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Coleman-Chair-BP-7.jpgMedical advances, improved access to care, prevention initiatives, and our nation's aspiration of an AIDS-free generation are all good signs, but as a culture we will need to shift our perspective to stop the spread of HIV.

Over the last 30 years, where have we failed? We know that HIV is still mostly spread by sexual behavior. Yet, the disease is rather easily preventable through the use of condoms. Condoms are reasonably inexpensive, potentially readily available, easy to use, and highly effective in preventing HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (and unintended pregnancy). What a bargain! So, why are they not used more?

Behavioral HIV prevention strategies and interventions have tried to get people to reduce risky sexual behavior and promote condom use. While reasonably effective, there needs to be continuous implementation of these interventions, and they are costly. Investment in prevention strategies has always been difficult.

New strategies are overdue. In the United States, we continue to experience 50,000 new infections a year, with young people aged 13-29 accounting for 39% of all new HIV infections.* And, there are serious health disparities.  People of color, youth, and sexual minorities are much more likely to become infected than other groups. While 60% of new infections around the world are found in gay and bisexual men, only 2% of the global prevention budget is directed at this group. Also, transgender individuals are an overlooked population at major risk for HIV, due in large part to continued stigma and discrimination. This disparity in funding efforts represents the institutionalized stigmatization, heterosexism, and homophobia that exist in our cultures as well as in our public health systems. If we do not attend to this population as well as other marginalized populations such as sex workers and drug users, we will fail in our efforts to stop the spread of infections.

A fundamental problem remains. We remain a sexually dysfunctional culture. We live in a culture that is still uncomfortable talking about sex and sexuality in a mature and honest fashion. We continue to debate and hold back on providing comprehensive sexuality education. It is very clear that what distinguishes the United States from other developed countries in sexual health indicators is the existence of (or lack thereof) early and sustained comprehensive sexuality education. When kids are educated early they grow up to be more comfortable with talking about sexuality, more likely to be sexually responsible, and have lower rates of sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancies. They contribute to a cultural climate that is sexually healthy. That climate then insists on comprehensive sexuality education and thereby creates a cycle of healthiness. In the United States, we are still caught up in a negative and unhealthy vicious cycle. The goal of the Joycelyn Elders Chair in Sexual Health Education is to reverse this negative cycle.

As the current Chair in Sexual Health, I continue to push a sexual health agenda in HIV prevention. I believe in the need for a broad sexual health approach to stem the tide of the HIV epidemic. I envision an approach that goes beyond venereology and on an individual level

• emphasizes a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual expression throughout the lifespan;

• acknowledges sexuality as a basic and fundamental aspect of our humanness and that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is natural and desirable;

• combats sexual coercion, shame, discrimination, and violence;

• promotes positive sexual identity and esteem;

• encourages honest communication and trust between partners;

• supports the possibility of having pleasurable, fulfilling, and satisfying sexual experiences;

• insists that individuals take responsibility of the consequences of their sexual choices and their impact on others; and

• optimizes reproductive capacity and choice


At the community level, it is achieved through

• access to developmentally appropriate, comprehensive, and scientifically accurate sexuality education;

• clinical and preventative sexual health services; and

• respect for individual differences and diversity and a lack of societal prejudice, stigma, and discrimination.

As the Chair in Sexual Health, I will continue to work with our faculty at the Program in Human Sexuality and with partners around the world to promote a sexually healthier culture - not only to address the sexual problems in the world -- but to advance the opportunity for everyone to lead sexually healthier lives which are pleasurable and satisfying.

