As young gay men participate less and less in “the scene” of gay bars, bookstores, coffee houses and community events many of us considered an integral part of our coming out, the internet is becoming the predominant place in which they connect for dating, sex and information about what it means to be a gay man. Consequently, we needed to look for ways of engaging an incredibly critical, media-savvy audience in a new way that captures their attention and creates opportunities to connect with them to create meaningful dialogue.
IN THE MOMENT comes at a time when there are growing concerns regarding the HIV infection rate among young gay men. New York City health officials recently reported that new HIV infections among gay and bisexual men, under the age of 30, rose 32% between 2001 and 2002. During the same period, new infections among older gay men there dropped 22%. “We donʼt want to lose another generation to AIDS,” says Susan Cohen, director of Health Education and Prevention Services for LAGLC. “The statistics regarding the HIV infection rate among young gay men are alarming and traditional HIV education/prevention programs just havenʼt been effective with this demographic.” According to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, in 2006, young men (ages 13-34) accounted for 41% of all the HIV/AIDS cases among males in the county.
“Traditional methods of HIV prevention, like condom distribution, remain incredibly important,” says independent filmmaker Dave OʼBrien, 33, who wrote, directed and co-developed IN THE MOMENT, “Whatʼs missing among a younger generation of gay guys is any real discussion about HIV and safer sex. IN THE MOMENT is a sexy and entertaining way to capture their attention and stimulate dialogue regarding real-world sexual situations many gay men face today.”
IN THE MOMENT starts with an authentic, sexy and sometimes humorous web soap opera that explores the full range of factors that come into play in sexual decision making among young gay men. Issues like self-esteem, dating, relationships, age, body image, addiction and others are addressed as key factors in the lives of the characters. The episodes are broken into 3-5 minute “webisodes” that are easily accessible on most computers. The webisodes are a starting-place for discussion. Users create their own IN THE MOMENT profile on the site and use it to communicate on message boards and with other members.
The project has also expanded to include IN THE MOMENT: IN BED. Cast members from the soap opera series take to the streets and major LGBT events to interview everyday guys...in a bed...about their attitudes about HIV prevention. Each guy who gets "IN BED" becomes a micro-community spokesperson as his friends are able to hear HIV prevention messages from someone close to them.