RADAR is a group that offers free HIV testing and counseling in Santa Ana. What made you decide to work there?
Both my sister and my dad passed away within a year of each other from leukemia and lymphoma. That gave me a different perspective. I wanted to get involved in my community. I’m a Latino gay man, and the biggest thing that is affecting our community is HIV.
How do you try to educate people?
I often work with OMG, Orange County Men’s Gay Group, to host events. We had a really fun roller-skate night that we kicked off OC Pride with this year.
Why do you think rates of HIV are still so high in Santa Ana?
Some of the reasons could be the stigma surrounding HIV, especially with certain cultural backgrounds, and the fear of knowing their status. In L.A. you see billboards for safe sex everywhere. In Orange County, it’s more hush-hush.
How do you help someone process news that they are HIV-positive?
If they get their test back positive, they were already living with HIV. Now that they know their status, we can address those issues and can get them linked to care.
Did you feel pressure after being named Mr. Gay Pride by Orange County Imperial Court and OC Pride?
There was a time in my life when I didn’t always have pride. I came out when I was 21. There is more pressure now to help people. I want everyone to have pride.