Earlier this year, HRC Foundation announced the inaugural class of the 2016 HIV 360° Fellowship Program. Made possible with generous support from the Elton John AIDS Foundation, HIV 360° is a capacity-building fellowship program for young, non-profit leaders ready to take HIV-inclusive organizations and initiatives to the next level.
The HRC blog recently sat down with each of the fellows to discuss the program, their work, and their vision of an AIDS-free generation.
Nicole Elinoff, 25, graduated in 2013 with a Bachelor of Science in psychology and women's studies from the University of Central Florida. After losing a close family member to AIDS-related complications, Nicole became an HIV tester and counselor in 2014. She currently serves as the sexual minority health coordinator for the Florida Department of Health in Orange County conducting HIV prevention work in the LGBTQ community. Nicole strives to build collaboration, fight stigma and be an agent of change in her community.
How did you first get involved with the movement to end the HIV and AIDS epidemic? How, if at all, did that inspire you to become an HIV 360° Fellow?
It has been four years since my uncle passed away from AIDS-related complications and I decided to become an agent of change to fight the HIV epidemic. I signed up to become a volunteer HIV tester/counselor and have been in the field ever since. When I saw the opportunity to be part of the fellowship program, I was immediately interested. I loved the idea of getting to meet other youth leaders who are all extremely passionate about this work and eager to make a change. This fellowship has led to some amazing, lifelong friendships and opportunities to help expand the work I am so passionate about.
Each fellow has been asked to design, implement, and evaluate a community service project to combat HIV transmission rates in their respective communities. Tell us about yours and what you hope to accomplish with it.
In January, a new support group will launch for Latino men living with HIV, called Latidos (heartbeat). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), rates of HIV diagnoses among Latino men who have sex with men (MSM) have risen by about 25 percent since 2004. Central Florida has a large population of Hispanic and Latino identifying individuals, yet there is no culturally and linguistically competent social support group for Latino men living with HIV. My project seeks to break down stigma, create meaningful relationships between participants and provide support.
What is one key lesson you've gained from the fellowship program? What have you enjoyed the most about it?
I've learned so many lessons throughout the program, including self-care, project evaluation, and project management. I also appreciate the relationships and deep connections I've developed over the past few months. I've met national executive directors, expert researchers and I've cultivated lifelong friendships with the other members of my cohort. It is so encouraging to know I can always call one of the other fellows if I have a question about a project or an idea I want to talk through. I know these relationships will remain in tact well after the fellowship program is over.
How can people learn more about your organization and support the work you are doing?
I've been working with a wonderful organization named Miracle of Love on my community service project. Miracle of Love is an AIDS service organization in the Orlando area and their mission is to provide comprehensive, multicultural HIV and AIDS care, education and prevention services that are effective and responsive to Central Florida's communities. To find out more about the group, Latidos, please visit latidosorlando.com.
To learn more about the HIV 360° fellowship program itself, click here.