CHAMP takes on an important part of the fight against AIDS: ignorance.
Even though the threat of HIV infection is high among young gay and bi men, many are still either deciding against using a condom or giving in to a sex partner's preference to go without protection.
Charleston Area Mpowerment Project, a program through Lowcountry AIDS Services, targets young men between 18 and 30, providing the tools to protect themselves, says new director Nick Reigle.
"We give them the knowledge about safer sex so they can argue for it when they're challenged," he says.
CHAMP is based on an AIDS prevention project out of the University of California, San Francisco that has been effective in reducing HIV infection among its members. Locally, the group has been a key player in the annual Big Gay Beach Day.
Reigle, an Augusta native, moved to Charleston two years ago to be closer to family and became involved with CHAMP earlier this year. He just recently replaced Stuart Furtwangler, who has headed west.
"Nick is so compassionate and really cares about people," says Furtwangler.
Reigle says that CHAMP provides a good support system.
"It brings young gay and bi men together in a setting outside of the club," he says.
Charleston Area Mpowerment Project
(843) 744-4062, ext. 205 • groups.yahoo.com/group/charlestonmpowermentproject