5 questions with Alex Ortega
Alex Ortega is the lead outreach testing coordinator at the Resource Center of Dallas. He counsels and tests at-risk individuals on a daily basis and is the founder of Fuse, a project that brings young gay and bi men together socially.
What do you do for the Resource Center of Dallas?
I am the lead outreach testing coordinator. That includes counseling people on topics of safe sex and relationships. Testing people for HIV and syphilis is also part of my job. I see an average of two or three clients a day. I counsel each client on ways to prevent contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Then clients have the opportunity for me to actually test them for syphilis and HIV. Each session can take up to an hour because many people have questions. I consider myself a "community friend" and I never talk down to people. I’m no authority figure. I’m just another gay guy, helping gay guys.
What is a typical question that a client asks?
I think the main thing that I get is, is that people don’t understand why they do the things they do. Some people don’t understand why they engage in unsafe sex. I help them find those reasons. Sometimes it’s emotionally rooted. People think that I am going to lecture them or just pass out condoms and tell them what to do in bed. It’s not that way at all. I am here for each client and that they need as individuals.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
The interaction with people. I really like talking with individuals and having the chance to help them with a problem. It’s really informal. I don’t lecture. It is just a conversation with two people. I love that I get to be myself in this position.
You said you started started the project ‘Fuse.’ What does it do?
Fuse provides social opportunities for gay men to build communities and personal relationships. I started Fuse is because we noticed that there was big gap in the youth group that didn’t help young gay and bi men. We started this group to meet this need that wasn’t being met. It’s relatively easy to get people together, because there is always a desire for this type of social interaction and networking.
When did you start with the Resource Center?
I started in December of 2000. I was actually part of the center’s 10% Youth program. I joined when I was 17 and stayed until I was 20. Then I immediately started working here. I liked the way the center takes initiative and engages the community interested. They really paid attention to at-risk young people, especially minorities. I wanted to be a part of that, and now I am.
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