Overwhelming is the only word that I can find and that can describe the MSM Pre-Conference: From Stigma to Strength. I was not sure what to expect and kind of thought that it was going to be similar to the many conferences I have attended since I started working in the field of HIV/AIDS (more than a decade ago). Boy I was mistaken! The world is here….individuals from Australia, Germany, Thailand, England, Peru, Ecuador (to name a few), coming together to network and to share their experiences, knowledge, successes and challenges they have experienced in doing this type of work. I was particularly drawn by one of the sessions: the name is long but lets just say is about the use of technology and HIV prevention – the new frontier – the Matrix meets Star Trek. Where are my 3D glasses? Kidding!
In the last year, I have personally seen many organizations and programs wanting to (and some actually currently doing it) jump into the social media world and start using these new technologies and web applications (we can’t seem to be able to live without nowadays) to accomplish the many parts that comes with doing HIV prevention: from awareness, to education, to reaching hard to reach populations; prevention with positives, working with the transgender community, social marketing campaigns, etc. They all want to be present in the virtual realm. But what is the best strategy? The truth is that there is not one single strategy that fits all. It’s a try and wait for results process, and use what best fits, even if it means to be bold, open and borderline kinky online. Avatar yourself or just be you. Whichever is best.
I have been personally contacted when I been browsing several sex websites and applications, but all messages I have received are different. I usually end up informing them which ends up killing my research! Here’s an idea, why not have a unified online prevention messaging standard guide developed and used by all those who are jumping to the online world to reach people with prevention messages? It guarantees that the information is accurate and it makes it easier for all the owners of these sites to give you access to be online (and not delete your account).
Lastly, Don’t do counseling online, your interrupting the shoot-point-deposit process. Just stick to health promotion only. In the online world “Ich Weiss Was Ich Tu!” – I know what I am doing! (www.iwwit.de – Germany).
Written by: Bolo Nieto