Eli Coleman, PhD
Professor and Director
Chair in Sexual Health


New HIV Infections in the United States by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


The PHS faculty invite you to explore the latest in sexual health research on December 11, 2013, Alex Iantaffi, PhD, and Cynthia Benoit will present "It's not all about being Deaf: Deaf MSM and HIV testing barriers," and on January 8, 2014, Ira Reiss, PhD, will present "How to integrate values, power, and advocacy into sexual science." Join us from 12 - 1 PM at PHS, 1300 South 2nd Street, Room 142, Minneapolis, MN 55454. To reserve your seat or to request notice of future presentations, please email

Alex-Iantaffi-BP.jpgDecember 11, 2013
Alex Iantaffi, PhD
Assistant Professor

Cynthia-Benoit-BP.jpgCynthia Benoit
D-P@rk Project Coordinator

"It's not all about being Deaf: Deaf MSM and HIV testing barriers"

Deaf Men who have Sex with Men (DMSM) are a high-risk, underserved population experiencing chronic barriers to HIV testing and prevention. The principal challenge is that HIV research, testing, counseling, and services are provided in English, while DMSM communicate primarily through American Sign Language (ASL). Despite these disparities, no national assessment of HIV testing rates, behavior, prevention, and treatment needs has been conducted in the US. Data from Maryland, the only state to ask information about hearing status when screening for HIV, indicate that the prevalence of HIV in deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals is two to five times higher than for hearing people. Despite increased risk of HIV infection, Deaf people are systematically excluded from English-based HIV services available to the hearing population. This presentation will discuss findings from qualitative interviews carried out with DMSM, and key informants working with this population. These interviews are part of a current NIH-funded formative study focused on exploring how to use online technologies to address the chronic barriers experienced by DMSM.

Ira-Reiss-BP.jpgJanuary 8, 2014
Ira Reiss, PhD
Professor Emeritus
Department of Sociology, University of Minnesota
Preeminent scientist in the field of human sexuality

"How to integrate values, power, and advocacy into sexual science"

There is widespread acceptance by American sexual scientists of the need to be aware of our values and control their potential biasing effect. Despite this belief there is a lack of consensus among sexual scientists concerning whether we should advocate for or against sexual policy issues that come before Congress and impact our field. Also, sexual scientists have conflicting views on just how much they should publicly reveal about their personal values concerning a sexual problem issue. Above all, the containment of bias requires confronting the interface of values, power and advocacy with the work we do in sexual science. I spell out my Value Aware approach as a pathway for dealing with these complexities of our sexual science field. I illustrate the tenets in that approach by discussing the way the current debate on public school sex education in America has been handled by sexual scientists, politicians, and others and the way one recent research study compared straight and gay families.


Alex Iantaffi, PhD, joins faculty

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Alex-Iantaffi-2-BP.jpgResearcher, clinician, and educator Alex Iantaffi, PhD, joined the faculty at PHS on January 2, 2013.

Iantaffi is an assistant professor and a licensed marriage and family therapist, who originally trained in the United Kingdom as a systemic psychotherapist. Iantaffi has most recently worked on HIV research in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Minnesota. In 2008 he came to the US from the UK to work on his postdoctoral fellowship at PHS, while serving as the project coordinator for the research project All Gender Health Online.

"We welcome Alex back to PHS. He is a great addition to our faculty, strengthening our research program and helping with clinical and teaching activities as well," said Eli Coleman, PhD, director.

Iantaffi is currently principal investigator for a study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, on Deaf Men who have Sex with Men (DMSM), HIV testing, prevention, and technology titled "D-P@RK." This study aims to overcome health disparities to HIV testing for DMSM through the development of Internet-based screening and prevention tools. The long-term objective of this line of research is to improve HIV screening, prevention, treatment, and access for Deaf people, by developing innovative, culturally and linguistically accessible Internet-based methods and interventions. The project has begun recruiting DMSM and individuals who have experience working with DMSM around issues of sexual health and/or HIV prevention, testing, and treatment.

Iantaffi has been the Editor-in-Chief for the Journal of Sexual and Relationship Therapy since June 2007, receiving its first impact factor in 2011. His therapeutic work is currently focused on transgender and gender non-conforming youth, and their families; sexuality, and relationships. Iantaffi has conducted research, and published on gender, disability, sexuality, deafness, education, sexual health, HIV prevention, and transgender issues. His scholarly work has been increasingly focused on issues of intersectionality and sexual health disparities. Iantaffi serves on the Transgender Commission leadership team as a past co-chair, as well as vice-chair on the Board of Directors at PFund, host for the GLBT Host Home Program, and core organizer for the newly formed Minnesota LGBTQ Health Collaborative.

