Thursday, December 10, 2009

POSITIVELY ALIVE - HIV Web based Support group for gay men in South Africa

Positively Alive (previously called Jozi Poz Dudes) was created in October 2008 with the aim to provide a safe platform for HIV+ gay men to share experiences and support each other in living healthy responsible lives while coming to terms with their HIV status. Since its creation the site has grown, mostly by word of mouth, to over 100 members with new members joining the site weekly. Although initially started in Johannesburg the site has a large number of members from the Greater Gauteng Province.

Membership is not only limited to Gauteng all HIV+ gay man from South Africa are welcome to join the site.

This internet site is intended to provide a safe space for positive gay men where they can feel confident in knowing that everybody on the site is in the same boat, says Alan Brand, the site administrator.

Membership of the site is free and by invitation only to protect the confidentiality and privacy of members. The site cannot be accessed through search engines such as Google, etc. The site can only be accessed after receiving a personal invitation sent to a legitimate e-mail address. Privacy is protected through the creation of personal user names and passwords.

Since being diagnosed HIV+ in 1997, Alan lives openly with his HIV status and is dedicated to making a difference by breaking the silence and changing the mindset of those he comes into contact with.

Key to the success of the site has been the creation of strictly enforced rules aimed at ensuring that the site does not become simply a new internet gay man’s dating service. POSITIVELY ALIVE is a support site for HIV+ gay men. Although new relationships and romantic liaisons are encouraged this is not the main aim of this site. Many other sites are out there for this purpose.

Confidentially is always respected and protected.

POSITIVELY ALIVE provides a support environment without prejudice or judgment for HIV positive gay men to find love and care and to be 100% true to themselves. Positive gay men no longer need to try to handle their HIV status in isolation. The site provides the space to grow and develop without being forced into disclosure or participate in activities they are not comfortable with.

POSITIVELY ALIVE FOCUS/SUPPORT GROUP MEETINGS

As an extension of the support provided through the internet based website, members of the site are invited to join the support group sessions. These workshops are free and attendance is only for members. These support group sessions are aimed at providing a safe and friendly environment for members to meet and share their feelings, emotions, concerns and joys and just have an opportunity to be with others that are in the same situation as themselves. Although a key reason for the support group sessions is for members to personally interact with each other the sessions do have a theme and a learning component. While members share their experiences of being on treatment, nutritional supplement use and much more, the learning is only one component. The greatest gift of the support group sessions is the love care and support freely given and shared between the members.

Coming to terms with ones HIV status is a key component to prevention the spread of HIV, says Alan. While remaining in fear and silence one is unable to face issues such as disclosure to sexual partners and hence unable to take action and make sound responsible choices. Providing HIV gay men with a platform to express these feeling where they can meet other gay men who have overcome their HIV status and are living healthy and responsible lives will greatly assist the gay community of South Africa to come to terms with the reality of HIV. A recent study among gay men in South Africa found that over half the participants (57%) reported that they “knew” their HIV status, but only two-thirds of those who knew their status has disclosed their status to a sexual partner in the past year. Alan believes that creating open forums for gay men in South Africa to face up to the reality of HIV will help reduce this type of behaviour.

Contact Alan via e-mail at abrand@fedics.co.za should you wish to join the site. Alternatively visit http://www.positively-alive.com/ for more details regarding the website.

3 comments:

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  2. I think it's great that a site like this has been made to help those who seek help and advice on AIDS.

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  3. Thank for sharing the help for these people.

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