Akoro Joseph Sewedo
Discreet and high economic class gays find solace in the newly established Gay lounge owned by the founder of Initiative for Improve Male Health (IMH- Initiative)- Oliver Anene.
Established in April 2011, under the Integrated MSM HIV Prevention Program (IMHIPP), The Gay lounge popularly known as Café O sitting in the Effanga Okoh (LGBT) community center was set up as part of the initiative to promote self-acceptance and healthy living amongst LGBT youths in Calabar.
In a conversation with the owner of Café O, he said “This lounge is tastefully furnished to attract business-class, older, and more discreet LGBT to the community center, where visitors can have access to up-to-date HIV information, confidential health counseling and referrals, and the opportunity to interact with other LGBT persons in a safe space.”
“I am so much thankful for this development. It gives me pleasure and a sense on belonging that I now have a place to chat freely, without fear of who is seeing me, or knows me”. Etete Africana – a government functionary in the state testifies.
Café O opens Mondays to Fridays between 0900 to 1800hrs and often opens for extra hours and weekends during special events. The services provided include but not limited to; a menu of intercontinental breakfast, and soups in the evenings for community center visitors in an air conditioned environment, free but controlled Wi-Fi internet service to costumers.
In a recent survey conducted in a random sample of customers by the owner, it was found that “discreet, older, high economic class LGBT persons who previously weren’t sure of the confidentiality and safety of the community center have become regular customers at the lounge, where they can have access to the services provided by the community center.”
“Customers make good use of this space to communicate and share ideas while chilling out with cold drinks or reading a resource material. Peer educators visit the lounge regularly to reach out to MSM customers.” Anene said.