Last night, HIV Ireland launched a new initiative, MPOWER.
MPOWER is a peer-led and community-based response to the sexual health and wellbeing needs of gay and bisexual men.
As the director of the MPOWER programme, Adam Shanley put it:
“We aim to empower gay and bisexual men with sex-positive judgment-free and harm reduction based responses to our sexual health and well-being needs.
“The MPOWER program is already delivering services in our community. Many of you will already know of our community based rapid HIV Testing Service, where we offer testing in places that are familiar and at times that are convenient to gay and bi men: bars, clubs, saunas, and during evenings and weekends.”
The location for the launch of MPOWER was the Club Chroma at IMMA which is currently running an exhibition of Derek Jarman’s work. The evening was a poignant one as Thom McGinty, The Diceman, was remembered 25 years after his death to the day.
Also speaking at the launch, Tonie Walsh provided a context detailing the perils of HIV and AIDS of the past and present.
In his speech, Shanley paid tribute to The Diceman and the AIDS activism of the LGBT+ community saying:
“Often known as one of Dublin’s true characters, Thom was a pioneering HIV activist. His appearance on the Late Late Show in 1994, when he spoke openly about living with HIV was a groundbreaking moment in Irish television history, and indeed, in our social history as gay men. So it’s in the surroundings of the legacy of hard-fought protests, dazzling queerness and righteous activism, that I’m very proud to introduce the MPOWER program.”
Shanley also spoke of the work they plan to do as part of MPOWER which involves increasing community testing, with the aim of reducing the number of gay and bi men who’ve never been tested before.
Shanley said that another urgent issue that MPOWER will address is chem sex:
“The most urgent issue facing our community is the sexualised use of drugs for chem sex. GHB and crystal meth is having a profound negative effect on our friends, on our lovers, on our partners and our chosen families. Many in our community are in control of their use and enjoy recreationally but there’s a rising number of those who need our support.
“In a post-marriage equality Ireland where the narrative is that rights have been achieved and all should now be equal and good, low self-esteem, low self-worth, depression, addiction, overdose, accidental death and suicide are the realities for our peers. The tide of equality may be on the way in, but all boats have not risen.
“To that end, advocacy and research will be an integral part of the MPOWER program. We receive funding to commence research that will underpin our services with the culturally appropriate evidence base, particularly when we look to create the harm reduction responses to drugs and alcohol that we so desperately need.”
To find out more about the MPOWER programme visit hivireland.ie
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