DSHS takes over funding from CDC for peer-to-peer education program

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer

United Black Ellument, a social and support group for African-American men, has changed from an independent program to a program of Resource Center Dallas and will now be funded by the Texas Department of State Heath Services. U-BE’s staff became employees of RCD on May 1.

U-BE works to reduce HIV infection among young gay and bisexual African-American men through peer-to-peer education, program officials said.

The program, created by Dr. Susan Kegeles of the University of California, San Francisco in 2009, was previously funded by the Centers for Disease Control.

The CDC was unable to continue funding beyond two years and UCSF looked for alternative sources of support but was unable to find any.

When DSHS stepped in and agreed to fund the program, the Texas agency looked for partners they have worked with successfully in the past to administer it and chose to partner with RCD.

RCD will maintain the program’s current space on Commerce Street in Deep Ellum.

Program director Ruben Ramirez said the office will remain open Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.

“We’re providing a safe space to socialize,” Ramirez said. “To talk in a judgment-free zone.”

He said many of the men who attend have no other place to go and meet people like them.

The program includes a social component with everything from bowling or crawfish boils to an evening of coffee and conversation, he said. But it also includes a prevention and skill-building component.

“We teach how to use a condom and do it properly,” Ramirez said. “How to negotiate safer-sex conversations with partners.”

Through separate funding to Kegeles, the Center for AIDS Prevention Studies in San Francisco will continue evaluating U-BE and its impact on the community and providing technical assistance and training to the staff.

“We welcome the opportunity to continue the outreach and prevention efforts established by U-BE,” said RCD Executive Director Cece Cox. “This opportunity leverages the Center’s expertise in HIV prevention and outreach, still serving men who have sex with men as well as impacting a demographic that has been disproportionately impacted by HIV — the African-American community.”

3116 Commerce St., Suite C. More information and calendar at UBeDallas.org.