PWACU forms Hispanic support group

A new chance for the Hispanic community to learn how to prevent HIV and also to socialize has started in Salt Lake City.

“Ambiente Latino originally started as a group for HIV-positive people and now helps to prevent HIV,” said Jose Carillo, one of the creators of the program.

He said many Hispanic people don’t know where to go or what to do when they are diagnosed with HIV.  Most feel left out because they find themselves in a difficult situation, in a foreign country and in a different culture.

“I’m not saying that the information available in English is bad,” Carillo said. “Because of the culture, though, Hispanics need a new approach — something that they could relate to. That is why Ambiente Latino was created.”

“There are a few programs for HIV-positive people, but we are the only one that teaches how to prevent, take care of themselves if diagnosed and also socialize,” said Toni Johnson, executive director of the People with AIDS Coalition of Utah and avid contributor to this new program.

Johnson said she could see that there was a need for a program for Spanish speakers.

“Something needed to be done to break that cultural issue and get to more people,” Johnson said. “Now, I even started to speak Spanish,” she said.

Ambiente Latino is not only a gay support group but is open to everyone who speaks Spanish; no matter what nationality, and no matter their sexual orientation.

“That’s what makes the program so unique,” said Carillo.

Education and information are key elements of the group, even though it is largely a social one. They also discuss health issues, create bonds of friendship and celebrate the Hispanic culture as well as work for the greater Salt Lake area at the gatherings.

“Coming to the meetings, socializing and, most importantly, using the information are why these guys should come to gatherings,” said Enrique Mantilla another creator to the program. “We will also help to educate not only within the group but the community.”

For more information about the group and gathering contact PWACU at pwacu.org or 801-484-2205.

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