Educating My Community, Preventing HIV

By Rob Banaszak on August 13, 2010 in Every Life Matters, Every Dollar Counts

Mary Lou Morenoby Mary Lou Moreno
Coordinator, Border AIDS Partnership, El Paso, TX
Member, National AIDS Fund Board of Trustees

I have been involved in working toward HIV/AIDS education and awareness for twenty years now, much of it focused on communities of color.  As a woman of color myself, I am honored to talk today about an initiative at the National AIDS Fund that is very close to my heart – “Every Life Matters, Every Dollar Counts.”   HIV/AIDS continues to disproportionately affect communities of color in the United States so the goal of this campaign is to raise money from and for communities of color so that they can support programs that fight HIV/AIDS in their respective communities.

The Border AIDS Partnership is one such program that will have the opportunity to benefit from this initiative. Funds given to the Border AIDS partnership are directed toward HIV/AIDS education and prevention activities in El Paso, Texas, Southern New Mexico, and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. The groups we grant funding to are involved in a plethora of activities. They go out to schools and speak to young people during their health education periods to educate them about HIV/AIDS. They have a great website to raise awareness – they adopt all kinds of innovative measure to reach the youth.

Some of these groups are comprised of women volunteers, who go out to outlying regions, right to the homes of women who can’t really get out for these kinds of things. It’s really making a difference – educating those women, testing them for HIV at home itself … I think when you don’t have that much money and you are working in one of the poorest regions in the country, then you are forced to work harder and to be innovative. I mean, look at these women. They essentially took the concept of an Avon sales lady going to her customers’ houses to sell products, and they tweaked this model to suit their requirement – that of fighting HIV/AIDS.

We have 10-11 grantee programs, all of which are doing excellent work. One that stands out in my mind is a youth group – TAB-CARES. “TAB” stands for teen advisory board. It’s part of the University Medical Center of El Paso. They’re doing such a great job. All these young people are reaching out to other youth to help prevent behaviors that put them at risk of HIV infection.

I have witnessed many young people dying from AIDS – I was there and I saw them go. The multiple organizations I have mentioned today are working tirelessly to reach more people, to educate them, to raise awareness, and to tell our youth that if they’re going to have sex outside of marriage, then it is imperative to practice safe sex. With the added help from the “Every Life Matters, Every Dollar Counts” campaign, I feel confident that we will be able to continue working together to achieve our ultimate goal – the elimination of HIV/AIDS.

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