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Dec 5, 2017
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BRONX NEWS: AIDS AWARENESS: Latino LGBT community’s ‘oasis’ center


Like in the African-American community, HIV remains an ongoing crisis among young gay Latino men in the United States despite the successes in treatment and medication.


Even as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a decrease in overall cases among Hispanics/Latinos from 2008 to 2013, there was a 28% increase in HIV infection rates between 2010 and 2014 among Latino youth and men having sex with men (or MSM) ages 13 to 24. That’s 1,488 HIV diagnoses in 2010 and 1,898 HIV diagnoses in 2014.


The Latino Commission on AIDS estimates that every 54 minutes, a Latino MSM in the U.S. is diagnosed with HIV. In response to this dire situation, the commission has established the Oasis Wellness Center in  Manhattan as a top priority.


Leandro Rodriguez, Oasis’ director of programs, describes the center, at 330 Seventh Ave. in Manhattan, as “an open space, a safe space,” where young Latino men who have sex with men will feel secure and safe to come and learn, discuss and share experiences of HIV prevention among peers.


Oasis takes a holistic approach to remedying an enduring health crisis. “It’s been designed as a space that addresses HIV, the Hepatitis C virus and provides STD screening and testing,” said Rodriguez.


Other services include leadership development and empowerment, community mobilization, linkage and navigation to care. The latter includes a specific program called P4 that introduces clients to PrEP (preexposure prophylaxis), an HIV prevention strategy utilizing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved medication Truvada.


Under the program, HIV-negative people take Truvada, an oral pill, once a day before coming into contact with HIV to reduce their risk of HIV infection. PrEP must be adhered to for least 7 days to reach optimal levels of protection against HIV.


In addition to PrEP, Oasis offers PEP, or postexposure prophylaxis. Complementing PrEP, PEP is an HIV prevention strategy in which HIV-negative people take anti-HIV medications after coming into contact with HIV to reduce their risk of infection. PEP must be started within 72 hours after HIV exposure.


Yet there’s more than that. Rodriguez pointed to two of Oasis’ premier programs in Construyendo Tu Yo Ideal (constructing one’s ideal self) and The Positive Life Workshop.

Construyendo is a homegrown intervention in the form of a three-day retreat that focuses on boosting self-esteem and reducing internalized homophobia and transphobia. More than 250 clients have benefited from the retreat so far.


The Positive Life workshop, meanwhile, is a self-management workshop designed for people newly diagnosed with HIV, those who have a fallen out of care and/or those who are HIV positive and who want to learn more about self-management and the virus.


According to the Latino Commission on AIDS, the CTYI and the Positive Life programs make Oasis unique among other wellness centers in New York.


“Oasis is also one of the few spaces that gather gay and bi-men, as well as transgender women within one intervention,” notes Guillermo Chacón, the commission’s president. “This has been very powerful as it creates strong bridges among these two communities and provides a space for support and understanding.”


He added that the commission is proud that it has created an open space of healing, wellness and empowerment that not many other can offer.

In its first full year of operation, Oasis has served up to 3,000 young clients. All the services are free and not restricted to New Yorkers. Funding is provided by the federal, state and city sources, as well as the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program.


For more information call (917) 438-0698 or visit: www.latinoaids.org/programs/oasis

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AIDS AWARENESS: Latino LGBT community’s ‘oasis’ center

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