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YouthCO’s Mpowerment program: community-building for young MSM

What is Mpowerment?

Mpowerment YVR is an HIV leadership and community-building program designed by and for young self-identified men who are gay, bisexual, or queer. This program provides ongoing opportunities for participants to connect with each other through a variety of social events and educational opportunities designed specifically for young men.

Mpowerment is an important part of YouthCO HIV & Hep C Society’s programs, and helps us work towards the goal of reducing the impact of HIV and hepatitis C on youth.

Vancouver is one of many cities throughout North America to host the Mpowerment project, which has been shown to improve sexual health outcomes among young men. The program provides participants with the skills and knowledge to make informed decisions about their sexual wellbeing and to be sexual health leaders in their communities.

Benefits of Mpowerment

Mpowerment first came to Vancouver three years ago, and has a large network of current and former members. Participants report that they have made new friends, learned new skills, and increased their knowledge and awareness of gay men’s health topics during their time at Mpowerment. Additionally, participants with acute needs can be referred to YouthCO’s on-site Health Promotion Case Manager.

Mpowerment is supported by staff at YouthCO; however, the program is driven by a nucleus of volunteers who plan and execute the events put on by Mpowerment. Volunteers have the opportunity to develop in-depth sexual health knowledge, along with facilitation, planning and leadership skills.

UNMASK: Mpowerment’s sexual health workshop series

The Unmask workshop, typically held the last Tuesday of each month, is key to accomplishing the goals of Mpowerment. Each month, the workshop focuses on a topic, informed by participant feedback, within the broader themes of HIV and sexual wellbeing.

Recent topics have included HIV basics, such as how HIV is passed between people, as well as social determinants of health and HIV/STI testing. Condoms are also part of the conversation at Unmask, along with additional sexual health practices, such as talking about HIV/STI status.

Mpowerment actively seeks to create workshops that relate to the diversity of people, sexual practices and experience levels found amongst young men. The workshops are designed to be relevant to participants’ lives, and create opportunities to discuss the ways our diversity can impact sexual health.

For more information

For more information on the Mpowerment program, or to refer prospective participants, please see the YouthCO website or Mpowerment’s Facebook page.