Richard Holcomb (born September 21, 1976) is a commercial sex worker specialist, street outreach worker and HIV prevention counselor in Providence, Rhode Island. He is best known for his groundbreaking work in HIV prevention and as the founder of Project Weber, a program for male sex-workers in Rhode Island. The program is named after Roy Weber, a 22-year-old male sex worker who was murdered on Christmas Day, 2003. Holcomb has done extensive research on male prostitution in the United States, Canada and Europe, and has been featured in several films on this subject.
Holcomb in May 2012
Holcomb is a recovering addict who began his career in HIV prevention in November 2007. The Project Weber outreach team he leads provides condom distribution, needle exchange, substance abuse referrals and HIV testing. Holcomb cited the lack of data available on male commercial sex workers in the region as his reason for helping develop a 2010 survey to assess the needs of this population. Project Weber recruited and surveyed 50 male sex workers living on the streets of Providence. Holcomb also cited that the fact that he and members of his team are former sex workers themselves as one of the primary reasons they were able to gain access to the men in order to conduct this survey.
The project has gleaned valuable data on male sex workers who work and live on the streets of Providence. Holcomb and his team were the first in Rhode Island history to gather data on this population. Prostitution in Rhode Island was legal until 2009. His work has generated interest from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and has received national attention.
Holcomb has since resigned as director, but continues to be involved in the organization.
In 2016, Project Weber changed its name to Project Weber Renew, after deciding to expand its services to male, female and transgender sex workers.
Advocacy and educationEdit
Holcomb has provided the general public with educational trainings regarding male sex workers in the U.S. and abroad. He presented Project Weber for the first time on a national level at the 2010 HIV Prevention Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C..
One of his most notable presentations was on January 29, 2011 in Providence, Rhode Island. Holcomb brought experts from different countries together to raise awareness and advocate for services and support. Following the testimonies of the sex workers in recovery, the highlight of the event was a presentation by actor Mirek Caslavka from the Czech Republic. Caslavka introduced the award-winning film he starred in, Mandragora, a drama about male prostitution in Prague.
Holcomb received a "hero's recognition" in the September 2012 issue of POZ magazine. He is featured in the documentary films Invisible: The Unseen World of Male Prostitution and Hustler of Providence.
On October 1, 2013, Holcomb became Project Director of the first peer support drop-in center for male sex workers in the United States. The center's staff meet their clients in a safe and non-judgmental environment, using a harm reduction approach.
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- "Drop-In Center Opens for Male Sex Workers". Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 1 April 2018.
Media related to Richard Holcomb at Wikimedia Commons