The second incarnation of a wellness conference designed for men who have sex with men (MSM) is coming to Fort Lauderdale.
While the conference isn’t scheduled until the first month of 2019, organizers hope people will save the date and make a commitment to attend. While the free conference is open to anyone, organizers are clear about the demographic they seek to engage with.
“We’re being intentional and trying to cover a broader spectrum of health issues facing men who have sex with men,” said Mark Reyes, one of the key organizers.
Reyes expects about 200 GBT and other men who have sex with men to attend, mostly from Broward County and surrounding communities.The conference first took place in 2015, a two-day format, when more than 200 came.
Topics to be covered at the 2019 Men’s Health and Wellness Conferenceinclude HIV and non-HIV-related health issues such as sexual health, physical fitness and mental health. “It’s about how to be healthy men and make better decisions,” Reyes said.
Reyes, the senior director of community relations and administration at the Urban League of Broward County, said the disparity of those who have HIV among men who have sex with men is out of whack compared to other populations – it’s a big part of the driving force of the conference.
Reyes hopes to move attendees toward positive actions that would improve their health outcomes.
“We want to mobilize the MSM community,” he said. “Black and Latino communities and others are being impacted by HIV, access to health care and insurance, issues with housing or full employment, and disease. It’s all related,” Reyes said.
Reyes has been at the Urban League for five years. He’s worked for nonprofits and at-risk communities for much of his young career, including at UrbanPromise Miami and in New York City doing HIV prevention work.
“This conference is important for me, personally, as a gay man, and for Urban League,” he said.
The Broward County HIV Prevention Planning Council is the main organization heading up the event. Reyes is the community co-chair of its MSM advisory group.
The advisory group brings together leaders and decision-makers to mobilize organizations and allies who serve the MSM community in Broward County. The group addresses the various factors that bring about HIV infection in the MSM community – what is often called an epidemic in Broward County.
Reyes said members of the advisory group include staff from leading AIDS Service Organizations (ASOs), LGBT organizations, government agencies and allied organizations, as well as non-affiliated community members.
Conference attendees can expect a lineup of presenters, workshops and plenaries.
Reyes said he expects to provide a spectrum of local and national leaders to present at the conference.
There will be three plenary sessions and three interactive break out workshop sessions. Continental breakfast and lunch will be provided.
The one-day conference takes place Jan. 26 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Fort Lauderdale Marriott North, located at 6650 North Andrews Avenue.