1. How did you get started working in the HIV/AIDS community?
After high school my mentor came out to me and his other favorite students that he is gay and HIV+. He told me that he could see me working in a field where I could help a lot of people like me. I wasn’t sure what he meant until some friends of mine in a club I used to go to invited me to volunteer for an HIV/AIDS organization. That’s when I learned, this could be the field my mentor saw me working in. So I volunteered and I loved it. An employment position opened at the organization, I applied, and I got it. Through work experience I learned this is the field I’m supposed to be in.
2. Tell us about your position at Shared Action & Shared Action HD.
My position here as a CBA Specialist has allowed me to use all my knowledge and skills that I’ve gained in my years working in this field. My background includes outreach, counseling, program coordination and quite a few public speaking events. I’ve also worked with people of color and with trans women. Now, a lot of the trainings I do are to help front line stuff do better in their jobs and that’s where I started, a front line staff. It’s fun that we talk about a lot of things that are not typical workplace topics; sex, drugs and alcohol. So when I tell people about my job title and description I usually end with “It’s never the same thing twice.” And they get jealous.
3. What is your vision for CBA?
CBA can keep the HIV/AIDS field from being stagnant. When I started out a while back, I thought that getting 100 completed paper surveys from people in Los Angeles county who are at risk of HIV infection was great. And because of CBA, which I didn’t understand was CBA at the time, I learned what else to do with those surveys and how the data can support our programs. Workers in this field are expected to come in with a certain level of knowledge and experience. But realistically, some things you will need extra help on because they weren’t taught in school.
4. Tell us about a particular experience or case you’ve worked on that stood out to you. What made it stand out?
In one of the trainings I conducted, the topic of transgender and HIV came up. One participant was confident in saying that the population should be served by those who specialize in trans issues. Another participant said that the problem is with regions where there’s no trans service specialists, like with this person’s organization, where they serve primarily migrant farm workers. Someone responded that there’s really no connection between migrant farm workers and trans people. This stood out for me because I was one of those workers who didn’t know these connections. Years ago, I didn’t know much about the risk taking behaviors of migrant farm workers nor their interactions with trans sex workers who “follow-the-crops”. This is how we came up with looking at the intersections of trans people with other high risk groups. We look at how trans people can be provided important and relevant non-gender specific services, like HIV testing or access to food banks, with limited to no funding.