YMSM stands for young men who have sex with men. According to CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) research, MSM account for the largest number of infections when compared to other risk groups and YMSM are particularly vulnerable. The following is a short list of strategies YMSM can use to reduce their risk of contracting HIV and find support in the Philly LGBT community.
1.) Get Tested!
You cannot tell by looking at a person whether they have HIV. To reduce your risk of acquiring HIV, you should know your status and that of your partner. The three things you should ask potential sex partners are: “Have you been tested for HIV? When was the last time you had an HIV test? What were the results of your HIV test?” In Philadelphia, many organizations provide HIV testing for free and accept walk-ins. They are anonymous and no appointment is necessary!
Here are a few organizations:
* The Mazzoni Center: Philly’s LGBT health and wellness center. They offer free HIV testing, as well as testing for other STI's. All testing is anonymous and confidential and takes place at their Washington West (1201 Locust St.) location. Hours: Monday-Friday, 9:00a.m.-9:00p.m. Phone: 215-563-0658
* ActionAIDS: ActionAIDS offers free and confidential HIV testing. Their 20-minute rapid test needs no appointment. Walk-in hours for the 1026 Arch St. location are Monday: 11:00a.m.-1:00p.m., Tuesday 10:00a.m.-12:00p.m., Wednesday 1:00p.m.-4:00p.m., Thursday 12:00a.m.-2:00p.m. and Friday by appointment only.
In addition, the CDC has a handy testing locator where you can search for testing sites by zip code!
2.) Use Condoms!
According to the CDC, a latex condom used consistently and correctly is very effective at preventing HIV infection. The Office of HIV Planning provides free packages with condoms and lube! We are located at 340 N. 12th Street in Philadelphia, PA. The STD Control Program also provides free condoms at over 100 sites in Philadelphia. The CDC created this handy online condom locator tool:
3.) Consider PrEP!
PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) is an intervention where an HIV-negative person takes HIV meds (Truvada) in order to prevent HIV. Philadelphia is one of the first cities in the United States to implement PrEP programs and trials. To learn more about PrEP, see the OHP blog:
Philadelphia FIGHT is sponsoring the “I AM Men’s Health Project”, a free program for young gay and biseuxal men who are interested in learning about men’s health and reducing their risk of HIV infection. The weekly group discusses everything from risk reduction to leadership skills. Each pariticpant will receive a week’s supply of TRUVADA® at each meeting, and remain under the close medical supervision of the Jonathan Lax Center. To find out more, check out the site:
4.) Be Careful on Social Media Sites!
Social media sites such as Grindr, Downelink, Jack’d, Plenty of Fish and Ok Cupid can be a fun and easy way to meet with other people in the LGBT community for friendship, dating or casual relationships! However, it is important to be aware that the people on the sites may not be presenting themselves in an honest or accurate way. If you are planning to meet someone you met through an online social media site or app, consider taking the following steps: limit the amount of personal information you share, tell a trusted person you plan to meet someone and arrange to meet somewhere public.
5.) Find a support group and attend fun social events!
Support groups can be a great way to find friends in the LGBT community! The Philadelphia Department of Human Services has created a list of young LGBT support groups:
One program that I really like is Q Spot, which is sponsored by the Educational Justice Coalition. The program provides fun social events, mental health services, HIV and STI testing as well as great snacks! The program occurs on the first and third Saturdays of each month from 8:00p.m.-1:00a.m. at 315 S Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107.