A friend’s HIV diagnosis put Nestor Estrada on the path to AIDS activism, organizing
DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer
When Nestor Estrada’s friend began showing symptoms of pneumonia, Estrada knew his friend needed to be tested for HIV. As he got sicker, Estrada insisted that he be tested.
Estrada still gets emotional talking about it. He and his friend went together for HIV tests and his friend’s came back positive. That was the first person he knew with HIV.
The next step was to get his friend into treatment and within weeks, the friend’s health began to improve.
“Drugs and treatment are so important,” Estrada said.
Recently, Estrada’s husband, Cesar Aragon, was doing graphics for AIDS Interfaith Network’s upcoming Bloomin’ Ball fundraising gala.
So Estrada began volunteering for the event. He said he had plenty of time because he was between jobs.
AIN Event Coordinator Miranda Grant said first Estrada was in the office a few days a week. Then every day. Then all day every day.
But when Aragon told him, “You can’t be a socialite forever,” Estrada convinced AIN Executive Director Steven Pace to hire him.
“He basically was working there [already] and we just made it official,” Grant said.
AIN hired Estrada as a consultant and he is now working full-time on the10th annual Bloomin Ball, set for May 14. Then in November, the agency celebrates its 30th anniversary, and Estrada plans to make that event bigger and better than AIN’s annual fall event, The Great Gatsby Party.
In between, there’s Black Tie Dinner, and Estrada said he will be spending a lot of time convincing the community to support the services AIN offers. “If we grow financially, we can reach more clients and touch more lives,” he said.
AIN Executive Director Steven Pace said Estrada’s brought a fresh new energy to Bloomin’ Ball. “His passion and interest as a younger person is refreshing to see,” he said, adding that he is happy to see younger people who didn’t see the height of the AIDS crisis taking an interest in HIV services and prevention.
Estrada “works very hard and brings many new resources and donors to the table,” Pace added.
Over the years, the Howie Daire Center has been among the AIN programs hardest hit by financial cuts. Grant said that the clientele for the center, which offers respite care for people with HIV, has changed to serve an older population. Between 40 and 60 people use the center each day.
The agency also provides translation services for everything from diagnoses and treatment to documents needed for everyday living. “Linguistic services not only serves our clients, but agencies throughout the system,” Pace said.
AIN provides transportation services, each year giving clients 140,000 DART passes that allow them to get to doctor’s appointments, pick up medications and go shopping for food. The agency serves people in 13 counties in North Texas with emphasis on Ellis, Navarro and Henderson counties specifically.
In those areas, clients share van rides to come to Dallas for appointments and then spend hours between appointments at the Daire Center. Once all of the appointments are done, they’re given a van ride home.
AIN provide 26,000 meals for clients each year as well, not including meals arranged by volunteers for the agency’s Saturday Night Live weekend meal program.
Grant said groups of friends, offices, churches and other organizations get together to provide dinner for the Saturday Night Live program, held from 2:30-5:30 p.m. at the AIN office. Groups can bring in food themselves or, with about a month’s notice, arrange with Panera Bread or Jason’s Deli to have the meal catered at no cost to the group.
She said the fun part is mixing and mingling and enjoying the meal with the clients once they’ve all been served.
One of Estrada’s goals this summer is to get people to come tour AIN’s new office. They moved a year ago to a complex on Stemmons Freeway, between Inwood Road and Medical Center Drive.
“I want people to have a better understanding of what this small agency is doing,” Estrada said.
AIN may be small, but its reach throughout North Texas is enormous as it makes sure clients can access the services others offer.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 6, 2016.