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Making Employment Needs Count for Black men

 “(MEN Count) just made me safe, made me precautious, made me think more than just sex and drugs, and made me want to better myself. Even though I was already trying to better myself, it gave me that extra push.”

(MEN Count participant, 19 years old)


Black heterosexual men make up a disproportionate number of HIV cases among men who report that they contracted HIV from heterosexual sex. But for Black heterosexual men who are poor, unemployed and/or have criminal records, HIV risk is often the least of their concerns, making it even tougher to make healthy choices that will protect them and their partners from HIV.

MEN Count (Making Employment Needs Count) — which was funded by a 5-year National Institutes of Health R01 grant —  is an HIV/STI clinic-based intervention designed to reduce sexual risk among young, low-income, Black heterosexual men in Washington, D.C. Peer counselors, who are also Black men, meet one-on-one with participants in confidential sessions over a two to three month period to offer a combination of housing and employment referral case management. This case management includes discussions about health, sexual relationships with women, interpersonal violence in heterosexual relationships, stress management, and HIV risk reduction counseling.  

Dr. Bowleg is evaluating the effectiveness of MEN Count with co-Principal Investigator Dr. Anita Raj of the University of California, San Diego.

MEN Count participants complete a computerized survey at baseline, and at 6 and 12-month follow-up, and are tested for HIV and STIs at each of these three time points.  We invite a subset of study participants to provide feedback about the program in qualitative interviews. The study also explores how structural factors such as poverty, racial discrimination, and incarceration shape Black men’s ideas about masculinity, fatherhood, and sexual risk behaviors with women. MEN Count aims to reduce HIV/STI transmission in Black communities by ensuring that the intervention is grounded in the realities and challenges of Black heterosexual men’s lives.

MEN Count is ongoing and will end in 2018. To date, 455 Black heterosexual men have participated in the intervention. In general, participants have described MEN Count positively. One participant, for example, described his experience this way: “The MEN Count program was very insightful and spontaneous. I found the program while looking for a quick buck and stumbled upon something worth more than the few bucks provided for participating, and I’m grateful.” Should the MEN Count model prove to be effective, our next step will be to inform researchers and practitioners about it so that it can be used throughout the U.S. to reduce STI and HIV risk for unstably housed and/or unemployed Black heterosexual men and their sexual partners.

Curious to learn more about MEN Count? Check out our FAQ sheet. If you are interested in participating, email us at [email protected] or call our confidential line at (202) 810-2013. For other inquiries, please contact Senior Research Associate Jenné Massie at (202) 904-0603. 


Our Counselors

Our Life Coaches/Peer Counselors are Black men from the DC/Maryland/Virginia area.  These men are knowledgeable about the issues and concerns surrounding DC life and Black male identity.  Furthermore, they have access to a wide variety of community resources and as needed connect men in the MEN Count program with these resources.


Wayne Stroman 

Peer Counselor

Wayne has his master's degree in Counseling. He teaches anger management and is a substance abuse counselor. Wayne has been on the MEN Count project since 2013. He is interested in research on incarceration, recidivism, and substance abuse in adult Black males. Wayne enjoys dancing in his free time.


[email protected]


Kelly Odoms 

Peer Counselor

Kelly started working with the MEN Count project in December 2016. He is a Psychology student at Penn State, and will be graduating in 2018. Kelly is interested in research on African American issues and mental illness. Kelly is also an artist and is interested in media, comics, illustration and fine art.  


[email protected]


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Community Advisory Board

Are you interested in our Research and would like to become part of our Community Advisory Board? Please send us an email.