AIDS Prevention and Services: Community Based Research

By Johannes P. Van Vugt | Go to book overview

9 The Gay Men's Health Crisis: A
Model for Community Based
Intervention

Rev. Margaret R. Reinfeld

The purpose of this chapter is to present an overview of the way that Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) goes about developing primary and secondary human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) prevention programs. It describes a process of analyzing the particular cultural values that contextualize risk behaviors, thus locating them within a specific system of signs, symbols, and rituals. A method for constructing a working definition of the entry points into that cultural system and for couching the educational message in the language of that system is outlined. Finally, the merits of employing qualitative and quantitative tools for testing the intervention strategies are discussed with an eye toward assessing the appropriateness of various testing methodologies for community based organizations.

In order to understand fully the program development model, it is important first to convey a sense of the context in which these programs exist, and so a note of organizational history and a note of organizational philosophy are in order. Gay Men's Health Crisis represented the first response of New York City's gay community to what we know now as the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) epidemic. Before AIDS had its name, before public officials and health departments realized there was a problem, a group of gay men in New York City recognized that friends and lovers were dying and that if something was going to be done to change the situation, it was going to have to be done by them. In July 1981, they had their first meeting in a Manhattan living room. By Labor Day they had begun raising funds to support research. In just six months, the result of that conversation across the coffee table was realized, the official creation of the country's first community based AIDS service and education organization. Gay Men's Health Crisis was formally incorporated in January 1982.

The agency's education department was started in the spring of that year

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