Impulse Group is an international group dedicated to promoting healthier sexual lifestyles among gay men in 18 cities around the world. With support from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, this group of volunteers works to create campaigns, events, and online content to reach a new generation of gay men who live in a modern and rapidly evolving world. They recently launched a Cape Town chapter.
Led by Ashraf Booley, President of the Impulse Group Cape Town Chapter, this volunteer organisation is all about promoting safer sex in a fun, engaging and inclusive way. Speaking at the launch, Ashraf said: “We are building an inclusive community for queers in Cape Town in which we’ll feel comfortable enough to talk about things and issues pertaining to your lives, your bodies, your sexual and mental health.” By being sex positive while promoting their message of sexual safety, they do not judge or prescribe anyone’s sex lives. They want to make it their duty to help queer people by linking them to sexual and mental health care services.
In addition to this, they provide condoms at some places where queer people meet, such as Zero21 Social Club, and in the future hope to distribute lube too, while providing printed material that explains the importance of PrEP as part of the sexual safety basket. Ashraf says: “We want to help encourage positive people to stay on treatment and keep negative people negative.” With South Africa having the highest HIV infection rate in the world at 18.9%, what is extremely concerning is that the infection rate among men who have sex with men is even higher at more than 26%. Impulse Group Cape Town aims to make safer sex sexy.
This was evident in the way the launch was hosted at 6 Spin Street Restaurant, with among others a bondage demonstration and a very sexy dance by the Impulse Group dancers. A number of performances took place, including one by poet Pieter Odendaal.
Speaking to GaySA Radio, Jose Ramos, who started this initiative way back in 2009, said: “We have to celebrate who we are. There’s no shame in who we are and the sex that we have. So we’re about being sex positive. But do we know the right things? Information is really important because a lot of people don’t really know and they get themselves in risky behaviour, not understanding what that means. Education is key.” It is for this reason that the campaign will kick off with a research project to ascertain the prevalence of condom use among this key population group so that informed interventions can be made.
This initiative started out being aimed at gay men but has since involved to include trans and bisexual men. The Indian chapter of this group is led by a transgender woman, the first transgender President of an Impulse GRoup Chapter, working in New Delhi. The group is slowly evolving to be more diverse and inclusive so as to look like the community in which they are involved.
As this is a volunteer organisation, a call has therefore been made for people to get involved and do something positive for the community. By all of us working together to fight the scourge of HIV through education and involvement in the communities in which we live and work, we can make a difference, no matter where in the world we are.