Metro Weekly

Impulse Group DC offers an entertaining twist on sexual health education

Nonprofit uses an "entertainment-based" approach to educate on HIV and AIDS, mental health, and substance use

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Impulse DC: DeVonte Whitson

“We recently hosted what we called ‘Bedroom Confessions,'” says DeVonte Whitson, president of the Washington, D.C. chapter of Impulse Group. “It was a recorded piece, broken up into three parts. We invited various people from different backgrounds to a sit-down conversational piece, and we covered topics like interracial dating, mental health and how society perceives it, substance abuse and the destruction caused by crystal meth. We also talked about penis sizes and enjoyable sex positions.

“It was a forum where everybody could be themselves, and we could talk and discuss amongst each other and not have to worry about anyone judging what we’ve done or what we do or what our outlooks are. And we took that conversational piece, and then we placed it online where everyone else could listen to it.”

Impulse DC, a nonprofit organization focused on awareness of HIV and AIDS, mental health, and substance use, takes an “entertainment-based” approach. “We share that information in more of an entertaining fashion,” says Whitson. “As opposed to your typical conference where you have a group of people sitting down and someone up on stage spewing out stats for two hour. We package all of that information into a form where it’s better received. You can tell me that condoms are 99 percent effective while I’m sitting in a classroom, but if that message is written over a nude model, something about that sticks with me more than somebody spewing out that particular fact.”

Funded by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Impulse Group has 27 worldwide chapters focused on promoting healthier sexual choices and the concept of “safer sex” among the LGBTQ community — particularly groups at higher risk of HIV, such as gay and bisexual men aged 21 to 65.

Whitson says the form that health education takes can manifest itself in different ways, whether through social media, open bar events, one-on-one peer conversations, and even live performances. The group tries to refrain from making judgments or dictating people’s choices, instead looking at ways to make sure people are engaging in safer behaviors.

Impulse is volunteer-based, and there are no dues that prospective members have to pay. Those who want to get involved should contribute their own talents or focus on topics of interest to them.

“My question when it comes to someone who is interested is ‘What do you enjoy doing?'” says Whitson. “I feel that a person can be more effective and will take more ownership of whatever role they are in if they enjoy it. As long as you have a passion for the work, we are open, and there’s always something for someone to do to help us grow.”

Impulse Group DC’s 4th anniversary party, “Sin City,” is on Sunday, Oct. 20, from 6 to 10 p.m. at The Showroom, 1099 14th St. NW, Suite 101L. The casino-themed event features an open bar, hors d’oeuvres, and special guest Tiffany “New York” Pollard. There is a $5 suggested donation at the door. For more information, visit www.impulsegrp.org/washington or follow @impulsegroupdc on Instagram.

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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