Stopping the spread of HIV and reducing rates of unprotected sex among young gay/bisexual men continues to be a challenge for many HIV prevention programs. Many of the young gay/bisexual men who most need effective HIV prevention services never show up at the doorsteps of CBOs. These young men may miss important and relevant HIV prevention programs and messages.

The Mpowerment Project is a community-level HIV prevention intervention designed to reduce the frequency of unprotected anal intercourse among young gay/bisexual men, ages 18-29, by mobilizing young gay men to support each other about safer sex and to build a stronger, healthier young gay men’s community. It is the only scientifically developed and empirically tested intervention that has been shown to reduce HIV sexual risk taking behaviors among young gay men. The Mpowerment Project meets the CDC’s Prevention Research Synthesis project criteria for relevance and methodological rigor, and it has the positive and significant behavioral/health findings required to be listed in the Compendium of HIV Prevention Interventions with Evidence of Effectiveness.

Guiding principles

A series of principles guide this multi-level project. They are:

  • personal and community empowerment
  • diffusion of new behaviors through social networks
  • peer influence
  • putting HIV prevention within the context of other compelling issues for young gay/bisexual men (e.g. social issues)
  • community building
  • using gay-positive approaches

Program description

The Project is run by a “Core Group” of 10-20 young gay/bisexual men from the community with the support of paid staff. The Core Group, along with other volunteers, design and carry out all Project activities. Ideally, the Project has its own physical space where most outreach events and meetings are held. The Project space can also serve as a drop-in center where young gay/bisexual men meet and support each other. The Project relies on a set of four integrated activities:

Formal Outreach

A team of young gay/bisexual men goes to popular community locations to discuss and promote safer sex in a fun and engaging way. They distribute appealing HIV prevention material that they have developed themselves. Additionally, the team creates its own outreach events to attract young gay/bisexual men (e.g., dances, video parties, picnics, discussion groups) where HIV prevention is promoted in various ways.

Informal Outreach

Through their participation in the Mpowerment Project, young men develop the necessary skills and motivation to effectively support and encourage their friends about safer sex.

Ongoing Publicity Campaign

The campaign attracts young gay/bisexual men to the project through word of mouth, articles in gay newspapers, advertisements, web sites, e-mail notices, and other targeted strategies.


These peer-led, 3 hour meetings of 8-10 young gay/bisexual men discuss factors contributing to unsafe sex (e.g., misconceptions about safer sex, beliefs that safer sex is not enjoyable, poor sexual communication skills). Through skills-building exercises, the men practice safer sex negotiation and correct condom use. Participants receive free condoms and lubricant and are trained and motivated to conduct informal outreach with their friends.

Replicating Mpowerment

The Mpowerment Project is part of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Diffusion of Effective Behavioral Interventions (DEBI) project and is being replicated by CBOs across the US. We are currently conducting the Translating Research into Practice (TRIP) study to study how CBOs implement Mpowerment. We have developed a state-of-the art, collaborative technology exchange system to help CBOs put the Mpowerment Project into practice in their communities. Read more about TRIP.

Reframing Mpowerment for African Americans

As a supplement to our TRIP research, we are striving to understand the process African American CBOs undergo to put research-based HIV prevention interventions into practice. Read more about Mpowerment for African Americans.


Meet the Mpowerment team.

If you’d like more information on the Mpowerment Project or about ways to access our technology exchange services, please contact us at:

The Mpowerment Project/UCSF
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Last modified: October 30, 2014