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Movers and Shakers: HIV/AIDS Advocates in the Latino Community

Whether they're running clinics, spreading the word in Congress, providing HIV education to underserved gay men or devising the best way to approach the language barrier issue, these individuals are part of the driving force behind efforts to end the HIV epidemic in Latino communities. These profiles of their tireless work remind us that this work is not being done in vain.

Individual Profiles & Interviews

Agripina Alejandres

Actor Jai Rodriguez's Path to HIV Advocacy Was Paved by a Loving Aunt

Rodriguez's aunt, who died of AIDS-related causes, taught him "to always understand [that] a diagnosis or a status does not speak to someone's dignity or integrity[.] It's just their status."

Agripina Alejandres

Healing HIV's "Viral Divide" Will Take Time and Empathy, Latinx Journalist Says

The "viral divide" is shrinking thanks to recent advances in HIV prevention, journalist and activist Mathew K. Rodriguez contends. However, a great deal of healing still needs to take place, he said in a wide-ranging Facebook Live interview.

Agripina Alejandres

For HIV-Positive Latinas in the Bay Area, Picking Up Where Systems Leave Off

According to local HIV advocate Agripina Alejandres, "There are a lot of places to go for help [in San Francisco], but they've mostly been for gay men." Services for women are sorely lacking. Enter WORLD (Women Organized to Respond to Life-threatening Disease), which has made its home in Oakland since 1991.

Marco Benjamin

This Positive Life: Marco Benjamin Lives Openly -- And On the Open Road

If you have seen an 18-wheel truck with a huge condom on the side driving through your town, then you may have seen Marco Benjamin. Diagnosed with HIV at 27 while working at an architectural firm, Marco left that job within a year to pursue a life of HIV activism, and hasn't looked back since.

Christian Castro

AIDS, Latinos and the Deep South
(En Español)

To help fill gaps and provide support to existing HIV/AIDS ASOs, the Latino Commission on AIDS created its Latinos in the Deep South Program. Christian Castro, the program's Project Coordinator, talks about the epidemic south of the Mason-Dixon Line and what his program is doing to raise awareness.

Yolanda Diaz

There Is Never Enough Funding for Latinas With HIV/AIDS
(En Español)

"Calling it a crisis would be an understatement. And unfortunately there is never enough HIV prevention funding and [few] resources targeted toward Latinas," says Yolanda Diaz, a veteran New York City-based HIV/AIDS advocate. Diaz is the WILLOW/SIHLE program facilitator at Iris House, the landmark Harlem-based HIV/AIDS service organization founded 1993. It was the very first agency "anywhere" to address the needs of women living with HIV/AIDS.

Ernesto Dominguez

Targeting Prevention Services to Latino Youth MSM and Undocumented Workers in Oregon
(En Español)

"We're seeing younger MSM of color that are HIV positive here in Portland , especially Latino youth," says Ernesto Dominguez, the 23-year-old youth technology specialist at the Cascade AIDS Project and an online peer educator with Youth Resource. CAP is the largest HIV/AIDS service provider in the state. "It's my job to find them."

Elicia Gonzales

Sex = Fun? Pro-Pleasure Videos Bring "Sexy Back" to HIV Awareness

From steamy online videos to hilariously fun, sexy parties to raise awareness within communities, Philadelphia's PleasureRush! program is committed to bringing sex-positive, pro-pleasure messages and activities back into HIV awareness, especially among LGBT communities of color. Elicia Gonzales, executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Latino AIDS Education Initiative (GALAEI), spoke with about the program -- and how other HIV service providers can incorporate a sex-positive outlook into their work.

Antonio Hernández

Antonio Hernández: El Perfil Humano de un Activista

El origen, la dedicación y la motivación de los activistas es un enigma para muchos. Su vida diaria está plagada de una incomprensible -- aparentemente irracional y masoquista -- lucha. Antonio Hernández jamás imaginó la dirección de su destino cuando perdió empleo, casa y fortuna debido a la drogadicción. Hoy, a meses de celebrar su quincuagésimo aniversario de vida, es mejor conocido como activista incansable a favor de los derechos de latinos viviendo con VIH/SIDA en Nueva York.

