Post submitted by Francisco Cortes

Francisco Cortes is an HIV 360° 2017 cohort Alumnus.  Since completing the program, Francisco was promoted to Interim Executive Director of Galaei, an HIV service organization in Philadelphia.

As we observe National HIV Testing Day, I want to acknowledge the importance of organizations like Galaei and others that do intentional HIV work in Latinx communities. For nearly 30 years, Galaei, formally known as the Gay and Lesbian AIDS Education Initiative, has provided effective HIV prevention and treatment to the Latinx community of Philadelphia. With new challenges facing the community, Galaei is evolving HIV prevention strategies to meet the community where they are in an affirming and efficient manner.

Galaei provides accessible services to a predominantly Puerto Rican community. Increasing our presence at weekend outreach efforts as well as expanding our office hours are making services more accessible to the surrounding community. Because of competent information and our partnerships with accessible PrEP providers, Galaei is also providing the most PrEP referrals in our designated network in the city.

Through a generous contribution from HRC, Galaei was able to pilot Project YEAH -- an innovative new HIV prevention project for queer and trans Black and Latinx youth. Project YEAH (Youth Education and Arts Advocacy on HIV) is a cohort-based initiative driven by interactive, educational workshops focusing on HIV prevention and arts advocacy. The effort seeks to combat growing HIV rates among queer and trans youth of color in Philadelphia by providing participants with the information they need to make well-informed decisions about their sexual health. It also uses art to help youth combat some of the cultural factors that contribute to HIV stigma, including homophobia, transphobia and racism.

Through my work I have both the privilege and the responsibility to make sure that every day Galaei is working to end HIV through new, innovative, accessible and effective initiatives and projects. In the last several years, I have been provided many leadership development opportunities -- including HRC Foundation’s HIV 360° Fellowship Program -- that have help me build a foundation that has led to my current role as Interim Executive Director of Galaei.

The HIV 360° Program has allowed me to grow professionally and personally. I am confident that I will continue to grow and work to provide effective services that will decrease HIV in the queer Latinx community of Philadelphia.

For more information on HRC Foundation’s work to end HIV and HIV-related stigma, click here.

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