Latinos Salud is once again hosting a fund-raising gala — this time to mark its 11th year in operation as a unique South Florida health care organization.
The Feb. 8 event will feature performer Carmen Carrera as the emcee.
Carrera, who identifies as a Latina transgender women, is known as a strong voice for AIDS advocacy. She gained popularity as a contestant on the third season of TV reality show “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
This is the second year Latinos Salud has hosted a fund-raising gala.
“If you weren’t able to attend last year, get ready for the eye-popping venue, the high-energy performers, the passionate speakers and the dancing,” executive director Stephen Fallon said.
Fallon said there will be a surprise guest from the America’s Got Talent TV show, three surprise awards and “some testimonials that will raise hearts up.”
The night will also feature local Latino musicians and performers, an open bar and an awards dinner.
In a nutshell, Latinos Salud provides its clients (Latino gay, bisexual or otherwise identified men who have sex with men, all persons living with HIV, and all persons who identify as transgender) with free, culturally competent health education, prevention services, screening and links to other groups with the goal to “reduce the burden of communicable diseases and improve health outcomes.”
Fallon said the organization gained another year of important insight in 2019.
“South Florida is either going to make huge steps towards decreasing HIV rates, or stay stuck as the region with the highest new HIV rates and third-highest AIDS rates in the nation,” he said.
Fallon said that gay and transgender persons of color are at the highest risk, both of acquiring HIV, and of suffering poor health outcomes when living with HIV.
But he said there is reason for optimism, too.
“Government health partners and community-based agencies are planning new programs together in a more unified effort than we’ve seen in decades. We have opportunities, yet also remaining challenges.”
Fallon said the challenges stem from dealing with red tape and bureaucracy.
“We know that treatment keeps people healthy, but our patchwork insurance system makes it hard for many to stay in care. We know that PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis medication) works, yet it’s not being offered, or [is] not affordable to many who would benefit most,” he said.
In addition, Fallon said, ongoing stigmas surrounding HIV/AIDS still often divides the community and has an effect on those who might seek care.
“Too often, local Latino and other minority gay men do not know how to access care, fear they cannot afford care, or even postpone testing until their health has degraded significantly,” Fallon said. “HIV hides in the shadows of rumors and fears.”
Fallon said Latinos Salud is launching some major new initiatives this year, which will be shared at the gala.
“The most important thing we’ll share, though, is an amazing evening of fun and spirit with the entire community,” he said.
The event takes place from 7 to 11 p.m. at the Design Center of the Americas in Dania Beach. The DCOTA is located at 1855 Griffin Road. A 6 p.m. cocktail hour takes place for those purchasing VIP tickets.
Fallon said it’s important to get tickets in advance so there’s no wait at the door.
You can also call 954-765-6239, ext. 207 and leave your name, number of tickets and contact information for a return confirmation.
“You’ll get your barcode a few days before the event, so you can scan in and be right on your way to the festivities,” Fallon said.
Tickets are $175 with a VIP option for $225.
“Community members can take pride in knowing that their gala entry ticket helps close the holes in our budget so that we can continue to serve all people with compassion and consistency,” Fallon said.
Latinos Salud has walk-in services in three Broward and Miami-Dade locations.
More information is at LatinosSalud.org.