MAPP uses the power of the Internet

BTL Staff
By | 2003-02-27T09:00:00-05:00 February 27th, 2003|Uncategorized|

By Kelly Peters

“Chat rooms have become the bathhouses, public restrooms, bookstores of today,” says Michael Odom, of the Midwest AIDS Prevention Project.

FERNDALE – Eighty-four percent of gay men surveyed recently said they met sex partners online.
Two-thirds of them had participated in anal sex without condoms.
Combine those numbers any way you wish: Internet-based sex is both popular and dangerous.
The survey results of 3,000 men were presented by the Medical and Health Research Association of New York City last week during the 10th Annual Conference on Retroviruses in Boston.
“Chat rooms have become the bathhouses, public restrooms, bookstores of today,” says Michael Odom, of the Midwest AIDS Prevention Project.
“They are replacing the old meeting places for casual sex.”
That’s why chatroom sexplay has become the launching point for MAPP’s new step in HIV/AIDS education: “SexEd4U.”
Odom, project director of
“SexEd4U” employs trained HIV counselors to join America On-Line chat rooms to reach gay and bisexual men.
The counselors use the screenname, “SexEd4U” and identify themselves as HIV educators in their profile window. This gives people the opportunity to ask questions about HIV, sexually-transmitted diseases and specific risk behaviors.
“We are targeting a new generation,” said Odom. “It’s a great and easy way to access men meeting men … You have to know the terminology when talking online so messages are clearly stated and the questions are understood.”
“SexEd4U” focuses on Michigan AOL chat rooms, but is based on similar ventures in Miami and Boston.
Since its inception in November “he response has been fantastic,” Odom said. “I can’t explain it in words.” he said. In AOL chat rooms, Odom said, counselors can reach up to 35 men at a time – the maximum number of people allowed to share a chat room.
Odom said the Internet offers a safer, less-threatening space for participants to openly discuss tough issues like STDs and HIV.
At the end of each month, Odom said, names are collected and a confidential survey is sent out to record the value of the project. In January, MAPP answered 72 questions regarding HIV/STD issues, he said.
The counselors also pass along reference articles and websites in the chat rooms so that people can educate themselves.
“We are developing a cutting edge and innovative project here,” said Odom. “This allows us to get to those who are not comfortable with a community-center type setting for HIV testing or other STD related issues.”

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BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 25th anniversary.