This is MY HIV Story
Posted on 11/30/2020 @ 06:40 AM
My name is Raul, and I am HIV Positive. I was diagnosed in 2010 when I was 32, during a time where I would rarely see a doctor. I never went to the doctor for my regular check-ups--much less to get tested for HIV--but I remember not feeling well for a while. I decided to get checked by a medical professional since I had symptoms that included a high temperature, sore throat, and weakness throughout my body. Unfortunately, this was during the time where I did not care much about anything but having fun. As a heterosexual male, I never thought I would end up living with HIV. It has no boundaries and can become a reality for many people; which is why I decided to open up about my story.
I informed my wife of my diagnosis once I got home. I knew it was time to face reality... my reality. I began to mentally prepare myself for the worst, which included accepting there was a chance my wife would leave me and take my son with her. In my head, this was the worst that I could have done to my family. I was not ready to be alone.
To my surprise, my wife took the news better than expected, reacting positively. She assured me that she would help and support me every step of the way, expressing how much she and my son loved me. Honestly, I was shocked to see her calm reaction. Although I had gotten the support I needed from my family, the next couple of weeks were very hard. I knew my wife supported me, but it took awhile for her to accept our new reality. I became depressed, thinking there was no way out.
I will not lie, it was a difficult process to accept my new reality. I quickly learned that I had to find a reason to continue fighting and move past these results. In my case, my motivation was my wife and my 8-year-old son. I had to reframe my thinking into something positive that guided me to better decisions. It was a challenge to get into treatment and stick with it but I wanted to keep fighting; I needed to.
Soon after, I returned to the hospital to see the different options available to me, including the treatments to consider. The hospital helped me find resources that existed for the HIV positive community. This was my first time finding out about all the accessible resources, most of them free. Until now, I have not paid out of pocket for medical treatment, therapy sessions, or anything related to my HIV diagnosis. Anyone can work with a provider to find and receive free resources through referrals and such. In my experience, I have been helped by loving, dedicated, and supportive people.
With my psychologist’s help, I gained the mental tools to navigate how to be confident in myself again, understand my status, and embrace that I was not alone. As for the HIV treatment I received, I decided to get on something called Stribild. For me, HIV treatment is not only about a pill; it is about a better lifestyle. I started making better health food decisions, recognizing dangerous and risky health situations, and using the resources I needed, such as extra supplemental vitamins.
The help of medical professionals and the support of my family throughout the process played a significant role in the support I needed to continue. Without their support, I do not know what path I would have taken. Since I have been in care, I have never been discriminated against based on my race, sexual orientation, or language barrier. HIV health providers understand that HIV has nothing to do with my identity. I have had nothing but amazing and welcoming HIV health providers who have provided me with Spanish resources. In my experience, I found HIV treatment to be way more accessible and easier to get than regular health care or a doctor’s visit. I believe HIV providers are very well organized and they have my highest respects.
In my opinion, one thing we need to work on as a community is getting rid of this stigma or sense of taboo when we talk about HIV. Our society needs to understand that anyone--straight, gay, bisexual, transgender, etc.--can be diagnosed with HIV. I’ve seen a couple of HIV treatment advertisements or commercials offering information on HIV while watching TV. Still, it seems like these commercials target specific populations rather than our society as a whole.
Decreasing the stigma around HIV is challenging to address, but with time and education, we can conquer it together. Our youth should be taught about HIV during their middle school years, as part of their health curriculum, so students can learn about these diseases to decrease the stigma around it. Also, it is essential to continue the outreach to people who are HIV positive and to encourage everyone to help reduce the spread of HIV. It’s as easy as using condoms or any other methods of protection, including being honest to each other and ourselves about being HIV positive. Together, we can significantly reduce and stop the spread of HIV.
For me, I am more concerned about everyday situations most of the time than my HIV status. I am responsible for doing what I can to live a healthier and “normal” lifestyle. Taking my medication is easy and quick; it hasn’t become a hassle for me at all. I was wrong, being HIV positive is not the end of the world. Now, every decision I take is for my loved ones, and the path I have taken is supported by my psychologists, healthcare professionals, and amazing family.
