Written by Josue Santiago Friday, 08 October 2010 00:00
In a little over two short years, an organization based out of Broward County has been working hard to help empower the young Latino men. They have quickly become a staple in providing education and vital services exclusively to the Latino community that so desperately needed them. The name of this organization is called Latinos Salud. We had a moment to sit with the Executive Director of Latinos Salud, Stephen J. Fallon, Ph.D., and have him share with us how it all began and how one can get involved.
What is Latinos Salud's mission?
Our mission focuses entirely on supporting the gay Latino community in Broward, with peer-driven programs that give guys a role in keeping their community and themselves safe from HIV. Broward County ranks second in the nation for new AIDS cases and first in the nation for new HIV infections. So, we need everyone's help turning the corner on this epidemic.
When and how was it started?
Rafaele Narvaez and I had set up HIV prevention programs at other agencies over the last 15 years. Latino Salud was founded in June 2008 to fill a gap in services. We are the only agency dedicated exclusively to serving the growing gay Latino community in Broward.
What services does Latinos Salud offer?
We currently have three programs aimed at keeping guys safe from HIV and other STDs while supporting them as valued members of the community. The "Somos" program offers a drop-in clubhouse for Broward Latino gay guys ages 18 to 30. At the clubhouse, they can use the internet, join our pot luck dinners, attend workshops about dating and safer sex, and help plan for our special events.
The new program, "Juntos," has two parts. First we will be recruiting guys from the community up to age 45 to renew a dialogue that's often neglected these days. Instead of sending staff out to "teach" people what they need to know about HIV, staff will meet with guys who are already leaders in their friendship circles, and draw on their ability to set the agenda with their peers. The other part of Juntos will offer an ear to any guys who are trying to keep practicing safer sex, but are struggling. We'll have trained counselors who can help them see how their own strengths can be used to succeed here too.
What regular events does the agency host?
We host monthly workshops on dating and safer sex, beach trips, volleyball games, roller skating nights and movie nights.
Are there any special events held by Latinos Salud on an annual basis?
We participate in various annual and seasonal events. These include Valentine's dating games, Pride Festival, the Stonewall Street Parade, Halloween, a Thanksgiving dinner for clients and a Christmas gift exchange and dinner
How has the agency made an impact?
The Somos program has over 300 members now. We've held safer sex workshops for over 130 guys and personally distributed safer sex condom packs to over 2,000 gay Latino guys in Broward.
Could you share a story of a person that the organization has helped?
Several of our members had been rejected by their families just because they were gay. One rides his bike 10 miles to come here where he finds a place in his new "family." We had a special cake made for his birthday and he said he'd never had a birthday celebration or a cake his whole life. Another client told us he had never had a Thanksgiving dinner before coming here and another found a great place to utilize his creativity, helping design everything from themes to costumes for our events.
Are there any special recognitions received by Latinos Salud?
Our clients involvement is the best award we could ever want. At the same time, we're very proud of our new funding because it serves a vote of confidence from the CDC that our programs can make a difference in the lives of gay Latinos here.
Where would you like to see the organization in five years?
We'll go wherever our clients and community say we're needed next.
How can our readers get involved?
Guys 30 and younger can join our core group to help make Somos even better. You can also just drop in any Monday through Friday afternoons and evenings to meet new friends and have fun. We hope that guys 25 to 45 will come for our new Juntos programs. For any Latino guys 18 to 45 who have started wondering how to change some risky habits, our counseling program is confidential, non-judgmental and you only have to participate as much as you choose to.
While we're glad to have our two grants, we also welcome tax deductible donations.
We'll be announcing our grand opening of the newly expanded Latinos Salud in just a few weeks. I hope all of Latino Boys readers will come celebrate what the community has achieved already, and lead the charge into the future.
Latinos Salud, Inc.
2051 Wilton Drive, Suite B
Wilton Manors, FL 33305
(954) 533-8681 • LatinosSalud.org