Latinos Salud has won a $1.3 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to immediately initiate new HIV prevention programs that will serve Broward County's gay and bisexual Latino communities.According to the CDC's newest HIV Surveillance Report, Broward County ranks first in the nation in its rate of news AIDS diagnoses, and second in the nation in its rate of new HIV infections.
Latinos Salud's Executive Director, Stephen Fallon, told this newspaper, "Broward County is Ground Zero in our nation's HIV epidemic. For the health of our communities, we need prevention programs that are delivered by professionals who understand the culture and values of their gay Latino peers. Latinos Salud will launch two new HIV prevention programs to meet this need." All of Latinos Salud's staff members are Latino, except for Fallon, who speaks conversational Spanish.
Within Broward County, Latinos experienced the highest increase in new HIV infections of any racial or ethnic group, with a 185% jump in reported cases over the past six years, almost all of which were among gay and bisexual Latino males.
Rafaelé Narváez, Latinos Salud's Director of Health Programs, told this newspaper, "Our 'Somos' program has proven that the young, gay Latino community wants to support one another, if they are given the tools they need. The 'Somos' program has distributed thousands of condoms, and held dozens of safer sex workshops. Clients have also built community spirit through shared activities like the Stonewall Street Parade, PrideFest, drag contests, outdoor sports, and group meetings to discuss the ups and downs of dating in South Florida. The new, CDC-supported programs will allow us to serve a larger cross section of the community, from age 18 to 45."
Fallon described the new efforts: "One of our new programs will recruit leaders from peer groups to start a dialogue that can ultimately change community attitudes about HIV and safer sex. The other new program will provide intensive one-on-one counseling to clients who are having difficulty curbing ongoing risky behaviors, such as unprotected sex with partners of unknown HIV status."
CDC will fund the agency $1.3M between now and 2015 to implement these programs, and report outcomes back.
Fallon added, "We are excited that the CDC chose our agency to carry out these vitally-needed services. For the past six years, no Broward-based agency had won CDC funding. Latinos Salud is the youngest of South Florida agency selected for funding."
Dr. Fallon and Mr. Narváez founded Latinos Salud in 2008 to address an urgent gap in local prevention services specifically targeting Broward's Latino gay communities.
The agency currently operates an HIV prevention program called "Somos" (which means "We Are!") for gay Latinos, age 30 and younger. Funded by the Florida Department of Health, the Somos program offers a safe space for community members to find peer support, and education about reducing risks of HIV infection and other sexually transmitted diseases.
The group currently has 300 members.
Dr. Fallon had previously directed HIV prevention programs at two Broward agencies from 1995 to 2004. Over the past decade, through his consultancy Skills4, he has also trained HIV prevention, service and care staff at agencies and health departments in 40 states. He is co-author of several reports that track the HIV epidemic amongst gay and bisexual males, and author of articles about HIV prevention and treatment best practices.
Beginning in 2001, Mr. Narváez first staffed and then managed HIV prevention programs at two Broward agencies, before he and Dr. Fallon founded Latinos Salud in June 2008.
Stephen Fallon, PhD
(954) 817-7297 cell