Reported by Kacie Whaley
A nonprofit organization in metro-Atlanta is making sure that men in the area who are in danger of developing poor health and/or contracting illnesses are provided with the support they need.
The Health Institute for Men (HIM) was founded in 2012 but became a nonprofit in 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia. The grassroots service vows to assist men (many of whom are African-American) in the city whose health may be at risk, which may include men who have been incarcerated, are homeless, or are in situations that may expose them to viruses such as HIV, according to Atlanta Blackstar. The organization’s services include educating local men on how to maintain a healthy se×ual lifestyle, provide counseling, coaching, dispersing free cοndοms, and assisting men’s families with these services as well.
“The reaction has been positive to what we’re doing, and because the need for men’s supportive health services is significant, I think it hasn’t taken a lot of convincing,” said Executive Director of HIM Walker Tisdale III. “Even large health agencies like AIDS Healthcare Foundation have supported us from the start with cοndοms and HIV literature when our supplies were nonexistent. Plus, we’ve heard from public health leaders in all surrounding counties about possible future collaborations.”
In an interview with Atlanta Blackstar’s S.C. Rhyne, Tisdale further explains the work of HIM. “The focus of our work is to support all men and service providers working with vulnerable men to better provide culturally relevant mental health service, appropriate infectious disease care and other evidence-based health interventions, said Tisdale. “As an institute, we are up to this challenge because in 2014, we must.”
And, according to health statistics, the attention that HIM is providing to adult males really is needed. In March 2014, Aidsmed.com concluded that based on the amount of black Atlanta men who are contracting HIV, a se×ually active black man who starts to sleep with other people at 18-years-old has a 60% chance of contracting HIV before he turns 30.
The study doesn’t indicate the difference between heterosexual and homosexual men, so this may be a determining factor.
Dr Boyce Watkins, who is concerned about health disparities in the African American community, says that no matter what the true data says, the magnitude of these statistics is what should cause the most concern.
“I am not 100% sure about how precise this data is, but even if they are off by 50%, it’s still alarming,” said Dr. Watkins, author of the book, “The 8 Principles of Black Male Empowerment.” “When you have so many black men in the criminal justice system coming out and having sex with both men and women, this is what you would expect to see. Also, many black men don’t have access to adequate healthcare and are being inundated with messages from radio stations encouraging them to be promiscious and sexually irresponsible. So, a lot of brothers are getting infected, they are infecting others, and they may not even know they are sick until they reach their death bed.”
Tisdale went on to discuss that when he realized that health services for black and minority men in the U.S. were unequal, he felt he had no choice but to become involved with HIM.
“As an African-American male who has worked for health departments in Detroit, Chicago and New York and even seven years at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, I know firsthand how devastating Black men’s health disparities have been in this country,” explained Tisdale. “It took an assignment on behalf of CDC to Uganda about 10 years ago for me to realize exactly how primitive public health services were in Uganda compared to the USA, especially given the funding disparities. The U.S. budget for HIV prevention and care is equal to the GDP of several African countries. And yet, public health disparities for Black and other minority males are endemic in the USA. It was when I returned to the USA from Uganda that I knew one day I’d leave government service and get back to the community.”
HIM is throwing a fundraising event on November 6th at DMARC Cafe in Tucker, Georgia. The money will go toward purchasing an improved location for HIM to operate.
You can donate to HIM here.