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UIC News Tips
University of Illinois at Chicago Office of Public Affairs (MC 288)
601 S. Morgan St., Chicago, IL 60607-7113, (312) 996-3456, www.uic.edu/depts/paff

May 18, 2001 Contact: Anne Dybek (312) 996-8279; adybek@uic.edu


To stop the alarming increase of HIV-infection rates among gay and bisexual African-American men between 15- and 25-years old, the University of Illinois at Chicago Community Intervention Trial for Youth (CITY) Project is collaborating with several community-based agencies to launch a social marketing campaign aimed at encouraging safe sex.

The campaign features posters and informational cards depicting positive images of young black men and captions that include "Love Self First" and "I Don't Compromise-I Care About Me."

The campaign will run through July 2, then will be replaced with a second series of ads designed to combat myths about HIV, dispel misinformation about its transmission and promote HIV testing.

Current ads focus on improving self-esteem as a way of promoting safe-sex behavior. Studies suggest that low self-esteem among gay and bisexual African Americans is a major risk factor in HIV transmission.

"Poor self-esteem and homophobia are two factors that put many young black gay and bisexual men at risk for HIV infection," said Robin Miller, UIC assistant professor of psychology and principal investigator for the project. "Too many young African-American gay and bisexual men are at risk for HIV because they don't feel anyone cares about them. We have got to show them that we care and provide them with the support they need to keep themselves safe from contracting this virus.

"Our goal is to reach out to these young men in the neighborhoods and other places where they may be found to educate them about the real risk they face if they do not protect themselves."

"We are looking at an epidemic that threatens to destroy the lives of thousands of young men unless we join together to do something about it now," said Derek Griffith, project director.

Posters and informational cards will be distributed at bars, shelters, colleges, barbershops and other venues on Chicago's South and West Sides. Newspaper ads have been placed in BLACKlines, a black-oriented gay newspaper. Designer Tanya Lynda produced the ads, which were tested in focus groups consisting of black gay and bisexual youth. The first poster is available online.

In addition to the ad campaign, the UIC project is also working to develop a peer health advocate network, and workshops and social events with local community agencies to improve the ability to serve black gay and bisexual youths.

According to statistics, HIV infection rates continue to disproportionately affect African Americans, particularly gay or bisexual men, who continue to encounter growing rates of infection. Local health officials say young black men who have sex with men are among the hardest hit by the AIDS epidemic in the metropolitan Chicago area.

Community-based organizations participating in the campaign include the Chicago Department of Public Health Office of Lesbian and Gay Health, Greater Chicago Committee, Horizons, Howard Brown Health Center, South Side Help Center, Task Force AIDS Prevention, Test Positive Aware Network and Unity Parenting and Counseling Center.

Funding for the effort is through a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which is funding similar efforts in six cities across the nation.

For more information or to receive campaign posters or informational cards, call (312) 413-8307.

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