Empowering & Assisting Homeless LGBTQ+ Youth in Texas

April 10 is National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. This is a day to educate the public about the impact of HIV and AIDS on young people. The day also highlights the HIV prevention, treatment, and care campaigns of young people in the U.S.

Here in Texas, several organizations work to support a particularly vulnerable population: homeless LBGTQ youth. One of these organizations is Thrive Youth Center, Inc. in San Antonio. Thrive was established as a 501(c)(3) in February of 2015, and their mission is to “provide a safe, effective, and supportive center for homeless LGBTQ youth, so they may become productive, skilled, educated, and successful adults with the ability, opportunity, and possibility of achieving their dreams.” Thrive’s emergency shelter, which is located on Haven for Hope’s campus, opened in 2015, and currently there are 10 beds for LGBTQ young adults ages 18-24. In addition to clients onsite in the shelter, Thrive received a federal grant in 2017 that allowed them to house 20 young adults in their own apartments with rental assistance for up to one year. Through its street outreach program, Thrive strives to get young adults off the streets and into shelter, either at Thrive or through another program.

Services provided by Thrive include:

  • Case management
  • Education services
  • Empowerment resources
  • Mental health services
  • Life skills
  • Medical care
  • Legal services
  • Aftercare support for residents after leaving Thrive

Thrive is one of only a handful LGBTQ-specific programs serving homeless youth in Texas. Others include the Dune LGBT Foundation in Dallas. Dune’s programs offer emergency housing resources, rapid rehousing programs, housing programs offer an expected stay of up to 6 months. Tony’s Place in Houston also works to empower homeless LGBTQ+ youth and helps them “survive on a day-to-day basis by providing services to meet their immediate, basic needs.”

While not a shelter, Out Youth, based in Austin, provides much needed services and care to LGBTQ youth. Out Youth has compiled several resources guides, which can be found here

Reflecting on the “NOTHING ABOUT US WITHOUT US IS FOR US” Webinar on National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

March 10th is National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, and we here at Achieving Together Texas would like to honor that day by reflecting on a recent webinar hosted by the Black Women’s Affinity Group of the Texas HIV Syndicate. Black women represent 10% of people living with HIV in Texas and represented 8% of all new HIV diagnoses in 2018 in Texas. The CDC provides an informative fact sheet as well about women living with HIV in the United States.

Since Black women are one of the five vulnerable populations disproportionately affected by HIV in Texas, the Black Women’s Affinity Group and the Texas Black Women’s Health Initiative work to address health issues affecting Black women in Texas. The affinity group recently kicked off a webinar series entitled, DYK (Did You Know?). As part of the series, they hosted a webinar on February 8th addressing medical mistrust in the Black community, medical research for HIV/Covid19 involving Black women, and how to identify “good” research. The webinar included a panel of experts who each presented on different topics. Presenters included:

  • Mandy Hill, DrPH, MPH, Director of Population Health and Associate Professor, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston’s McGovern Medical School & Delta Sigma Theta
  • Teriya Richmond, MD, Chief Medical Officer, AIDS Foundation Houston
  • Shanterra McBride, Alpha Kappa Alpha
  • Jennifer Jones, Zeta Phi Beta
  • Camille White, MD, Sigma Gamma Rho
  • Karen Shores, community advocate

The webinar included a mixture of presentations, interactive polls, and open discussions and prompted some great questions and responses from attendees. One organizer, Sattie Nyachwaya, a Community Engagement Coordinator with Prism Health North Texas, shared her thoughts on the webinar afterwards:

“Being a part of this webinar was a huge honor for me. Being in the space with some powerful Black women involved in this work for many years continues to inspire and motivate me in my long term personal and professional development. One of the things I took from this webinar was empowerment behind medical research. I was never aware that Black women are needed to be a part of medical research, and that we take back the power and break barriers by being active in our own health. I believe that mental health is a part of the foundation of Black women’s health, and by having open conversations with our providers and asking questions we make sure we are at the table with conversations of change. I learned that mistrust lives among misinformation, and it is so important in my own health to empower myself to ask and speak up.”

As part of the work of Achieving Together, the Black Women’s Affinity Group works to empower their community through social justice, education, and advocacy, while working towards the goal of eliminating health disparities and HIV in Black women and all Texans.

You can watch the entire webinar below:

Achieving Together Honors Human Rights Day

The United Nations (UN) declared December 10 to be Human Rights Day to honor the day in 1948 when the body adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The UN declared the theme of this year’s Human Rights Day to be “Recover Better – Stand Up for Human Rights.” They developed this theme in light of “the COVID-19 pandemic and…the need to build back better by ensuring Human Rights are central to recovery efforts.”

The UN states in this year’s theme that, “We will reach our common global goals only if we are able to create equal opportunities for all, address the failures exposed and exploited by COVID-19, and apply human rights standards to tackle entrenched, systematic, and intergenerational inequalities, exclusion and discrimination.”

The UN Recover Better campaign states that:

Human Rights must be at the centre of the post COVID-19 world.

The COVID-19 crisis has been fuelled by deepening poverty, rising inequalities, structural and entrenched discrimination and other gaps in human rights protection. Only measures to close these gaps and advance human rights can ensure we fully recover and build back a world that is better, more resilient, just, and sustainable.

