Local Study Finds LGBT and HIV Acceptance on the Rise in Philly’s Latino Community

GALAEI staff learned a lesson of their own while putting together their latest initiative, Positivo.

GALAEI Director Elicia Gonzales (center) and the Positivo team. Photo courtesy of Al Dîa's Gabriela Barrantes.

By now, you’ve probably heard of Positivo. GALAEI’s latest campaign kicked off on Sept. 8 with hot pink flyers and a launch party at Fifth and Lehigh. But what you may not know is that the initiative looks a little different than it was supposed to. 

GALAEI Executive Director Elicia Gonzales says that when the project was being developed earlier this summer, the intention was to reduce stigma around homosexuality and HIV in the Latino community. But that all changed when she and a troop of organizers hit North Philly to conduct  a man-on-the-street survey of 100 Latino locals. The results surprised them. “What we found,” Gonzales says,” is that the community is more accepting than we thought. People are putting out there this notion that the Latino community is homophobic, and we’re just not finding that to be true.”

She says that most people interviewed said they feel comfortable around gay people, and that while people are still having fears around HIV, they’re not fearful of the person who’s HIV positive. So they flipped the script and decided to conduct a new kind of campaign, one that “shows the strength, resiliency and courage of gay and HIV-positive Latinos,” and highlights the fact that they live in a community that embraces them a lot more than everyone thought.

To do that, Positivo is releasing five inspiring stories told by everyday people from now until National Latino HIV Awareness Day on Oct. 12. So far we’ve heard from three people, including a young person who writes that, “I am positive that knowing my status makes me beautiful” and a woman who says that, “I am positive that caring for my family means knowing my status.” These quotes will be emblazoned on photos of the authors and distributed on flyers throughout North Philly. There is also a heavy social-media component, which Gonzales says anyone can be part of. Check out GALAEI’s Facebook page for information on how to submit your proclamation that you are gay and/or HIV-positive and proud of it.

When the campaign wraps up, Gonzales says she hopes that GALAEI is able to spread its signature, unapologetically sex-positive message to as broad a community as possible, and that they can provide more of an incentive for Latino people to not only get tested but to embrace the idea of disclosing their HIV status to their friends and family.

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