Project Male Takes Flight

  PROJECT: MALE

FIGHTING AIDS IN FRESNO COUNTY

Friday the 13th is thought of as a day of bad luck and disaster, basically a not so good day.  Well that’s what it was for CHAANGE on Friday January 13th.  That was the day that I had received a phone call telling me that the CHAANGE organization was going to be dissolved. Upset by the news, I had to decide what was going to happen next.  Was I going to drop out of the AIDS fight and allow AIDS to consume all of Fresno County or was I going to get into gear and take action?!!  Well I am here today to tell you that the later had happened.



So 7 days later on January 20, 2006, PROJECT: MALE was born (Incorporated).  I have to say that I feel too strongly about this issue to allow all the work I have put into fighting AIDS in our community to dissolve like that!  Interesting enough, I had already been working on this project back in October 2005 but it was just supposed to be a men’s AIDS taskforce to address the fact that 85% of the AIDS cases in Fresno County are men.  Since I had started preparing for the Fresno Extravaganza AIDS benefit fashion show, this taskforce had to be put onto the back burner.  I guess you can say that the Lord had something else in mind and so PROJECT: MALE which was a back burner idea had came forth to keep the fight against AIDS going!  The good thing about this is that it is locally owned and operated.  We have a specific focus that will address the specific needs of our county in regards to HIV/AIDS issues.  Our Mission is this:  PROJECT: MALE (P:M) is a men’s AIDS organization designed to address the fact that 85% of all the AIDS cases in Fresno County are men. Through this network of men we hope to make a significant impact on the number of AIDS cases in Fresno County through education and prevention and thus cause a decrease in the number of men infected with HIV/AIDS.  By increasing men’s knowledge and understanding of HIV/AIDS, they will be able to understand the role that men can play in the prevention of this male driven disease.  While other organizations may look at HIV from a racial perspective or even a sexual orientation issue; I see it as a men’s health issue.  It is true that Gay men comprised the majority of the AIDS cases but all 85% of the AIDS cases in our county are not Gay men.  In actuality, HIV Surveillance data doesn’t really have a “Gay” category but uses the term Men Who Have Sex with Men (MSM) so that can be any male who has reported a sexual encounter with another male as their means of contracting HIV/AIDS if you really want to read into it but for the sake of argument we will consider this the “Gay” category.   Even the idea that African Americans and Latinos make up the majority of AIDS cases is not entirely true.  The issue with these two ethnic groups is that they make up together about 24% of the total U.S. population but make up over 50% the new AIDS cases. So the issue is that these racial groups make up such a small amount of the United States population but have a high disproportion of the AIDS cases in comparison to their white counterparts (CDC HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report Vol. 15). But even in this case, the majority of these cases are men!  It is time that men (both Gay and Straight) are brought up to speed on this issue.  To me 85% is a large disproportion that I think has been over looked for far too long!  Even in the state of California as a whole, men make up 92% of the AIDS cases.  So you tell me, does this sound like a men’s health issue or what?   Well for PROJECT: MALE’s purpose, HIV/AIDS will be dealt with as a men’s health issue.

With all that being said, PROJECT: MALE has developed programs and activities that will help in facilitating our mission and hopefully increase men’s knowledge in regards to HIV/AIDS.  Our psycho-social programs will address issues in our community that center on skills building and also bring about community support for those living with HIV/AIDS but also help the community get a better understanding of the issues these individuals face.  We will be bring back “HIV Today” but this time it will be community forums that address hot button topics about HIV/AIDS that our community wants to talk about but never had a venue to do it until now.  The first “HIV Today” topic I want to address is “Is AIDS God’s Cure to Homosexuality?”.  I don’t how many times I have seen this idea come up and it is not really address in any real intelligent fashion.  We also have a website that is a Yahoo! Group specifically designed for our community.  So now men in our county will have a forum in which they can have dialogue around HIV/AIDS and ask the questions they want to ask in a discrete and private manner.  You can check us out on the web at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/project-male.  I should also mention that Fresno Extravaganza hasn’t been forgotten about but had to be put on the back burner so that this organization could be birthed.  We will continue to work with Councilmember Cynthia Sterling as we continue to push for the City of Fresno HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.  So join us here at PROJECT: MALE on this new journey as we press our fight against HIV/AIDS in our county.  If you would like to know more or get involved, give us a call at (559) 268-1969.

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