By JP Emerson
San Diego VIDA is a non-profit organization dedicated to resolving the HIV crisis within the Latinx community, where social stigma, poverty, and lack of resources continue to contribute to higher rates of HIV infection. They are committed to promoting health and HIV education while destigmatizing social barriers and provide various resources such as the “It’s Up to Us” campaign, scholarship programs, and an annual “Bowl for Life” fundraiser. VIDA’s vision is to be a key catalyst in the reduction and elimination of HIV among the Latinx youth community ages 13-24.
We sat down with Founder and CEO Esteban Duarte to talk about the 10-year Anniversary celebration coming up October 15th.
Introduce yourself and tell us how what VIDA is about:
Esteban M. Duarte, CEO & Executive Director of VIDA. At VIDA, we place value on the lives of all young Latinxs. Our goal is to foster education for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). By that, we mean how to protect you and your partner from infection of HIV, or how to live a long and happy life if you have HIV. It makes no difference to us on which side of HIV you are. Your life is worth living to its full extent. Nearly everyone in the United States and abroad knows someone with HIV. It’s nearly impossible to not know someone who is living or impacted by HIV. It can be a friend, a family member or even someone with whom you are romantically or sexually involved.
We are here to educate, support, and celebrate life.
What is the drive behind VIDA?
VIDA is dedicated to resolving the HIV crisis within the Latinx community, where social stigma, poverty, language barriers, education, and access to care, deter testing and increase the infection rate. VIDA realizes its mission by promoting health and HIV education, building partnerships with community organizations and leaders, advocacy and awareness to mobilize an effective community response to meet challenges and eradicate health disparities in our communities.
Mi Jente; Mi VIDA.
How has it grown in the past 10 years?
Thanks to the Orasure’s HIV Self Collect Test Kit, VIDA has taken off. We service Riverside County, Orange County, and our home, San Diego and every organization that invites us. To date, we have distributed over 1,100 tests into our communities.
Besides our HIV Self Collect Test Kit program, we added the Feeding the Homeless program. This Christmas, we will have fed 1,100 homeless. The first year we fed 100, then 200, then 300, and last Christmas 500. As a formerly homeless person, I know what it’s like to live off the streets and be discarded by society. So, I started the Feeding the Homeless project. I am so grateful for all the organizations that have come together to make this project a success. Thank you to GG, Karla, Cheli, Kelly, my family, Ruben, Mady, Ivy, Matt, my board, and so many more. I am truly surrounded by so many beautiful people.
But that wasn’t enough for VIDA. We started the LGBTQ Latinx Scholarship program. To date, we have awarded $11,000 in scholarships to LGBTQ Latinxs. Students can apply from either Tijuana, BC, Mexico or San Diego, CA. VIDA believes in building bridges, not walls. Scholarships are awarded to those individuals who are creating positive changes in our community, in our world.
But that’s still not enough for VIDA, the 4th pillar will be announced on Sunday, October 15th at VIDA’s 10 Year, National Latinx AIDS Awareness Day and Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration.
Any interesting anecdotes that come to mind or heart felt stories?
The smiles of the homeless when we give them a bag of health and beauty and food product melt my heart. You can feel their gratitude. There was one time, I cut my finger, and I couldn’t stop the bleeding. A homeless lady reached into her bag and placed sanitizer on my cut. THAT BURNS. And then wrapped in tissue; like a mother would. I gave her a big hug… Smiles and gratitude, that’s all I can ask for.
How has HIV awareness and prevention changed in the past 10 years?
Since the FDA approved the Orasure’s HIV Self Collect Test Kit, we have been able to get people tested faster and into medical services for the prevention or treatment of HIV (we follow the status neutral continuum of care). The HIV Self Collect Test Kit has allowed people to empower themselves to take the test in the privacy of their choice. There is no more waiting for an appointment to see the doctor. VIDA offers these tests every Wednesday between 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm at Urban MO’s. We create a safe space where we can discuss and answer all your questions free of stigmas, discrimination, and racism.
How can people get involved with VIDA?
This year, our biggest community event will be feeding 500 homeless this Christmas. If you would like to get involved, sign up for our newsletter on our website https://vida.community/ or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are also celebrating Day of the Dead, National Hispanic Heritage Month, and NLAAD.
For more information and how one can get involved are the following:
Social media sites:
Website / Newsletter (sign-up):