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PAHO-BP.jpgOn July 12-14, 2009, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) held an expert consultation in Panama City, Panama, to develop concrete recommendations for a regional multi-component action plan to address health needs and demands of the men who have sex with men (MSM) population.  Eli Coleman PhD, on behalf of PHS, was invited to participate and facilitate part of the meeting.  In addition, PHS postdoctoral fellow, Cesar Gonzales, PhD, was also invited to share his expertise in HIV prevention among MSM and transgender populations.  The objective of the consultation was to analyze factors and situations associated with health problems, social hardship, and poor quality of living among gay and bisexual men, and other MSM in Latin America.  Participants proposed a set of urgently needed interventions to meet the sexual health needs of MSM, including prevention of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.  Forty participants were invited from all regions of the Americas with particular emphasis on experts from Latin America and the Caribbean including UN agencies in charge of the MSM/sexual diversity; experts in provision of HIV/STI, sexual health, mental health or addiction services to MSM populations; and experts in development of health services for specific target populations.  In order to activate these strategies throughout Latin American and the Caribbean PAHO will outline consultation recommendations technical document that is forthcoming.

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Diaz-BP.jpgPsychologist, activist, and scholar, Armando Diaz, traveled from Mexico City to study at PHS.  Diaz is working on his PhD in sociology at El Colegio de Mexico.  Inspired by Cara a Cara (Face to Face) an HIV prevention training program for community advocates that was created by PHS and conducted in Mexico, Diaz developed the educational program Hombres, conciencia y encuentros (Men, Awareness, and Encounters).  Diaz's training is designed to reduce social and personal vulnerability among gay men and men who have sex with men in urban and rural communities throughout Mexico.  Through presentations, workshops, and small group discussions, trainers focus on sexual diversity, masculinity, history, human rights, HIV/AIDS prevention, and physical and emotional health.  Starting locally in Guadalajara, the program has expanded to reach individuals from many areas of Mexico.  The group is now working with the Sexual Citizenship Network from Jalisco, National Vigilance Council in Sexual Diversity and HIV/AIDS.

Diaz has come to understand the importance of sexual health education and sexual rights.  Although many of the young LGBTI in Mexico are more open about their sexual identity, and there is a growing culture presence with GLBT parades and public gathering places, advocates still have work to do to achieve full integration.  Through their research Diaz and his colleagues found that many individuals young and old are challenged in constructing intimate relationships and many young people do not fully understand the potential impact of HIV.

Diaz believes that an empowered individual has the opportunity to look beyond his own needs to the needs of his community.  Ideally, strengthening a person strengthens the family, the community, the nation, and ultimately, the world.  "The world has been broken through the mistakes of discrimination and injustice.  The social acceptance of sexual diversity will help to align communities and right this history," said Diaz.  It is Diaz's hope that with acceptance an individual can turn his focus to other social issues like homelessness, poverty, and the environment.

While at PHS Diaz spent time consulting with Eli Coleman, PhD, as well as spending some time at a St. Paul clinic (La Clinica) to better understand the options and needs surrounding sexual health and HIV/AIDS for Latinos.   He also made time to explore materials in the Jean-Nickolaus Tretter Collection in Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Studies.  He was excited to find books about the GLBT rights movement in Mexico that he has not been able to locate at home.  Diaz feels that connecting the present to the past is very powerful.  He said, "history shows millennia of violence and discrimination and when one transgender person decides to live as he feels, when one lesbian chooses to love who she loves, and when one gay man decides to assume himself these people are changing the world by breaking the power structure of history.  I am fortunate to work with these individuals and to witness the change."

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the MSM category.

Letter from the Chair in Sexual Health is the previous category.

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