Group Meetings

Men who enroll in the program participate in a six-week small group intervention. Sessions last two-hours each and take place on a weekly basis, for a total commitment of six weeks of participation. The groups are facilitated by Latino gay men trained health educators, and are conducted using principles of empowerment education and psychospiritual growth work. As suggested by these models of intervention, facilitators do not “transmit” information nor resources (unless specifically requested by the participants). Rather, facilitators engage participants in reflective dialogue and experiential exercises that promote critical thinking and self-observation about matters of crucial importance to the group.

The role of the facilitators is five-fold; namely, they

  1. ask questions that promote critical thinking and self-observation;
  2. encourage the orderly and fair participation of all members of the group;
  3. reflect back to the group the major points of convergence in response to the questions and exercises;
  4. respond to the group’s questions about specific information and/or resources; and
  5. present to the group factual information (such as documented rates of HIV infection and unprotected intercourse in Latino gay men) to stimulate discussion and elicit the group’s reaction to data about their community.

Sessions typically end with questions about possible solutions or potential actions that address (with concrete action) the problems raised by the discussion.

HLS Initial Cycle Group Meetings — Revised June 2001

SESSION 1 is devoted to identifying some of the main issues participants face as Latino gay men, including experiences of rejection/abuse for being gay, issues of coming out to family, sources of social support and community, lover/boyfriend relationships, and related hardships of immigration, poverty, and minority status.

Facilitators pose open-ended questions such as “What is the most difficult thing you have had to deal with as a Latino gay man?” There are three goals for the session. The first goal is for participants to understand and appreciate the ground rules of the HLS program as an ethical code of mutual respect to facilitate the formation of a healthy community of conscious Latino gay men. The second goal is to create a space of acceptance and free expression in which participants are able to share openly and sincerely about their life experiences as Latino gay men. The third goal is to promote an experience of communality around a variety of feelings and experiences among Latino gay men.

SESSION 2 is devoted to an exploration of participants’ strategies of survival in the face of oppressive factors.

Facilitators pose questions such as “How did you survive as a child in your family knowing that you were different?” “What was your relationship with your parents like, and how did they react to your being different?” The first goal of this session is to validate the survival strategies of all participants as Latino gay men. The second goal is to begin to understand the impact of factors such as homophobia, family rejection, machismo, and forced migration in the psyche of individual participants, and the behavioral patterns and self-identifications that they developed as a result.

SESSION 3 is devoted to a sharing about sex, and its role and meanings in participants’ lives.

Facilitators pose questions such as “What does sex mean to you?” and “What are your favorite sexual activities with another man?” The first goal of this session is to break the silence around sex (particularly sex between men) imposed upon Latino gay men. The second goal of this session is to encourage participants to reflect about their own sexuality and sexual practices.

SESSION 4 is devoted to an exploration of the salient emotional and communication issues that participants have faced in their sexual experiences.

Facilitators pose questions such as “When you have sex with someone, what fears or concerns come up for you?” and “What patterns have you observed in your sexual behavior?” The goal of this session is to encourage greater self-awareness of participants’ sexuality, including patterns, fears, practices, and preferences.

SESSION 5 is devoted to an in-depth examination of the impact of AIDS in participants’ lives, including their sexuality.

Facilitators pose questions such as “When was the first time you heard about HIV?”; “How has the AIDS epidemic impacted you personally”; and “Are there some aspects of HIV/AIDS that you feel confused about?” The first goal of this session is for participants to reflect about and share how HIV has impacted them personally and socially, including their concept of self. The second goal is to elicit potential areas of confusion regarding means of HIV transmission and modes of prevention that require further information and clarification.

SESSION 6 is devoted to an exploration of the diversity of responses to the possibility of HIV transmission in participants’ lives.

Facilitators pose questions such as “What are some of the factors that make it more difficult for you personally to use protection when you have sex?”; “How do you negotiate the use of condoms with a partner?”; and “What has been your actual experience in terms of using (or not using) protection during sex?” The first goal of this session is to validate every participant’s experience in making an effort to deal with the reality of HIV. The second goal of this session is to help participants identify situations and contexts of personal vulnerability to unsafe sex practices and HIV risk, including sex under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, anonymous sex in public cruising places, and sex within relations of unequal power. The third goal of this session is to help participants articulate and construct strategies that might address the barriers and difficulties identified, including the possibility of avoiding those situations and circumstances that undermine their sense of personal control over sexual behavior.

Participants who attend all six sessions receive a t-shirt with the program’s name and logo. In addition, to encourage on time participation, refreshments are served during the 30 minutes prior to the beginning of each group meeting.

Last modified: February 7, 2011