Caitlin M. Kelly

The Art of Capturing Women Living With HIV/AIDS
(En Español)

Even though there are more than 110,000 Argentineans living with HIV/AIDS (including 36,000 women), while living in Argentina, freelance photographer Caitlin M. Kelly started noticing how little the disease was talked about. Yet, the more women living with HIV that Caitlin met, she noticed how silent the women were about it and how fearful they were if people found out. In hopes to break down this wall and combat stigma, Caitlin created "'I am ...' Women Living with HIV," a photo gallery highlighting the faces of strong women living with HIV. In this interview, she talks about the perception of HIV in Argentina and where she wants to take her project in the future.

View "'I am ...' Women Living with HIV," in English.
View "'I am ...' Women Living with HIV," in Spanish.

JM Longoria III. Photo credit: Patrick Maus.
Joanna Zanella. Photo credit: Ernesto Olivares.

A Series Without Shame: Episodes and Interviews From HIV-Focused Telenovela Sin Vergüenza

Family secrets ... betrayed trust ... condom usage?

The classic, persistent themes of Spanish-language soap operas, also known as telenovelas, get a refreshing, enthralling update in Sin Vergüenza (Without Shame), the new telenovela that is taking the Internet by storm. Presented in English as well as Spanish, and imagined and realized by California's vast AltaMed health care network, the aim of the show is to "educate without being educational." The project is a unique endeavor -- it combines a fresh narrative format with the ability to tackle real-world issues such as HIV, stigma, lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender (LGBT) issues, family issues, infidelity, shame, aging, dating and more.

Samuel López

Samuel López: Latino Positivo

In his film Nuestras Caras, Nuestras Historias, artist and activist Samuel López puts a human face on his community: HIV-positive latino immigrants in Canada.

Arlene Martínez

Linking East Los Angeles' HIV-Positive Latino Youth to Medical Care
(En Español)

"We're definitely seeing an epidemic of HIV infection among Latino youth," says Arlene Martínez, youth transitional case manager at AltaMed Health Services in East Los Angeles, the largest network of community-based health clinics in Southern California. Martínez is a Los Angeles native born to Salvadoran parents, and has worked in HIV/AIDS and youth services for more than a decade.

Miguel Mendez

Miguel Mendez: Housing Works Latino AIDS Exec "Comes Out"!

It was an emotional disclosure for Miguel Mendez, Housing Works' senior vice president for operations.

Standing in front of hundreds of peers at the Reunión Latina, a yearly training convention for New York Latinos working to fight HIV/AIDS, Mendez shared -- 20 years after his diagnosis -- that he was living with HIV.

David Munar

David Munar: Making "the People's HIV Plan" a National Reality
(En Español)

Without the work of many U.S. activists, such as David Munar, the U.S. National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS), which was released in July 2010 by the U.S. Office of National AIDS Policy, may have never happened.

Manuel Diaz-Ramirez

Washington, D.C.'s New HIV Epidemic: Latino Men
(En Español)

Manuel J. Diaz-Ramirez, is a licensed social psychologist and youth program manager of the Washington, D.C. youth center Mpodérate, developed to serve young Latino MSM by La Clínica del Pueblo, the well-known clinic that has served the District's Latino population since 1983.

Nathaly Rubio-Torio

HIV Prevention in Latino Faith Communities: Counting Big Wins in an Uphill Battle

"Globally, HIV and violence against women are twin pandemics," says Nathaly Rubio-Torio, co-founder and executive director of Voces Latinas; "We get women experiencing violence every day, yet having no awareness around HIV."

Harmony Santana

Harmony Santana: Trans Actress Goes From AIDS Street Outreach to Indie Darling

In the critically acclaimed film Gun Hill Road, Harmony Santana shines as Michael/Vanessa, a Bronx teen who is transitioning into a woman and whose ex-con machismo father refuses to accept it. Santana, who is a transgender woman in real life, talks about how she won this groundbreaking role, her past battles with homelessness, and how HIV prevention work became one of her passions.



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