Pyxis Pride: Perspective from Yuri Velasquez
As PRIDE month concludes, the parties, colorful parades, and celebrations, I can’t help to think about another global issue that brought us together as a queer community more than 40yrs ago - the AIDS epidemic. This should not be, in any way, a bleak subject but a reminder to the LGBTQ+ community, and the rest of the world, that HIV/AIDS is still as real as ever and we should not deter from our fight to end the epidemic and its associated health disparities.
As a gay Latino living AND thriving with HIV for the past 20 years, my choice of profession is more than a calling, it’s personal and real. My passion for health equity began at the turn of the century when I was still in high school and was required to do my community service project for graduation. I could’ve chosen to take the easy road and work at a park or library. Instead, I knew that my time would be better spent learning and doing something meaningful at a local community-based organization. And so, my diagnosis was the catalyst in my commitment to close the gaps in access to HIV prevention, care, and treatment within communities of color and sexual & gender minority groups.
By working in the field of HIV prevention and treatment, my job has been to advocate for unbiased, fair, and equal access to preventive care and immediate treatment post diagnosis within a healthcare system that is sometimes designed to be reactive rather than proactive. For this reason, choosing to join Pyxis Partners was an easy decision. Our mission is “to work as true partners with organizations to advance policies and programs that result in positive change and improved health outcomes.” Our strength and passion come from the voices and experiences of those who have been underrepresented and marginalized in healthcare, including my own and many of my colleagues, who I can now call my friends. Collectively, Pyxis lives up to its overall vision to create an equitable, accessible, and affordable health system for ALL people.
Over the last 15+ years of community engagement, health education, and advocacy, I’ve learned to lend my voice to communities and individuals that are either afraid to speak up, lack the ability to advocate for themselves or don’t know which platform to use to be seen and heard. By participating in local, regional, and national HIV prevention campaigns, I’m sharing my story of perseverance and encouraging others to join me in making lots of noise and become visible as a success story for living a positive life, no pun intended. This is as good a time as ever to plug in the importance of getting tested for HIV. First observed on June 27, 1995, National HIV Testing Day (NHTD) is a day to encourage people to get tested for HIV, know their status, and get linked to care and treatment.
When reflecting on what PRIDE means to you, don’t forget about the struggles our community has overcome throughout history: religious and political persecution for who we are attracted to or choose to love, the Stonewall riots, G.R.I.D., Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell, Marriage Equality, Trans Rights, etc. All these, and so many more are the reason why we celebrate PRIDE… to live a happy and normal life, surrounded by people, affectionately called Allies, that accept us for who we are and acknowledge our struggles and support LGBTQ+ rights, which are human rights.