Background: To develop, implement and evaluate a community-level HIV prevention program (the Mpowerment Project) for young gay men in two US communities.
Design: Using a multiple baseline design, a cohort of young gay men was recruited independently of the intervention in each community and surveyed twice (1 year apart) regarding sexual risk behavior and psychosexual variables. The intervention was then implemented sequentially in each community. The cohorts were resurveyed immediately post- and 1-year post-intervention. Since there were few differences between the two communities, data were pooled to increase statistical power.
Intervention: The program had four components: peer outreach, whereby young gay men encouraged other men to engage in safer sex; peer-led small groups; a publicity campaign; and a young men's center.
Results: Baseline rates of unprotected anal intercourse were stable. Following intervention, the proportion of men who engaged in unprotected anal intercourse decreased from 38.3 to 30.9% (-19.3% relative reduction), with a reduction from 19.2 to 13.6% (-29.2% relative reduction) with non-primary partners, and a reduction from 57.7 to 41.8% (-27.6% relative reduction) with boyfriends. Reductions were sustained 1 year later with non-primary partners, but mixed results were found regarding sex with boyfriends.
Conclusions: Mobilizing young gay men to support each other about safer sex is an effective approach to HIV prevention, but programs must be sustained. To reach young gay men, HIV prevention activities must be embedded into the satisfaction of needs for social and community belonging.