It’s hard to believe that same sex marriage has only been legalized in the US since June of 2015. Surely this ruling is a major victory for the LGBTQ community but as I learned while talking to Antonio Elizondo, there is still a long way to go. Antonio is a Chicago-based LGBTQ nationally recognized advocate working in the HIV / AIDS prevention field, with a focus on youth programming. I sat down with him to learn more about this topic, his background and why his work matters.
Tony, 23, is a native of Chicago, currently living in the Southside. He was introduced to the non-profit world by working in Chicago-based Mujeres Latinas en Accion (MLA) or Latino Women in Action. MLA focuses on empowering Latinas and their families through various programs and resources including domestic violence and sexual assault counseling, small business support and legal resources, to name a few. After volunteering at MLA during his high school years, Tony went on to DePaul University where he fostered his interest and passion for the HIV / AIDS awareness and prevention field.
While attending DePaul, Tony became an active member of the school’s LGBTQ community. During this time he was also exposed to the area of HIV / AIDS prevention. Tony explained that he dated an HIV positive individual. Tony was initially taken aback by this fact but the responsibility this old boyfriend took for his own health and that of his partners compelled him to stay with him and learn more about the topic. Post dating, Tony decided to get HIV tested as he regularly did. He went to Project VIDA, an organization in Little Village, a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood in Chicago, where upon meeting the prevention manager was subsequently offered a job due to the fact that he had extensive knowledge on this complex topic. Thus began his advocacy work by coordinating a Latino MSM youth intervention group. His main responsibility was to educate young men on harm reduction skills to prevent contracting HIV/AIDS.
In the fall of 2014, after several rounds of auditions, Tony was selected to be part of a group of young gay/bi men to kick off Greater Than AIDS’ #SpeakOutHIV Campaign. Greater Than AIDS produces campaigns to increase the knowledge and understanding as well as confront the stigma around HIV/AIDS, while promoting action to stop its spread. The group was made up of 25 men who were younger than 25 and they came together in Washington, DC to encourage people to break the stigma around HIV. In an effort to raise awareness and promote an open discussion about HIV, the campaign challenged its ambassadors and the general public to open up and share their personal stories about HIV on social media. According to Tina Hoff, co-founder of Greater Than AIDS, “#SpeakOutHIV is about promoting a more open dialogue about HIV in all aspects of life, in relationships, with health care providers and within the community generally.” The four day workshop Tony was part emphasized digital storytelling and each of the 25 ambassadors created a personal and raw video about what HIV meant to them personally and what others should know. These 25 unfiltered videos launched the #SpeakOutHIV movement. This is Tony’s powerful video:
CDC’s DoingIt Campaign
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is the leading national public health institution in the US. The CDC spearheads various campaigns in the HIV/AIDS prevention field including DoingIt, which Tony is part of as one of the community volunteer models. As part of the CDC’s Act Against AIDS initiative, DoingIt promotes the regular testing for HIV in adults regardless of their sexual orientation.
Tony is passionate about working in non-profit agencies focusing on the LGBTQ community. In the past he’s been employed by the Center on Halsted, TPAN and he recently started a new job at Chicago-based Howard Brown Health Center (HBH), one of the nation’s largest LGBTQ organizations. HBH seeks to eliminate the disparities in health care experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people through research, education and the provision of services that promote health and wellness. Its service delivery system focuses on seven major programmatic divisions: primary medical care, behavioral health, research, HIV/STI prevention, youth services, elder services, and community initiatives. Tony’s role is to directly work on CDC programs at HBH and be the primary liaison for Partnership for Health (PfH) – Safer Sex program. He will be working on collaborations with clinical providers and community members to provide superb services to the community.
As if all of the aforementioned initiatives didn’t keep Tony busy enough, he also co-founded Vives Q, an innovative cultural public program for LGBTQ youth and adults to foster intergenerational dialogue through art, music, spoken word and oral history. Vives Q is a three month annual summer series sponsored by and held at Chicago’s National Museum of Mexican Art. Since its inception in 2013, the team behind the project has produced 9 Vives Q: First Tuesday’s events, interviewed 17 veteran movement leaders, featured over 25 performers and brought together hundreds LGBTQA youth and adults. To continue to carry out this work, Vives Q is seeking Ambassadors for its Sumer 2016 programming. Find out more information here.
Tony is excited by his new position at HBH. He finds the work challenging and rewarding. He is also looking forward for this summer’s Vives Q series with the first installment taking place on July 7th. He is eager to expand this project and bring new initiatives to community with his Vives Q colleagues! Tony is happy with the work he’s doing in the LGBTQ community but wishes to do more through national advocacy programming. He is also interested in becoming involved in the Trans* and UndocuQueer Movement, which is a term that combines undocumented immigration status with the word ‘queer’ to give individuals inhabiting these two worlds a voice.