Latinos are the largest and fastest-growing ethnic group in the United
States. We also are one of the groups most heavily impacted by HIV.
According to CDC, we account for 21% of
all new HIV infections in the United States. Gay and bisexual men bear
the greatest burden of HIV infection in our communities. In some major
cities, studies found that nearly 1 in 5 Latino gay and bisexual men are
infected with HIV.
So on this day, we are celebrating a few unsung varones who are working everyday to end stigma in our communities. We also send our deepest gratitude to all of you who are having conversations about HIV and working everyday to eliminate stigma and
reinforce this beautiful truth: WE ARE THE CURE!
MARCO BENJAMIN foto by: Jesus Rodriguez of LuzAzulStudios
“Today is World AIDS day. I firmly believe in my life time we will see an HIV free generation and always remember that together and only together we will win the war on HIV/AIDS.” Marco does not just speak this beautiful talk but he walks this warrior walk.
A nationally renowned speaker and advocate, Marco works with Latino communities all the over country to develop cultural relative HIV prevention and treatment programs. Diagnosed in 2008, he immediately called his mother and said “Mami, I’m going to ruin your day.” She reacted by saying, “I thought you were going to tell me you were in jail. ‘Mi'jo, you are not the first and you are not going to be the last (to have HIV), Then she made sure I went off to the doctor to see about treatment.“ She also does her part in educating the community. Marco’s approach to HIV prevention and advocacy is a reminder that the fight to end HIV stigma requires love and familia.
Marco currently works with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey.
RICARDO “RICKY” MELENDEZ
Ricardo is what North Philly Legends are made of. In the 90s, he was
one of the very few Latinos dominating the ballroom scene in
Philadelphia. He used that notoriety to create spaces for LGBT Latinos
by organizing LGBT events in the heart of North Philly. "Not everyone
wanted or could go to the gayborhood. So I wanted to create events in
our neighborhood.” He would go on to create the now legendary Travesuda
“I tested positive on this day 20 years ago. I remember feeling scared and alone. It was a trans Latina friend of mine who held me together. Now it is my mission in life to do that for other varones who have just been diagnosed. Our stories and existence alone ends HIV stigma. We have power chyle!”
On Friday, December 4th, Ricky will be hosting an event commemorating World AIDS Day. Click here for more info.
Adrian aka Ayden is a twenty-three year old HIV and AIDS advocate/activist from Texas, Rio Grande Valley who utilizes social media to deconstruct stigma and engage with as many people as possible.
At twenty one, Castellanos’ path was redirected as he was diagnosed with AIDS, while he spent two weeks in a hospital room, he decided to “make his mess his message”. Since being diagnosed on March 26, 2014 he has gone on to receive a Youth Initiative Scholarship to attend USCA in OCT. 2014, acquire a position with the Valley AIDS Council (the only HIV/AIDS Agency in his area) JAN. 2015, receive a separate scholarship to attend AIDSWatch in APR. 2015 and receive a Social Media Fellows Scholarship to USCA 2015. Adrian now spends his time doing free HIV screenings at two universities in his area and for the community with his agency. He also participates in outreach and education efforts to raise awareness within his community.
“AIDS is still a very real thing. I want you to remember that. Queer
Latinx people often pass away withing the first year of diagnoses
because we waited too long before getting tested. Because homphobia
won’t allow us to talk about our sex. Because transphobia makes us
targets of systemic and interpersonal violence. Because racism puts us
at a level of disadvantage that prevents us from seeking medical
Read his inspiring World AIDS Day article here.
Jorian Alexi Veintidos
At just 23, Jorian Alexi Veintidos has already begun creating a huge shift in the way that HIV is seen and talked about in Latino communities in Philadelphia. He recently shared his story with Gran Varones and it became our most shared and viewed profile. He courage to speak openly about living with HIV has opened the much needed conversation among varones. “By sharing my story as a young person living and thriving with HIV, I want to be a model of positivity that while my journey was has not been easy journey it also has not been impossible.”
Jorian was recently selected by Advocates for Youth after a national search to be a Youth Ambassador for National Youth AIDS Awareness Day.
Anthony moved to Philadelphia in 2013 and immediately began working and mentoring Latino and Black gay and trans* youth. For two years he served as coordinator of Mazzoni Center’s #A1PHA Project, one of Philadelphia’s only prevention project that intentionally and culturally works with young Latino gay men.
Anthony is also the co-creator of the Gran Varones Project and has leveraged that role to unapologetically advocate varones who continue to be marginalized by racism, poverty, homophobia and HIV Stigma. “Because Gran Varones, people disclose to me and reach out for support in navigating care and treatment services.”
Anthony is one the most sex and body positive people we know. approach to ending stigma is essential as we all deserve to feel sexy, fuck, get fucked, make love and have a healthy sex life regardless of our HIV status and body size.
Anthony is currently Youth Education Manager at Mazzoni Center where in addition to overseeing the #A1PHA Project, he manages their Ally Safe Schools Project.
RICHARD “RICHIE” LABOY
Richie has worked for various non-profit organizations since 2002. He has worked deeply with the Ballroom Community in Philadelphia on many social and sexual health issues including; homelessness, HIV/AIDS awareness, mental health treatment, substance abuse rehabilitation, fighting poverty and HIV stigma. He is legendary on both and off of the runway!
“I grew up in the Ballroom community. It was my family and I watched as HIV took many of them away from me. It fuels my passion. I owe it to my community to make sure that they are reached – with dignity and affirmation.”
Deemed legendary in 2009, Richard continues to be make in the impact in the ballroom scene as part of the House of Miyake-Mugler. He is also working as a Clinical Research Assistant at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia where he works on a research project to determine if a culturally-tailored health promotion intervention will reduce health risk behaviors of young men who have sex with men within the Ballroom community in Philadelphia.