If you were out and about enjoying the marvellous day at Melbourne’s Midsumma Carnival, you might have noticed the guys from VicBears distributing condoms, stickers and protection – even if the sun didn’t stay out for long – in the form of sunscreen.

All of this was part of the Rubs & Rubba campaign, the first initiative from the Bear Health and Resources Team (HART), a subcommittee of VicBears. When it comes down to effective health promotion, nothing is more important than having the community involved from the beginning.

By being involved at each stage of the process (i.e. conceptualisation, development, delivery of resources etc.) the community is more likely to engage with a particular resource more intensely, regardless of whether it is an entire campaign, a simple brochure or a workshop.

After all, it is the community (in this case the Bear community) that will be receiving the resource and therefore it must be relevant to them if it is going to be of any help or work effectively.

Bear HART is going to be producing and coordinating resources that are specifically designed for the ongoing education and engagement of the wider Bear community. The aim is to assist them to recognise and address the multifaceted issues of their health and wellbeing.

It sounds like a very serious matter but the boys at Bear HART will find a way to deliver serious issues with a pinch of fun and a lot of fur.

The sexually Adventurous Men Project (SAM) is joint project run by The Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men’s Health Centre and Living Positive Victoria. SAM is a proud supporter of VicBears and is playing an active part in the Bear HART subcommittee.

The SAM Project will assist Bear HART in developing and implementing initiatives and events catering to the Bear community in Victoria, focusing on a holistic approach to gay men’s health and the inclusion of people living with HIV.

So I now hear you ask “How is it going to work?” Well, through a process of consultation, VicBear members will identify areas in their life where assistance or information is needed.

In short, the community will be directing the development of this project.

There are many exciting projects already on the go including health campaigns and some bear focused mental health forums in 2013, the first of which will be focused upon bear body image.

So if you are part of the bear community, or simply want to support good initiatives, keep your eyes and ears open for what Bear HART is going to be bringing in 2013, and show the boys some support.

For more information about Rubs & Rubba, Bear HART or Vicbears please visit their website or find VicBears on facebook. Go the bears!

By Carlos Sepulveda – VAC/GMHC

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