Project Live Out Loud: A Safe-Haven

By Vanity Delbridge

Sex is still a provocative topic for some. It affords a world of intimacy and pleasure but for some, comes the possibility of slip-ups. The risk of contracting HIV among other STD’s lingers, waiting to infect their next victim. In split-second, life changing experiences one is not always liable to make the right or smart choice, opening the door to susceptibility that much more. There are now programs, federally or grant funded that serve as a revolving door, open to all, a judge-free support community. Project Live Out Loud (LOL) offers a second HOME, an engaging environment where young men talk and encourage each other about issues that are important to us including, SAFER SEX.

Hyacinth Aids Foundation serves as the centers umbrella agency which has been around since 1985. It started with a group of gay men who were dying from AIDS complications, spreading it to countless others. The staff members always envisioned a drop-in space for men who have sex with men (MSM) said Justin Campbell, Community Outreach; “The services here in Hudson County were very limited for gay guys, bi-sexual guys, questioned guys.” When the epidemic hit, there was very little if not close to nothing known about the virus; it was initially known as Gay Related Infectious Disease (GRID).

The process involved applying for a 5-year Center for Disease Control (CDC) grant which was awarded just over $1 million. The center not only has a great reputation with hyacinth but beat out all other grantees (Aids related or not). The grant initially put out by the Health Resource Service Administration (HRSA) called for a testing, social (empowerment), and drop-in (safe space) component. There is now a strong need for social networking with the organization awarded the money writing the grant objective and what the goals are annually and quarterly.

The grant, awarded in 2011 saw the opening of its first location on Communipaw Avenue in Jersey City in 2012. Smaller in size, it was located atop their syringe access program but was not in the greatest of area. Clients were sometimes bullied before making their way to the site which was something the center staff considered moving forward; especially since many were already experiencing trouble at home and trying to manage insecurities within them-selves.

There is a very strong surveillance in the state of New Jersey with Jersey City being one of the zip codes with the highest prevalence of HIV. The Ryan White Fund is appropriated every year but data is tallied every 5-years with proceeds being distributed to local clinics and medical care needs based on what the epidemic is within that period. Ryan White was the poster child back in the 1980’s for the virus which he had contracted through a blood transfusion. The CDC currently estimates that 20% (260,000) of people living with HIV do not know they are infected.