California: East L.A. Bienestar a "Safe Zone" for LGBT Latinos
August 1, 2011
East Los Angeles-based Bienestar, or "well-being" in Spanish, champions HIV prevention and health awareness for LGBT Latinos. Sabores, "or flavors" in Spanish, is Bienestar's two-decade-old youth arm focused on those ages 18-24.
Victor Sanchez, Bienestar's youth services director, maintains the program is essential in Inland areas where there are no other LGBT services focused on Latino youth. Bienestar next plans to offer meetings for youths ages 14-17.
"There needs to be a support system that addresses feelings of isolation and loneliness, and [gay youths] need to be educated about their own sexuality, maintaining their health, and the importance of educating their families," said Sanchez.
According to Sabores Pomona facilitator Erick De La Torre, 21, the program offers a substance-free haven to those who may be seeking consolation from substance abuse, which in turn can lead to unsafe sex. And, although group discussions surround safer sex, HIV and STD prevention, healthy relationships, and substance abuse, they are tempered with social events like beach trips and movies.
"It's a safe zone," said San Bernardino Sabores participant Felipe Contreras, 20. "No one judges us for our orientation or how we dress."
Press Enterprise (Riverside)
07.20.2011; David Olson
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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