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.

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.

El Paso traffic deaths are on the rise in 2011

EL PASO – The young woman was found lifeless, inside her Pontiac Solstice, submerged in the Franklin canal under 10 feet of icy, cold water. According to police, Corina Bejarano, 21, was driving at high speed on Saturday October 23, 2010 at approximately 1:30 a.m. with her headlights off, when she missed a curb, drove off the Cesar Chavez Highway and flew over two embankments of railroad tracks into the canal. She remained under water for more than four hours before police pulled her out. Bejarano’s death is just one of thousands of fatalities that happen every year in Texas. According to the Texas Peace Officers Crash Report (click here to download the report), 2,793 traffic accident deaths were reported in Texas in 2009.