Members of the M Factor distribute condoms at Cincinnati district. (Michelle Blanks/

Group fights stigma and discrimination to promote HIV education and prevention

EL PASO – Five young adults wearing Mardi Gras masks and beads handed out baggies containing condoms and lubrication to persons in a crowd celebrating to the heavy syncopated beat of dance and electronica music on an icy-cold downtown street. Members of The M Factor a local program, part of the national MPowerment Organization, went from bar to bar on Stanton Street where a large number of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) venues are located. The baggies they passed out held two packages of lubrication, six to eight condoms, and one business card. Their goal is to teach HIV prevention and education and Mardi Gras was an opportunity to reach out to the LGBT community. “For the HIV testing program, we provide free rapid HIV testing, blood testing, free syphilis testing to the public, and free anonymous or confidential counseling services for them,” said Irene Ovalle, a public health supervisor in the Department of Public Health for the city of El Paso who oversees The M Factor and the HIV testing outreach programs.

“This program creates a social setting and gets men out of bars, sex clubs and risky situations and into more social settings where they can meet other men and talk and have conversations,” said David Peralta-Torres, The M Factor’s HIV Education and Prevention Specialist.

Dr. Eva Moya from the University of Texas at El Paso. (Diego Davila/

Tuberculosis wanes in the US but remains a threat in Mexico

EL PASO – Tuberculosis has for a long time been a serious but waning disease in the United States with less severe complications in the large majority of cases, while people in other countries suffer greatly and die from a lack of sanitation, medical resources and information about this illness. Even though this lethal infection is on the decline in the United States, it is still latent in more than one third of the world’s population. Mexico is one of the many other countries affected to a much greater degree. According to Professor Eva Moya, Ph.D., from the University of Texas at El Paso, although most people infected in the United States will recover from primary TB without further evidence of the disease, there are still deaths related to this disease. In 2011 there were more than 500 cases that resulted in deaths in he U.S. Unfortunately the number is much higher in Mexico where on average a Mexican man or woman dies from tuberculosis every six hours.

Banner promoting this year's walk. (Vanessa Juarez/

The border culture makes fighting HIV more difficult

EL PASO — Jorge “Sasha” Garcia sat in a sterile, impersonal doctor’s office in the summer of 1995 and watched the clock tick away as he waited for the results of his HIV test. He had sought treatment two weeks earlier for an unrelated infection and decided to submit to the HIV test on the advice of his doctor. “This was back in the day before we had the 20-minute test, which allows you to find out right away. So, I waited two weeks and of course those two weeks were grueling,” Garcia said. Finally, the doctor strode into the office with Garcia’s results.

Zumba instructors and UTEP mascot, Paydirt Pete, entice people into healthy exercising. (Cassandra Morrill/

Health care information finds a new venue at the local zoo

EL PASO – A different species of animal invaded the El Paso Zoo recently as some 20 community health agencies gathered there with the wildlife to focus the need human beings have for healthy living habits. The El Paso Zoo and the Woman’s Health Initiative (WHI) program at the University of Texas at El Paso came together on Saturday the 26th of February to broadcast a message about diabetes, HIV, and ways to improve health in a fun way. The zoo was filled with UTEP students in bright orange school colors and members of the community. “You can have fun and be healthy at the same time,” Arely Hernandez, member of the WHI, said. She added these types of events allow UTEP students to get their family and friends involved as well.

Primero de diciembre, Día Mundial del SIDA. (©

Una década de vida sufriendo con VIH/SIDA – Tiempos de pánico y de fe en Dios

EL PASO – Atrapado en la confusión de un suceso que parecía no tener salida, una víctima del VIH/SIDA que gozaba de una vida plena se refugió en la Fe de Dios para salir adelante. “Para mí esto empezó en el 2000, empecé a sentirme débil”, dijo en anonimato el hombre de 51 años que vestía una chamarra oscura. “Me quedaba dormido, en ese entonces yo me atendía en Juárez, y un doctor de allá me dijo que probablemente yo tenía (VIH)”. Para él este camino no fue fácil, aún con temor de que la prueba saliera positiva fue a enfrentar la realidad y salir de dudas ese día que para él fue de luto. “El día negro para mí, en ese momento yo lo tomé como una prueba de Dios,” dijo este hombre apesadumbrado.

"Machos enmascarados" are putting their wives' health in risk. (Christian Guerrero/

“Machos enmascarados” can infect their own wives with HIV/AIDS

EL PASO – The number of Latina housewives infected with HIV is increasing in El Paso and the perpetrators are “machos enmascarados,” usually their own husbands. “I had never seen the increase in that type of vulnerable heterosexual family-oriented woman, as I am seeing it now,” said Jorge Salazar, health services administrator of the Centro de Salud Familiar La Fe. “La Fe is focusing on the very difficult topic of educating and empowering our women.”

Women are finding out to their dismay that their prince charming is experimenting with his sexuality in what is called MSM (men having sex with men), contracting HIV/AIDS and passing it on to them, according to Salazar. December 1 is World AIDS Day, and Salazar said that he hopes that a new awareness of this new face of HIV in the Latino community will erase the image of what a person with HIV/AIDS may look like and start affected people on a journey of hope, peace and help. Women in El Paso are becoming more vulnerable to this situation and the numbers have been rising.