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Prevention Is in the Bag

Prevention Is in the Bag

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The AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin launched a program in August 2002 that targets gay men in areas where they congregate.

Recognizing a glaring lack of HIV prevention outreach for gay and bisexual men throughout Wisconsin, particularly in the Milwaukee urban area, the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin launched a program in August 2002 that targets gay men in areas where they congregate. Called Bag Boyz'named for the shoulder bags filled with safer-sex kits and HIV prevention information the volunteers carry'the program involves about two dozen gay men between 21 and 25 who twice a month visit gay bars and community events and strike up conversations about safer sex and HIV and STD prevention. Frequently, ARCW's mobile testing van follows the group, offering on-the-spot rapid HIV antibody testing. Bag Boyz was the brainchild of ARCW manager of gay outreach Daniel Klingler, who at first struggled with how to reach local gay men with peer-based HIV prevention messages. 'I honestly had a difficult time finding anyone here doing more than just going and handing out condoms,' he says. 'We wanted something more cohesive than that. Groups in San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles were doing some unique programming, but we in the Midwest needed a kick in the butt.' The program, recently extended by ARCW for a second year, has proved so successful that both gay and straight businesses and community groups frequently contact Klingler to invite the Bag Boyz to pay a visit. The volunteers credit the popularity of the outreach effort to their enthusiasm and nonthreatening messages about risk reduction. 'Gay men have gotten tired of hearing the same old, same old from HIV prevention programs for years now, and the terror messages don't work anymore,' says Christian Eichenlaub, a 21-year-old junior at Marquette University who has been involved with Bag Boyz since its inception. 'We're moving on to something more positive. I think we bring a message of hope that a new generation is here, and we're prepared and committed to preventing the spread of HIV.'

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Ryan is the Digital Director of The Advocate Channel, and a graduate of NYU Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing. She is also a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. While her specialties are television writing and comedy, Ryan is a young member of the LGBTQ+ community passionate about politics and advocating for all.

Ryan is the Digital Director of The Advocate Channel, and a graduate of NYU Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing. She is also a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. While her specialties are television writing and comedy, Ryan is a young member of the LGBTQ+ community passionate about politics and advocating for all.