As a person who has gone through this struggle, I urge you not to go down a rabbit hole by thinking negatively and making poor decisions if diagnosed. This is a chance to accept the facts and work on a happier, healthier you. It’s a new beginning, just as it was for me when I decided to get treatment and support. You CAN find a reason to continue fighting for your life, which was my last step in accepting my HIV diagnosis. The one thing I wanted the most was to see my son grow up and share with him the best years I can offer next to my life partner. After ten beautiful years, my son is 18-years-old now and I thank God for giving me the strength to turn my life around to be here today.
We do not know the future and I cannot let my diagnosis drive worries in my life. I trust the doctors, case managers, phycologists, social workers, and the many other people helping me with my HIV services. Instead, I have learned to continue living as my whole self and to be happy.
To learn more about bilingual resources available and checking your status, visit LULAC.org/salud
LULAC Remembers Those Lost to Transphobia
Posted on 11/18/2020 @ 02:40 PM
They were our friends, neighbors, co-workers and family members—but most importantly—they were fellow human beings who deserved the right to live free from violence.
On November 20th, Transgender Day of Remembrance, we mourn and celebrate transgender people who were taken from us too soon. In 2020, American communities experienced the most violent year for Transgender people in five years with 35 deaths of transgender or gender non-conforming individuals. Advocates believe the number is higher but due to the lack of coverage or misrepresentation, these murders go unseen.
Recently, we lost Angel Haynes, a 25-year-old Black transgender woman who was killed in Memphis, Tennessee. Angel was a licensed cosmetologist and was shot on October 25, 2020. Black transgender women make up two-thirds of the victims in the United States.
According to National Center for Transgender Equality, transgender people—particularly Black and Latina transgender women—are marginalized, stigmatized and criminalized in our country. They face violence every day, and they fear turning to the police for help.
“It is unbelievable that there is no compassion for members of our community in the midst of this global pandemic,” said Bamby Salcedo, President and CEO of The TransLatin@ Coalition in a recent statement about a community member, Daniela Hernandez, who survived an attack in October that left her hospitalized. “I do not get why people continue to have this kind of hate towards our community, being that our community is one of the hardest hit from this pandemic,” added Salcedo.
Earlier this year, six transgender individuals were murdered in Puerto Rico: Penélope Díaz Ramírez, Alexa Negron Luciano, Yampi Méndez Arocho, Serena Angelique Velázquez, Layla Sánchez and Michellyn Ramos Vargas. In any other circumstance, a half-dozen killings would dominate headlines globally. Yet, because they are transgender, this may be the first time you are learning about these serial murders.
The Latinx community needs to address this horrible hate, phobia, femicides, and toxic masculinity that has been allowed to go unchecked for too long. If we don’t, who will? If not now, when?
We urge our elected leaders and community organizers this November 20th to remember and take action on behalf of those ripped from us. Learn about the discrimination faced by transgender people and help us work for change now to create a lasting impact. Team up with local transgender organizations; support local, state or federal transgender public accommodation and protection laws; and seek out members of the transgender community and invite them to become members of your LULAC council. Inclusion leads to dialogue and understanding. Understanding leads to respect and love of every human being and removes the fear and stigma that divides us. Please, just reach out.
America’s civil rights extend to all marginalized communities. If we are to remain relevant as the oldest and largest Latino civil rights organization in the nation, we need to include every single member of our Latinx family. National LULAC and its membership has created a space to include discussions on transgender rights.
From affirming Transgender rights in public accommodation, supporting Transgender military service in our U.S. Armed Forces, to protecting Transgender asylum seekers at the U.S. border, LULAC has taken a stance. We hope you do too.
For allies who want to learn more about the transgender community, click here for a Human Rights Campaign guide used by media that explains the community’s terms. To learn about issues affecting the transgender community, click here to see the legal cases being worked on by the Transgender Law Center. To learn about the work being done in our Latinx community, click here to read about the activist organization TransLatin@ Coalition.
Remember those lost and say their names. Thank you to PGHLesbian Correspondents for keeping their memories alive.
Dustin Parker – McAlester, Oklahoma. January 1, 2020. Age 25.
Alexa Negron Luciano – Toa Baja, Puerto Rico. February 24, 2020. Age 29.
Yampi Mendez Arocho – Moca, Puerto Rico, March 5, 2020. Age 19.
Monica Diamond – Charlotte, North Carolina. March 18, 2020. Age 34.
Lexi – Harlem, New York City, New York. March 28, 2020. Age 33.
Johanna Metzger – Baltimore, Maryland. April 1, 2020. Age 25.
