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:

Sex Ed 2021: Pandemic Edition. Promoting Safe(r) Sex During COVID-19

“I have a confession: I’ve had sex since social distancing began. With someone I met on Tinder, someone I don’t live with. And I know friends doing the same. 

With the pandemic still a major concern across the United States, people having sex or even just wanting to have sex may feel shame — even more shame than usual in this Puritanical wasteland. We’ve been told to abstain from pleasure and release at a time where we need it most.”

This is the opening to Anna Iovine’s article “The practical guide to mid-pandemic sex, because abstinence isn’t cutting it.”    While the safest approach is to abstain from sex with partners outside of you household, this doesn’t work for many people.  Like early messages about HIV prevention, abstinence may be the ideal but we’ve learned that for most people, negotiating safety when it comes to sex is the most practical strategy.  Sexual harm reduction approaches have long been a staple in the HIV world, but now those approaches are expanding to help guide people during the COVID crisis.

Achieving Together is excited to partner with Kind Clinic to share their strategies and approaches to supporting communities during this time of uncertainty, particularly around sexual health and wellness. Kind Clinic’s approach to education is non-judgmental, sex positive, and playful in order to develop educational but relatable messaging. We’re excited to share their efforts to help inform and shape other work across the state in supporting communities.

From Kind Clinic:

Safer sex practices have been and always will be vital to the community’s sexual health, but having responsible, safe sex is even more important now during the worldwide coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 has introduced new challenges to sexual health education and outreach. At Texas Health Action’s Kind Clinic, we are educating the community on how to reduce the risk of contracting HIV, STIs and COVID-19, while STILL enjoying a healthy sex life. The most effective tools for us have been colorful, fun, and easy to read graphics. Our “Safer Sex During COVID-19” infographic is a great example.

Additionally, Kind Clinic has actively used traditional media such as the Austin Chronicle to highlight and share information on negotiating sexual health during the pandemic.  Holly Bullion, a nurse practitioner and director of clinical quality at the clinic, has taken opportunities to share information when possible.  In the Austin Chronicle article Kissing Is Out, Glory Holes Are In for Students During Pandemic, Bullion continues the practice of sharing critical information in a relatable and non-judgmental fashion as can be seen in the excerpt below.

(Holly Bullion, Kind Clinic; photo courtesy of Austin Chronicle)

Holly Bullion, nurse practitioner and director of clinical quality with Texas Health Action, the parent organization of Kind Clinic, says during the pandemic sexual “playtime” should be focused below the waist. COVID is transmitted through respiratory droplets, so kissing and sexual activities that involve the mouth come with increased risk of viral spread.

“It’s really best to keep your mouth out of any kind of in-person sex play,” explained Bullion. “Or really diligently use barrier methods like dental dams or external or internal condoms.”


She emphasized there are many places for people to get tested and treated for STIs without feeling stigmatized. People should not avoid getting tested for fear of judgment for having sex during the pandemic.

“For many of us, sex is a really important outlet,” said Bullion. “Being sex positive and empowering yourself and knowing what your resources are, I think is the most important thing.”

To complete their messaging, the clinic has created and shared numerous fun social media posts that reflect their emphasis on harm reduction and safety.  We are sharing several to highlight the frank and honest approach.

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.

REPRODUCTIVE JUSTICE: A CONVERSATION WITH MARSHA JONES

The CDC reports that African American and other Black women continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV. In addition, Black people living with HIV continue to face inequalities in HIV care.

The Black Women’s Affinity Group, in collaboration with Achieving Together, is comprised of community members working to address disproportionate transmission rates, addressing health disparities for Black women, and increasing access to care. The focus of the Black Women’s Affinity Group is to address gaps in connecting with clients, providers, and community through culturally responsive and affirming messaging, provide culturally affirming and empowering self-care, and to ensure Black women are included as decision-makers in regard to prevention and care programming from a planning, financing, and implementation standpoint.  

The Black Women’s Affinity group is excited to have Marsha Jones, Executive Director and Co-Founder of The Afiya Center, as the group’s inaugural speaker for Achieving Together.  Marsha is a nationally known women-focused supporter of gender and racial equity who works to eliminate health disparities for Black women.  On November 16, 2020, at 11:00am Central, Marsha will be speaking on Reproductive Justice and the Intersection of HIV. 

Will you join us? Please register for the webinar here.