I have to admit, I like my job and I like interacting with my community. Even though running the sexually adventurous men (SAM) project for Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men’s Health Centre (VAC/GMHC) can be challenging, it is so interesting and can be so rewarding at the same time. Not only do I get to work in partnership with other organisations, such as People Living with HIV/AIDS Victoria (PLWHA Victoria), but I get to associate with great social groups like VicBears.

As I recall, it was a VicBears social gathering on a Sunday at a café in Prahran when serious discussion started in regards to the health campaign to be used during Southern Hibearnation 2012. Our starting point was the line: “Take care of yourself and your mates”.

As a person who got involved in the HIV area as a volunteer, and now as a VAC/GMHC worker, community engagement is one of the main aims of my project.

The discussions that I witnessed and took part in on that day with the bears were robust and vast. We covered different topics and there was a great deal of not only passion, but a sense of social responsibility for the community we belonged to — the bear community. I was equally excited and positively surprised when I received a Facebook invitation to join the Southern Hibearnation Health Action Squad.

The discussion that started at a café in Prahran has now evolved to an online platform and became more detailed and even richer. The group of people participating got bigger too. Not only did we talk about sexual health, but other health issues such as depression and overdosing. We wanted to show that even a moderate increase of movement and a balanced diet could make a very positive improvement to a bear’s life.

Representing VAC/GMHC and PLWHA Victoria through the SAM Project I have had the privilege to work with several members of the VicBears committee such as Jack Chapman, Kevin Reader and Rob Camm. Along with these men, I have also worked with the very talented Dr George Forgan Smith (aka the Healthy Bear), amazing photography artist Steve Scalone and even New Zealand’s great BipolarBear blogger, Christopher Banks.

The SAM project is proud to produce a health campaign tailored to the bear community for Southern Hibearnation and we are already excited about 2013. We are even going to have an official launch for next year so watch this space!

Till then, take care of yourself and your mates.

By CARLOS SEPULVEDA, Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men’s Health Centre

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