For Immediate Release
Los Angeles, Calif., March 8, 2011 -- Each week in West Hollywood, a group of gay men living with HIV and AIDS meets to watch a movie. But it’s much more than a casual get-together. Dubbed "Men's Film Night," the drop-in group aims to foster growth and connection among gay men living with HIV/AIDS – who often report social isolation. Its facilitator is an APLA marriage and family therapist (MFT) intern from the agency’s mental health program.
"There was an immediate positive interest. Participants share that the group helps them understand themselves and others more." explains group facilitator Steven Reigns, who launched the group, which meets weekly at Being Alive in West Hollywood. "This is a great group for those who might feel reticent or reluctant to disclose, or who feel pressured by traditional support groups but are still interested in real connection, sharing an interest, and making friends," Reigns adds.
Weekly film selections range from foreign ("Adventures of Felix") to domestic ("Milk") and indie ("But I'm a Cheerleader") to award winning ("Paris is Burning"). Not all of the films have HIV- or AIDS-themed content, but all have had gay characters. Men's Film Night is one of a widening array of APLA offerings in West Hollywood, which includes dental care; one-on-one mental health counseling; public benefits help; and an HIV prevention group for gay men who use crystal methamphetamine. In December, APLA opened its newest site in the city, a 1,000 square-foot permanent space in the Sierra Bonita Apartments.
"Living in Los Angeles, our focus on film is usually related to the craft of filmmaking or the skill of the actors," says Reigns. "Each week at Men’s Film Night, participants are encouraged to look at film differently."
According to Reigns, group participants focus on characters and their emotional motivators, along with the feelings that the films provoke within the group.
"The group discussion of each film illuminates things others might not have noticed," he says. "Films are our modern-day allegories. We can learn from them, and they can help us see creative ways to change our lives."
The weekly event has become increasingly popular – and well attended – as word has spread.
"The group helps foster a deeper connection to others and to one's self," Reigns says. "I think that's why people keep coming back. It's a great way to spend a Monday evening -- with a group of men who are interested in art and self-improvement."
The group meets weekly at 7:00 PM at Being Alive (7531 Santa Monica Boulevard, Suite 100, West Hollywood). Refreshments are provided, and weekly group sponsors have included Tibotec and Beverly Hills Pharmacy. Men's Film Night is a drop-in group; new members are welcome at any time. Interested members with questions are encouraged to call 213.201.1600 ext. 1007.
AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA), one of the largest non-profit AIDS service organizations in the United States, provides bilingual direct services, prevention education and leadership on HIV/AIDS-related policy and legislation. With more than 30 years of service, APLA is a community-based, volunteer-supported organization with local, national and global reach. For more information, visit apla.org.