In honor of Black History Month, HIV/AIDS advocates offer community advocacy and events on February 7 to recognize National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day throughout the country. HIV/AIDS is a key issue affecting African American and Black communities in the United States. Based on national data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), African Americans — particularly gay and bisexual men and transgender women — account for the largest rate of existing and new HIV/AIDS cases in the United States. National surveillance data shows similar disparities for other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Led by director Dr. Jose Bauermeister, the John G. Searle Assistant Professor in Health Behavior Health Education, the Center for Sexuality and Health Disparities (SexLab) at the University of Michigan School of Public Health is coordinating a three-year, million dollar grant from the CDC to identify and implement innovative community strategies to reduce STDs experienced by young men who have sex with men in Southeast Michigan. One of these is the creation of MFIERCE (Michigan Forward in Enhancing Research and Community Equity), a partnership of community organizations, youth advocates, and researchers working to curb the STD epidemic among young, gay and bi men and transgender women in the region.
To address this issue, MFIERCE is dedicated to shared decision-making among partners. The organization recognizes that research and community projects often leave out voices, particularly the most marginalized and those with great ideas and vision. Through the support of the CDC’s Community Approaches to Reducing Sexually Transmitted Diseases program, MFIERCE is working with its Youth Advisory Board (YAB) to develop regional strategies, programs, and policies to reduce STDs among young, gay and bi men and transgender women.
As MFIERCE continues, the YAB will play a vital role in shaping the future of HIV and STD work in their communities. Starting in February, the YAB will be co-facilitating town hall meetings throughout Southeast Michigan to gather ideas on programs, policies, or projects that may be implemented to reduce STDs among young gay, bisexual men, and transgender women. For a listing of locations and times, please visit the MFIERCE website.