HIMM Project Brings HIV Testing out into the Community

HIMM logo

The Kansas City CARE Clinic has started a new HIV testing and prevention outreach program called the High Impact Men’s Movement (HIMM) Project. Funded by a five-year grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HIMM targets the “men who have sex with men” demographic (MSM) in the Kansas City metropolitan area.

HIV prevention specialist Jonathon Antle joined the KC CARE Clinic staff in May specifically to launch the HIMM Project (facebook.com/theHIMMproject). He has put together an advisory board of community members to help direct the project’s activities, events and messaging.

The 21-member advisory board is made up of members from three high-risk MSM groups: African American, Latino and white men. Monthly testing has already been established at two locations:

▪Missie B’s, 805 W. 39th St., Kansas City, Mo., every 2nd Sunday from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.

▪Sidekicks Saloon, 3707 Main St., Kansas City, Mo., every 1st Saturday from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.

These locations target white and Latino MSM, respectively, although everyone is welcome to participate in testing. Work is still ongoing to find a venue where African American MSM will be the target audience for testing. Most of the remote tests require only a finger prick. Information on HIV testing and prevention is also available at the testing sites.

Getting prevention messages and testing into public spaces (bars, colleges, churches, etc.) can help build relationships, Antle says. Increasing the comfort level while testing and refraining from judgment during the requisite information-gathering process, he says, can also increase trust within the target communities and lead to reduced stigma.

Along with the Good Samaritan Project and the Kansas City Health Department, HIMM tested 277 people at Gay Pride in June. At Bear Crossing in August, 32 were tested.

HIMM also planned to be at the Rainbow Coalition Walk/Run on Aug. 20, providing information on the project itself, safer sex, PrEP and HIV treatment resources. Bananas also were to be offered to participants to help them maintain their potassium levels.

bananas for the Rainbow Coalition Walk-Run. Photo credit: Jonathon Antle

In early October, HIMM will be offering HIV testing at the Heart of America Softball League (HASL) Show-Me Showdown tournament. Antle also hopes to introduce HIMM into colleges in the fall.

One of the biggest challenges in HIV prevention is the prevalence of MSM who operate on the down-low (men who identify as heterosexual, but have sex with men secretly). Hookup apps are another element that challenges those working to prevent HIV transmission.

In the future, Antle says, mobile phones might help the effort: One could text a number and a tester would come to meet the person who wanted testing.

HIMM’s approach

Antle says that current CDC guidance on AIDS prevention strategy includes regular HIV testing (cdc.gov/hiv/testing/) for high-risk groups.

There are three components to HIMM’s approach to prevention and testing.

  1. regular HIV testing
  2. safer sex/PrEP as prevention (for those who test negative)
  3. treatment as prevention (of those who test positive)

PrEP stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis. It consists of a daily dose of anti-HIV medication taken by HIV-negative individuals who may be at risk for contracting HIV. The medication contains tenofovir and emtricitabine. Antle or his colleagues can answer any PrEP questions that you might have (jonathona@kccareclinic.org).

Prevention as a vocation

Antle, who holds a master’s degree in music theory, followed the FDA trials of PrEP for several years. Assured of its success as a preventive – it’s more effective than condoms – he was also well-aware that its cost was high. Many PrEP-takers need to meet an annual insurance deductible. Antle’s research on the process gave him the knowledge to help several friends navigate the bureaucratic and financial hurdles and start taking PrEP. Pushing past slut-shaming and ignorance – both societal and medical – he decided to make a career pivot, becoming a HIV/AIDS prevention specialist and putting his new skills to work helping others.

Antle encourages anyone interested in working in HIV prevention to check out “employment opportunities” at kccareclinic.org.

KC CARE Clinic logo

Clinic Testing Hours

KC Care Clinic continues to offer free, walk-in HIV testing at two locations.

▪Mondays and Wednesdays, 1 to 8 p.m., 3515 Broadway St., Kansas City, Mo.

▪Thursdays, 1 to 4 p.m., 2340 E. Meyer Blvd., Kansas City, Mo.

Photo courtesy of Joe Eats World

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