RCD receives Elton John grant

Money targeted at reaching Latino community is believed to be the first grant from the foundation to a Dallas organization

Ruben-Ramirez

STEPPING UP PREVENTION EFFORTS | Community Health Programs Manager Ruben Ramirez will target the Latino community for HIV prevention funded by the Elton John AIDS Foundation. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

The Elton John AIDS Foundation has given Resource Center Dallas a $38,000 grant to be used in targeting HIV prevention efforts within the gay Latino community.
Community Health Programs Manager Ruben Ramirez said this week that the money will allow RCD to expand its outreach and testing program to a population that has seen a dramatic rise in infections.

“The grant will be used to expand the activities we do now and give it more visibility, and then to provide a social support group on a monthly basis,” Ramirez said.

When the organization had city funding, the center provided more testing and social support to the Latino community than is currently available, Ramirez said. The increased programming begins next month.

The Elton John AIDS Foundation generally funds innovative programs that are already successful in reducing the spread of HIV. So rather than create something new, Ramirez said the center will use the money to enhance the outreach that’s already working.

In other target groups, RCD has followed up testing with support groups and social networking that has reinforced the safer-sex and prevention message.

Ramirez said that within the Latino community, he has heard quite a bit of misinformation.

“We’re still seeing the old myths from way back when about how people get HIV,” Ramirez said, adding that he had recently spoken to someone who thought he could get HIV from sipping from the same glass as someone who was positive.

“I was astounded,” he said.

Ramirez said that although information is readily available, language and immigration barriers stand in the way of some people learning about HIV.

“And some folks just bypass the sea of information of HIV information that is out there,” he added.

In addition, those with information don’t necessarily access testing. Ramirez said RCD will collaborate with area bars to provide testing as well as with other groups.

“We’ve worked very well with AIDS Interfaith Network in the past, and the gay LULAC group,” he said.

Ramirez said plans for implementing the grant, which appears to be the first the Elton John AIDS Foundation has made to a Dallas organization and is the largest the foundation has given to an agency in Texas, are still under way.

In 2010, EJAF gave OutYouth Austin $25,000 for its HIV prevention program that included testing that targets those ages 14 to 20.
Metropolitan Community Church of Abilene received $25,000 in 2008 for its drug intervention program for people who are HIV-positive.

EJAF was established in 1992 by the singer and is based in London. John’s husband, David Furnish, is chairman of the foundation.

EJAF supports programs that aim to reduce the incidence of HIV as well as end the discrimination and stigma associated with the disease. Other grants fund direct care for people living with HIV.

Ramirez said that RCD was particularly honored to receive this grant because it was competing with other organizations around the world to get the funds.
The EJAF has raised more than $225 million and funded projects in 55 countries since its founding.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 23, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Same-sex rape reported in Oak Lawn during Pride — and a prevention message from DPD

No sooner had a Dallas police spokesman sent over some requested info about a same-sex rape in Oak Lawn over the weekend, than we noticed the above video from DPD about sexual assault prevention. And wouldn’t you know it, the major risk factors described in the video appear to have been very much at work in this weekend’s case. According to the video, alcohol is the No. 1 factor in sex assaults, and in 60 percent of cases the suspect is known to the victim. The video also says that one out of every 33 males in the U.S. will be a victim of sexual assault.

The rape occurred at about 5:30 p.m. on Sunday — the day of gay Pride — in the 4000 block of Fairmont Street, and it involved the suspect penetrating the victim’s anus, according to police reports. Here’s DPD Sr. Cpl’s Kevin Janse’s description:

The victim, a Latino male, was invited over to the suspect’s house and they began drinking. They are friends and have known each other for about a month. A knife was pulled and victim was sexually assaulted. Suspect was arrested down the street. Jimmy Ford, a 23-year-old black male, is charged with aggravated sexual assault.

Here are a few tips from DPD for preventing sexual assault, which has been on the rise in Dallas this year:

• Be aware of your surroundings; know where you are, who you are with, and what you are doing.

• When consuming alcohol at clubs, bars, or restaurants, watch your drink; don’t leave it unattended, even for a few seconds.

• Don’t accept a drink handed to you by a stranger or anyone you have just met.

• If you feel you have been drugged, call 911 immediately.

• Trust your instincts. If something about the situation or the person just does not feel right, it probably is not. Get out of the situation as soon as possible.

—  John Wright

HIV testing planned around Dallas on Saturday

AIDS Arms Inc. and Dallas County Health and Human Services have scheduled HIV testing at various locations around Dallas County on Saturday, Sept. 18, which has been declared National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day.

According to county HHS Director Zachary Thompson, the 50-and-older population is one group that’s contracting HIV at higher rates than the general population.

Rubin Ramirez of Resource Center Dallas said he thinks people in this age group have become immune to the HIV prevention message because of treatments that are now available.

For more on some new Dallas County HIV/AIDS initiatives, see Friday’s Dallas Voice.

Testing times and locations are below:

—  David Taffet