Penélope Díaz Ramírez – Puerto Rico. April 13, 2020. Age 31
Serena Angelique Velazquez – Puerto Rico. April 22, 2020. Age 32.
Layla Pelaez – Puerto Rico. April 22, 2020. Age 21.
Jayne Thompson – Colorado, May 2020. Age 33.
Nina Pop – Sikeston, Missouri. May 3, 2020. Age 28.
Helle Jae O’Regan – San Antonio, Texas. May 6, 2020. Age 20.
Tony McDade – Tallahassee, Florida. May 27, 2020. Age 38.
Selena Reyes Hernandez – Chicago. May 31, 2020. Age 37.
Dominique Rem’mie Fells – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. June 8, 2020. Age 27.
Riah Milton – Liberty Township, Ohio. June 9, 2020. Age 25.
Brayla Stone – Sherwood, Arkansas. June 25, 2020. Age 17.
Tatiana Hall – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, approx June 29, 2020. Age 22.
Merci Mack – Dallas, June 30, 2020. Age 22.
Draya McCarty – Baton Rouge, Louisiana, July 2020. Age unknown.
Shaki Peters – Amite, Louisiana, July 1, 2020. Age 32.
Bree Black – Pompana Beach, Florida, July 3, 2020. Age 27.
Marilyn Cazares – Brawley, California, July 13, 2020. Age 22.
Tiffany Harris – Bronx, New York, July 26, 2020. Age 32.
Queasha D. Hardy – Baton Rouge, Louisiana, July 27, 2020. Age 24.v Aja Raquell Rhone-Spears – Portland, Oregon, July 28, 2020. Age 32.
Kee Sam – Lafayette, Louisiana, August 12, 2020. Age 24.
Aerrion Burnett – Independence, Missouri, September 19, 2020. Age 37.
Mia Green – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, September 28, 2020. Age 29.
Michelle Ramos Vargas – Puerto Rico, September 30, 2020. Age 33.
Felycya Harris – Augusta, Georgia, October 3, 2020. Age 32.
Brooklyn DeShauna Smith – Shreveport, Louisiana, October 7, 2020. Age 20.
Sara Blackwood – Indianapolis, Indiana, October 11, 2020. Age 39.
Angel Haynes – Memphis, Tennessee, October 25, 2020. Age 25.
Yunieski Carey Herrera – Miami, Florida, November 17, 2020. Age 39.
By Jesse Garcia, Chair, National LULAC LGBTQ Affairs Committee
LULAC Virtual Summit 2020: Tapping Technology to Overcome COVID-19
Posted on 08/21/2020 @ 11:00 AM
The LULAC Virtual Summit last week successfully connected members and allies of the nation’s largest and oldest Latino civil rights organization via the internet. It was a three-day state-of-the-art event that brought together thousands of participants for what may well be a preview of the future in LULAC’s advocacy.
More than 80 expert speakers filled 30-plus hours of presentations, panel discussions and training workshops. One of the summit highlights was the compelling conversation with Dr. Jill Biden, the country’s former Second Lady and wife of Democratic presidential candidate, Joe Biden. She was on a panel with two Latino congressional leaders and a labor advocate for nurses examining the impact COVID-19 is having on Latinos.
“There is power in kindness and this helps to build the bonds of communities during our difficult times,” said Dr. Biden. Then, she outlined how her husband, if elected, will activate what she called his Plan for Recovery which would create millions of jobs and help essential workers in all frontline sectors with free testing and more assistance. The panel agreed it will take all Americans coming together to rebuild the nation’s economic, education and health systems which have been strained beyond their limits during the pandemic. Dr. Biden concluded by saying that how America recovers from COVID-19 will be a reflection of the nation’s vision, character and stamina.
Julian Castro, former presidential candidate and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development addressed the summit in a separate conversation focusing on Democracy in action. “Our Latino community is in a state of emergency,” he said. “If we want people, young and old to get excited and get out to vote, then elected officials must deliver results,” he added. Secretary Castro also spoke of four million Latinos who benefitted from the Affordable Care Act under President Barack Obama. He added this is in sharp contrast to President Trump who is targeting Latinos, especially immigrants. “The bright spot though,” said Castro, “is that this awoke young people because of how divisive our country has become. Our job now is voter registration and getting people to the polls.”
