San Diego Latinos SOL After Local HIV/AIDS Center Closes

After 10 years providing thousands of LGBT Latinos with HIV/AIDS services, Edge San Diego has reported that the San Diego branch of the Los Angeles-based nonprofit Bienestar (Spanish for “well-being”) has shut its doors due to financial strain. The state slashed AIDS funding two years ago, the branch did not receive its expected grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and now the nearest Bienestar to San Diego resides 100 miles away in Long Beach. Great.

Though they hope to find additional funding to reopen, Bienestar’s director of programs and public affairs Victor Martinez said that any organization doing their work in the meanwhile will have to spend a long time re-gaining the public trust. “It’s not enough to be able to speak the language,” Martinez said. “They also have to understand the culture, so it will be a process and it will take time for this community that we’ve developed to feel comfortable with other organizations.”

Martinez added that 70 percent of Latinos with HIV develop AIDS within 12 months of infection, and about 40 percent of those don’t find out they’re HIV positive until they already have AIDS, making it important to identify HIV in Latino communities early.