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    ¡Viva AGUILAS!

    By Eduardo Morales, PhD

    AGUILAS is the second oldest Latino LGBT organization in the U.S. It was founded in 1991 in the city and county of San Francisco. The Austin Latina Latino Lesbian and Gay Organization (ALLGO), located in Austin, Texas, since 1985, is the oldest existing Latino LGBT organization in the U.S. AGUILAS, which means “eagles” in Spanish, is an acronym for Asociación Gay Unida Impactando Latinos/Latinas A Superarse (Association of United Gays Impacting Latinos/Latinas towards Self-Empowerment). Currently, AGUILAS is a non-profit organization with services that include providing HIV prevention services in English and Spanish. These services are funded by the San Francisco AIDS Office to Latino gay/bisexual men, and feature interactive discussion groups, individual counseling, and, in partnership with Magnet, HIV testing.

    Our success can be attributed to the fact that we provide a safe environment, specifically designed to address issues related to Latino culture, being gay and bisexual, and sexuality. AGUILAS encourages the involvement of the community by incorporating a team of highly skilled, professional and peer consultants who facilitate our groups. AGUILAS additionally has members who assist in health promotion activities through our Promotores de Salud Program, and who volunteer in a variety of activities. AGUILAS staff members participate in regional and national conferences on Latino/Latina LGBT issues and publish articles in academic peer reviewed journals.

    As noted in its mission statement, AGUILAS “strives to foster knowledge and pride of the diversity of our language, culture, history and spirituality. AGUILAS is committed to developing programs that promote health, well-being and community building that foster positive self-identities, healthy relationships and leadership skills.” Through funding from the Levi Strauss Foundation from 2011 to 2013, AGUILAS developed La Academia de AGUILAS providing leadership, advocacy, and social media certificate programs in partnership with Alliant International University. In 1991, AGUILAS helped to organize the first California statewide Health and HIV Conference funded by the U.S. Office of Minority Health. AGUILAS is planning another California statewide Latino LGBT gathering in SF for September 21, 2013, at the SF LGBT Center. We hope to gather many throughout the state to join together in developing collaborations and learning how to best strengthen our ties and networks.

    There are many other programs targeted for Latinos gays and bisexuals on HIV. AGUILAS, however, is the only organization in California that is for and by Latino LGBTs providing the services noted. Many Latino/a LGBT organizations have come and gone over the decades and have contributed significantly to the LGBT community. AGUILAS joins with many of our regional partners for the SF Pride Parade in the last Sunday of June by coming together in a collaborative marching unit in celebration. That day is a reminder of the Stonewall Bar historic riots in NYC, where primarily African American and Latino drag queens stood their ground and pushed back the police who were harassing them in Greenwich Village. Since then, cities throughout the world celebrate at parades held on that eventful day.

    AGUILAS encourages networking and interactions through our Facebook pages that include “Llama Net,” focusing on advocacy efforts and policy issues, and “AGUILAS El Ambiente,” which offers information sharing and social networking. More information is available through the website www.sfaguilas.org. AGUILAS is located at the SF LGBT Center, 1800 Market Street, Suite Q32 in San Francisco (415-558-8403).

    Eduardo Morales, PhD, is the executive director and one of the founders of AGUILAS. He is also a distinguished professor at the California School of Professional Psychology – SF of Alliant International University.