Ryan White Voices
José: Mucho Orgullo
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."