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Legacy’s AmistadesHTX: Fostering Connections, Reducing HIV Stigma in the Latinx Community

Empowering Latinx Men Through Dialogue

Images provided by Legacy

“Amistades” means friendships in Spanish, and friendships and connections are at the heart of AmistadesHTX, a grant-funded program by Legacy Community Health focused on connecting with Latinx men to engage them in HIV care, testing, prevention, and community building.

“Back in 2020 when the country shut down during Covid-19, my job role changed as outreach and testing was put on hold,” recalls Miguel Jacquez, a veteran in public health specializing in HIV. He has worked with Legacy Community Health for 13 years, currently as a health navigation specialist.

Now a grant-funded program of Legacy Community Health, AmistadesHTX has a permanent home just upstairs from Legacy’s Gulfton Dashwood Family Medicine and Infectious Disease Clinics.

“I had an opportunity to implement an online program,” Jacquez says, reflecting on the lockdown. “After speaking with a few people and revisiting an old notebook with past ideas, I brought to life AmistadesHTX. ‘Amistades,’ of course, means friendships. The idea behind Amistades was to uplift and empower men in the Latino community to engage in conversations about HIV to reduce stigma. This also gave me the chance to address other social determinants of health that can influence sexual health risks, such as mental health, substance use, intimate partner violence, and other topics.”

The initiatives created for these conversations are “Café con leche,” a closed status-neutral social discussion group and “Como Soy/As I Am,” a visual campaign that includes a photo session and a personal reflection on an experience where stigma played a role and how that experience has made the individual more resilient. With the person’s permission, these visual campaigns are shared on social media to stimulate community discussions.

“Sometimes in our community, we avoid discussing certain topics because they are seen as taboo, or we are afraid of being judged because someone else might think differently,” Jacquez notes. “The purpose of reducing stigma is to open a line of communication and understanding, as well as connecting people to better healthcare. Our environments play a big role in stigma, from the way we are raised, our beliefs and value systems, to the friends we have and how we present ourselves.”

“Since the beginning of AmistadesHTX, there have been 87 Como Soy Visual Campaigns (12 of those so far for 2023), and for Café con leche there have been 26 social discussion groups in 2023 to date with 142 participants, including anonymous members,” says Jacquez. “Then there’s our social media reach (Facebook, Instagram). I don’t have the actual stats for 2023 yet, but for 2022, AmistadesHTX had 225,000 social media likes, comments, and shares.

I’ve also been engaged in community networking and building bonds with people who then talk to others in their network of friends. They typically send me referrals that result in other health services, such as HIV testing and treatment, mental health, and PrEP for HIV prevention appointments.”

“AmistadesHTX has helped me gain confidence in sharing my story in a positive way without fear of what others may think, especially regarding HIV stigma in the Latino community,” says Servando Arellano-Torres.

Daniel Chavez concurs, adding, “AmistadesHTX has helped me open up about becoming more knowledgeable on the topics of HIV and PrEP. It’s something I’ve had to learn more about, and there’s still so much more for me to understand.”

To learn more about AmistadesHTX by Legacy, RSVP at legacycommunityhealth.org/AmistadesHTX for the open house and three-year anniversary celebration on Friday, August 25, from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m at 5420 Dashwood Drive, Suite 201.

 

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