Another important conversation highlighted the state of the civil rights struggle in the United States and included leaders of LULAC, NAACP, National Urban League and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). “You are the people who can make change happen,” Domingo Garcia, LULAC National President told the audience. “We can close the baby jails that are still open in 2020,” he added. Garcia recalled the day he stood in front of an ICE bus in McAllen, Texas and saw children five and six years old being transported to a detention center, their little hands on steel bars. “Tu voto cuenta,” said Garcia. His words were echoed by the other panelists who called Black Lives Matter, the civil rights movement of the 21st century and accused the Trump Administration of having breached the contract of the Constitution.
Equally significant was the timely examination of the United States military and veterans affairs. A panel of retired female officers said that trust in the branches of the military has been lost over the death of Ft. Hood Army Private Vanessa Guillen. Latinos see service in the military as a source of pride and those with whom their sons or daughters are serving become their second family. They called for several steps to be taken if the military hopes to regain public trust. These include increasing training for both men and women to prevent military sexual harassment (MST). Also, change must begin at the highest ranks so that other soldiers will take reforms seriously. Another action the panel recommended is that reporting of sexual misconduct must be to an entity outside of the military. A major conclusion the panel reached was that even with these reforms, it will take time for Latino families to again trust the military enough to be willing to support their children’s desire to join the service.
To see the panels or the entire summit, go to our playlist of live-streamed videos available on demand at our Facebook page.
In Precision Medicine We Trust
Posted on 06/16/2020 @ 10:00 AM
During the 2015 State of the Union, President Barack Obama announced a movement that would invest in America's most important assets, YOU. With a $215 million budget, he launched the Precision Medicine Initiative, focused on bringing together our community and professions for the betterment of our nation. President Obama spoke about learning to value the brilliance in this country and to “harness what is most special about America, our spirit of innovation.” With bipartisan support, we were able to continue the research into “precision medicine [that] gives us one of the greatest opportunities for new medical breakthroughs that we've ever seen.”
In 2015, the National Institutes of Health made history by advocating toward improving health in our country through precision medicine rather than continuing our current to implement a one-size-fits-all health care system. This is why the All of Us Research Program participants and partners continue to work toward precision medicine, to “improve the lives of men, women, and children, for generations to come.” Two years later, we are continuing the movement “to keep ourselves and our families healthy.”
LULAC is celebrating the All of Us Research Program’s second anniversary since its national launch. As a part of the program’s Community and Provider Gateway Initiative, our organization serves as a partner with a rich history of grassroots work in the Latino community, LULAC is proud to work together toward improving health for future generations by creating educational activities that raise awareness and by inviting our community to participate.
It is so critical for Latinos to be well represented in medical research to ensure our community benefits from future medical advances in treatments and prevention strategies to enjoy healthier and longer lives. Since 2018, LULAC has helped the program engage more than 5,000 Latinos across the United States through several community events in many states, as well as at the national level through our social media platforms and through in-person community engagements such as cafecitos and hosting the All of Us Journey -the program’s mobile exhibit unit traveling across the country.
Thus far, the program has been quite successful in engaging diverse communities, in great part, because of the community partnerships, like the one with LULAC the program established from the very beginning of this journey. With 350,000 participants from across the country already enrolled in the program, more than 80% are from communities that have been historically underrepresented in biomedical research. Over 52% are from racially and ethnically diverse groups, including Latinos. But we know there is more work to be done to get to the program’s goal of enrolling 1 million or more participants that reflect the reach diversity of our country.
LULAC recognizes that medical research has never felt more urgent than it does right now during the COVID-19 pandemic. So instead of waiting for change, we want to actively be the change. That’s why we’re glad to announce that the All of Us Research Program has created a way for All of Us participants to help advance COVID-19 research through the COVID-19 Participant Experience (COPE) survey.
By taking this survey and telling All of Us how you’re doing, you can help researchers learn more about COVID-19 and its effect on physical and mental health. When you signed up for the All of Us Research Program, you showed that you care about helping improve health for your family, your community, and the world. Taking this survey is a great way to make a difference today.
These are stressful and unprecedented times for everyone. A lot of people feel like they don’t know what to do, or how to help. Taking this survey is a great way to start. Your answers will help researchers learn more about COVID-19 and the way it affects our health and lives in the short and long term. Now, more than ever, we’re all in this together. By taking this 20-30-minute survey, you could help researchers learn more about how COVID-19 is affecting our health, wellbeing, daily lives, and communities. To get started, log in to your All of Us account or sign up today to take part in this historic program that may change the future of health for all.