care. Historically, most sexuality education programming directed at BMSM is focused almost exclusively on condoms and disease prevention strategies and fails to respond to the intersecting identities and entire lived experience of these men.

Seeing this need, ViiV Healthcare created the ACCELERATE! Initiative with a funding stream specifically for a program called Making Sex Ed Relevant. As recipients of this funding, the ISRC has spent the last two years developing a program that will embrace Black sexuality and equip participants with skills to combat the prejudices they experience. Making Sex Ed Relevant sees sex education as a cornerstone of solidarity for Black gay men to join together to overcome systemic inequity, and the opportunity for providers to take down barriers to health and equality for Black gay men.

Investigator: Javontae Williams, MPH, Justin Sitron, PhD, and Linda Hawkins, PhD

From the outset, the community has been at the center of our work. We used ethnographic research ViiV Healthcare commissioned in Jackson, Mississippi and Baltimore, Maryland and data from focus groups we conducted with community members and their CECs in both Jackson and Baltimore to identify the topics and approaches that Black gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men want and need from sexuality education. From this, we developed a two-fold curriculum to enhance the overall health and wellbeing of BMSM, which would: 1) address the unique and complex identities and experiences of BMSM through holistic sexuality education and 2) address the gap in culturally competent training for health-care and social service providers–referred to as Client Experience Contributors (CECs)–who interact with BMSM. This includes providing BMSM with needed information to make healthy and informed emotional, psychological, and sexual decisions with partners of same and different HIV status, improve communication among their social and sexual partners, navigate sexual, physical, and mental healthcare systems and social services, and live well overall. Our efforts also draw on an anti-racist lens to offer training to CECs who offer services to BMSM in meeting their health goals. Guided by ongoing feedback from community members and organizational leaders, we have begun piloting and editing lessons to community members in Jackson and Baltimore, testing an interactive app designed to help men stay connected and supported, and evaluating the unique needs of CECs to bring them the most targeted education possible.

This project was informed by the following strategies: