MFierce stands for Michigan Forward in Enhancing Research and Community Equity. The purpose of MFierce is to build a coalition that includes community members in Southeast Michigan, health service providers, and researchers in order to reduce the STI/HIV burden among young trans women and gay and bisexual men. In Year 1, the collaboration aims to develop a collective structural vision to be implemented in Year 2 throughout Southeast Michigan. Such a vision is impossible to attain without the voice of those directly implicated in these processes, which is why MFierce has been led from the beginning by a youth advisory board comprised of members of the population of focus.
To broaden the reach of the MFierce coalition’s vision, we have organized more than ten “community conversations” whose objective is to engage and understand the needs of both youth and providers. Youth and transgender centered community conversations, as well as those open to all, have shown promising areas of intervention in the effort to reduce sexual health disparities in SE Michigan. Each community conversation has provided unique insights into the needs and desires of GBT youth, as well as reinforced what others across the region see as the changes in policies and programs that are necessary to promote sexual health for all. The next step is to prioritize what interventions we will pursue and to collaborate with community members and other stakeholders to implement and evaluate these interventions.
Through this community-based participatory research (CBPR)-based approach, the MFierce coalition is striving to ensure equity in the process of program planning and implementation. Ultimately, the health of young gay and bisexual men and trans women in Southeast Michigan is the goal of all those involved. Led by our youth, we envision this process as a promising opportunity to enact real change in our region.