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José: Mucho Orgullo

Soy nombre gay, Latino, positivo y mucho orgullo. I’m proud being a queer Latino man. I feel like I should represent who I am and my community, who I work for.”

Transcript for José: Mucho Orgullo video

The Story

José Ramirez knows firsthand how stigma can fuel HIV. When he told his family he was gay, they did not take the news well, his mother simply said, "Don't end up with HIV." Other family members told him he was committing a sin. Traumatized, José tried to commit suicide, and afterwards spent time in an institution and various group homes. He later engaged in sex work and had an affair with an older man, whom he later learned had full-blown AIDS.

After he received his HIV diagnosis, José became a youth HIV educator. "I knew other young people just like me that were working the streets. I didn't want what this to happen to them."

HRSA’s Response

Since the 1990s, HIV infections have risen steadily among Hispanics, particularly among Latino men, accounting for three-quarters of all new HIV infections among Hispanics in 2006. Of these newly infected Latino men, approximately 75 percent were men who have sex with men (MSM), nearly one-half of whom were age 30 and under.1 Engaging young MSM (YMSM) in HIV care, however, has proven challenging, due to barriers associated with language, poverty, and migration patterns, and the disease's close association with homosexuality, which is considered the hallmark of failed masculinity in much of the Latino culture. To help overcome these challenges, HRSA has funded a Special Projects of National Significance initiative focused on YMSM of color and numerous programs geared towards delivering culturally competent care within the Latino community.

At La Clinica Del Pueblo, which receives funding from Ryan White Parts A and B, Ramirez heads up the Youth Empowerment Program, MPoderate!, which provides HIV/AIDS prevention education and care to young people, particularly Latino YMSM. Young people are encouraged to discuss their sexuality, what it means to have a healthy relationship, and the challenges they face in negotiating safe sex practices and condom use. The program operates from a separate location from the clinic, and offers those who come in a safe space. As Jose explains, "If someone feels comfortable with themselves, they're going to want to take care of themselves."