José Ramón García-Madrid is part of the Gay Men of Color Fellowship program in NMAC’s Treatment division. Here is his story:
“My work in HIV started around 2014 when I was introduced to David Perez and Francisco Dueñas, two gay Latinos who led efforts to build a nationwide network of LGBTQ Latinx organizers and advocates. Their efforts materialized in Union Equals Fuerza: The Latinx Institute at Creating Change, which is a central hub where queer Latinx leaders meet every year to trade knowledge and skills. I co-led programming for the Institute for four years and was able to meet countless Latinxs with personal and professional experience in the HIV community.
In 2018 I was invited to join a working group of gay Latinos collaborating with the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law on addressing the rise of HIV transmissions observed particularly in our community; this is truly when my personal focus on HIV advocacy was born. This opportunity introduced me to Moises Agosto, who in turn introduced me to NMAC.
I grew up undocumented in Phoenix, Arizona. While my family has always loved me unconditionally, my parents did not have the knowledge they needed to talk to me about my sexual health including HIV. So I learned about this thing called “HIV” through the chat lines and online hookup sites I hoped to find connections on. These secret spaces were not always places of education and often produced shame and fear about HIV, attitudes I internalized as a teenager. In many ways, my involvement in NMAC’s GMOC Fellowship is about interrupting the cycle of shame and fear many young gay men of color are introduced to. We’re a group of gay men working diligently to reorient the conversation toward science, facts, and love.”