The Q Boyz Mpowerment Program
The Mpowerment Program, more commonly known as the Q Program, is a community center run by gay, bisexual, questioning and transgender men, mostly within the ages of 18-29 years (but open to those older than 29). The goal is to build a stronger and more supportive community by volunteering, hosting social events, and promoting a greater interest in men’s health issues. The program mobilizes young men to shape a healthy community, build positive social connections and support safer sex.
Last year, the Q Program reached 1,748 people.
Events and outreach activities are designed to encourage young men to attend M-Groups, which are monthly discussion meetings that are peer-led and that give participants an opportunity to talk openly about HIV prevention issues. M-Groups make it possible for young gay, bisexual and questioning men to get to know one another in a relaxed, supportive, and enjoyable setting.
A series of principles guides this multi-level program, including the importance of self-determination, personal empowerment, the diffusion of new behaviors through social networks, the power of peer-influence, a need to focus on HIV prevention within the context of issues considered important to young men, and community building. The Q Program uses gay-positive and sex-positive approaches.
The core elements of the Q Program are:
• Core Group – a body of regularly participating volunteers that makes important decisions about the program, based on the guiding principles
• Volunteers – young men who are diverse and who contribute to decisions about the program, learn new skills within the group (communication, social networking, etc.), support and encourage each other about safer sex, and work together to create a warm, appreciative, social, and welcoming atmosphere
• Coordinators – paid staff members (two at the Q: Outreach Coordinator and Small Groups Coordinator) who understand HIV prevention and community building, are knowledgeable about the local gay community, demonstrate leadership skills, oversee all program activities, support Core Group and volunteers to develop and implement activities, begin the safer sex diffusion process, and engage in reflective analysis of all parts of the program
• Project Space – safe and comfortable; accessible and appealing location; displays safer sex posters and literature; makes available condoms and lubricants; makes available referral information for other social services
• Formal Outreach – promotes safer sex; sponsors fun and appealing events; helps build community; provides social opportunities; creates opportunities for positive peer influence; recruits for M-groups and other program activities; empowers program volunteers
• Informal Outreach – diffuses a norm of safer sex; uses peer influence to change behavior; achieved through non-judgmental and supportive peer interactions; reinforced through other program activities
• M-Groups – facilitated by well-trained and skilled program staff and/or volunteers; address young gay/bisexual/questioning men’s important issues; create social opportunities; eroticize safer sex; teach and motivated informal outreach; teach sexual negotiation skills; encourage involvement and volunteerism in the program; scheduled regularly (at least one meeting per month, 3 hours per meeting)
• Publicity Campaign – creates attractive and informative materials; reminds young gay/bisexual/questioning men about safer sex; reaches all young gay/bisexual/questioning men in the community; targets young gay/bisexual/questioning men, not the general community
In 1990, after recognizing the critical need for HIV prevention programs for young gay and bisexual men, Dr. Susan Kegeles and Dr. Robert Hays, research psychologists at the Center for AIDS Prevention Studies (CAPS) at the University of California - San Francisco, received a five-year grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to design, implement, and evaluate a community-level HIV prevention program for young gay and bisexual men. They developed their initial ideas for the program by drawing from the findings of their surveys, from a series of focus groups, and from the research literature in social, developmental and community psychology.
They pilot tested the program in Santa Cruz and refined it in Eugene, Oregon, where it was named the Mpowerment Project. Following the program’s success in Eugene, it was replicated in Santa Barbara, CA. In 1995, Drs. Kegeles and Hays received a second five-year grant from the NIMH to further develop the program for use in major metropolitan areas across the United States. Dr. Greg Rebchook, a research psychologist who had worked at a department of public health and at a community-based organization, joined the team in 1996. This new grant enabled them to implement the Mpowerment Project in Albuquerque, NM, in 1997-1998.
ASA’s Mpowerment Project was implemented in 1999-2000. The original name was the Austin Men’s Project (AMP). The program operated under this name until 2004, when the site moved from South Austin to Central Austin, where the name was changed to the Q Program.
The Q Program is available to gay, bisexual, questioning men and transgender people. The Q offers a safe, respectful environment to interact with others, to build a strong social network, to develop leadership skills, and to be involved in the community. The Q focuses on relationship and health issues important to young men.
For information, contact the Q office at 512-420-8557 or visit their website.