    • End discrimination of any kind: Structural discrimination and racism have fuelled the COVID-19 crisis. Equality and non-discrimination are core requirements for a post-COVID world.
    • Address inequalities: To recover from the crisis, we must also address the inequality pandemic. For that, we need to promote and protect economic, social, and cultural rights. We need a new social contract for a new era.
    • Encourage participation and solidarity: We are all in this together. From individuals to governments, from civil society and grass-roots communities to the private sector, everyone has a role in building a post-COVID world that is better for present and future generations. We need to ensure the voices of the most affected and vulnerable inform the recovery efforts.
    • Promote sustainable development: We need sustainable development for people and planet. Human rights, the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement are the cornerstone of a recovery that leaves no one behind.

In a commentary appearing on the Journal of the American Medical Association website entitled, Racism, Not Race, Drives Inequity Across the COVID-19 Continuum, the authors noted that “significant racial and ethnic inequities have persisted across the continuum of COVID-19 morbidity, hospitalization, and mortality,” and “that fundamental causes of COVID-19 inequity include systemically racist policies, such as historic racial segregation and their inextricable downstream effects on the differential quality and distribution of housing, transportation, economic opportunity, education, food, air quality, health care, and beyond.” Similarly, we know that in Texas Black and Latinx peoplemade up approximately 75% of new HIV diagnoses in 2018 and that in order to reach the goals of the Achieving Together Plan, we must address these systemic barriers to equitable health outcomes.


(Image courtesy of amfAR)

Aligning with the 2020 Human Rights Day theme, the guiding principles of the Achieving Together Plan encourage us to follow the principles of social justice, equity, integration, empowerment, advocacy, and community to combat the HIV epidemic in Texas. It is only through acknowledging and honoring the humanity in each of us and addressing systemic racism and inequities while promoting human rights for all that we can truly end the HIV Epidemic in Texas and beyond.

Learn more about Human Rights Day here.

Achieving Together Honors World AIDS Day

UNAIDS declared the theme of this year’s World AIDS Day (December 1) to be “Global solidarity, shared responsibility,” and we at Achieving Together Texas couldn’t agree more with the theme. With the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic this year, people living with HIV have faced a number of physical, emotional, psychological challenges. Many people in the HIV community have lost loved ones to COVID-19 this year – and much like HIV – the pandemic has only further exacerbated and shone a light on the inequities that exist in our current systems.

The guiding principles of the Achieving Together Plan implore us to use equity as a lens through which we advance our work and commit ourselves to the principles of social justice, equity, integration, empowerment, advocacy, and community. These guiding principles echo the UNAIDS theme of “Global solidarity, shared responsibility.”

We’d like to share a few excerpts from this year’s UNAIDS World AIDS Day website:

In 2020, the world’s attention has been focused by the COVID-19 pandemic on health and how pandemics affect lives and livelihoods. COVID-19 is showing once again how health is interlinked with other critical issues, such as reducing inequality, human rights, gender equality, social protection and economic growth. With this in mind, this year the theme of World AIDS Day is “Global solidarity, shared responsibility.”

Global solidarity and shared responsibility requires us to view global health responses, including the AIDS response, in a new way. It requires the world to come together to ensure that:

  • Health is fully financed. Governments must come together and find new ways to ensure that health care is fully funded. No one country can do it alone. Domestic and international funding for health must be increased.
  • Health systems are strengthened. Investments in the AIDS response in the past few decades have helped to strengthen health systems and have been supporting the COVID-19 response. But more needs to be done to further strengthen health systems and protect health-care workers.
  • Access is ensured. Life-saving medicines, vaccines and diagnostics must be considered as public goods. There must be global solidarity and shared responsibility to ensure that no individual, community or country is left behind in accessing life-saving health commodities.
  • Human rights are respected. A human rights approach applied everywhere will produce sustainable results for health. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the fault lines in society and how key populations have been left behind in many parts of the world.
  • The rights of women and girls, and gender equality, are at the centre. The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly affected women’s livelihoods, which have been disproportionally affected by lockdown measures, and lockdowns have resulted in an increase of violence against women in household settings. Women must be included in decision-making processes that affect their lives. The world cannot afford rollbacks in decades of hard-won gains in gender equality.

Now is the moment for bold leadership for equal societies, the right to health for all and a robust and equitable global recovery. This World AIDS Day join us in calling on countries to step up their efforts to achieve healthier societies. This World AIDS Day let us demand global solidarity and shared responsibility.”

Read more here.

Black Trans Empowerment Week

November 13-20 is Black Trans Empowerment Week, a week-long celebration of Black trans life.  The theme this year, “When We Rise” focuses on rising up as a community as well as on a celebration of life.

In recognition of the week, we are reflecting on our recent conversation with Jayla Sylvester. In this webinar, Jayla discusses challenges faced by transgender people of color when accessing HIV prevention and care services.

Jayla explains transgender basics and expands on this information with personal narratives to illustrate how changing services and approaches can affirm and support transgender individuals. The presentation also highlights issues that need to be addressed to provide better services transgender individuals.

What can organizations do to better serve transgender individuals? Jayla emphasizes the need for a holistic approach. Holistic health encompasses mental, physical and spiritual health. This means that not only that services are available to a community, but the community is empowered to seek those services. By caring for the heart and soul of an individual, we’re also caring for the heart and soul of a community.

To explore a variety of resources to support transgender individuals in Texas, visit the Texas Transgender Alliance Resource Guide.