December: HIV/AIDS Awareness month
Comunidades Unidas (CU) is fully committed to sharing accurate HIV/AIDS information with the Latinx community living in the state of Utah through different channels such as forums, panels, workshops, social media, and community partnerships.
During the month of December 2018, Luis Garza, CU Executive Director, discussed HIV/AIDS, stigmas, activism and art within the immigrant Latinx community of Utah as a panel member of the World AIDS Day/Day With(out) Art: Prevention and Breaking Stigmas through Art event. Other panelists included Dr. Susana Williams Keeshin, co-founder of the PrEP Community Clinic which provides HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) for people without insurance, Alex Moya artist and activist, and Daija Jones, web developer, activist, and expert.
“The state of Utah does not provide comprehensive sexual education in our public schools. The videos and information currently used to teach sexual education at our schools were made during the ’80s.” Daija emphasized. The myths around HIV/AIDS are still the same, but we are not in the ’80s anymore. That is why panel discussions such as this are key for students and younger generations. There is a disconnection in regards to what happened during the AIDS epidemic and our reality today.
Luis Garza explained that our immigrant community traditionally does not talk about HIV/AIDS and there are many reasons why this happens. Comunidades Unidas is committed to working on peer-to-peer education through our Promotora model (Community Health Workers). Comunidades Unidas’ Promotoras share information about accessing MedlinePlus or infoSIDA pages and ensure our community members receive accurately and trusted HIV prevention information. We recognize that knowledge creates power and that is why we need to share information with all communities in need.
Garza also highlighted the importance of being civically active in our communities, the reason why we don’t have comprehensive sex education in Utah is that our elected officials are not taking action on this issue. We need to hold our elected representatives accountable and ensure our voices are heard. We know change is needed but unless we vote in people who understand the importance of prevention and comprehensive sex education, we will continue to see a high incidence of HIV in our communities.
Every person on the panel was engaged in amazing work to ensure stigmas around HIV/AIDS can disappear. Every panelist has had some type of collaboration with each other and they are all passionate about it. They will continue sharing their knowledge and experience with other activists, leaders, and community members. It is only through the spread of knowledge that we will empower future generations to address the structural problems, poverty, and economic injustices we face in our state and country.
As we start in 2019, Comunidades Unidas will continue working with Latinx youth to have meaningful conversations around HIV/AIDS prevention, economic and social justice, and other issues that that matter to them. It is through meaningful collaborations that we will ensure that our communities’ voices are heard.
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