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Damien Center’s H.O.L.A. program improves healthcare for Latinos, breaks barriers

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A group of young Latinos wants to slow the spread of HIV and improve access to healthcare for fellow Latinos in Marion County.

“Our mission is to empower the Latino community, ” Viviana Quiñones, the program’s manager, said. “To take care of their health.”

They’re a part of the Damien Center’s new H.O.L.A. program that focuses on providing resources to Spanish-speaking Hoosiers to help reduce new HIV infections in Marion County. The program’s name stands for HIV, outreach, Latinx and Hispanic advocacy.

It’s a five-year program funded by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Damien Center will receive $2,208,125 over five years.

The program is formed by an all-bilingual staff and it was created to prevent, reduce, and treat HIV diagnoses among the Latinx population.

“We have an epidemic, and it’s true,” Quiñones said. “And we need to focus and make the best we can.”

They also provide free condoms, PrEP pills to prevent HIV infection, support for people dealing with domestic violence and much more.

“It is the idea of one-stop shop where not only you get tested, but you also get the medical service that you need and we also have a pharmacy,” Quiñones said.

The group will go to different community events with a mobile unit. They’ll also bring the mobile unit to the Mexican Consulate twice a month. Additionally, they’re working with the Mexican Consulate to let the community know about their services, which include free testing and increasing awareness about the risk of HIV infection.

“Just make sure everybody knows that we are here for them, their friends, their families, their loved ones,” care navigator for the H.O.L.A. program Andrea Rivera said.

They say that having another Latino provide these kinds of services helps break down barriers.

“We know better than anyone else what are we scared about and why are we not getting tested,” Quiñones said. “We want to battle stigma amongst our community and just take care of your health.”