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Positive Organizing Project Trains a New Generation of HIV Advocates

More than 30 years after Legacy mobilized resources to battle the AIDS epidemic of the 80s, we’re training a new generation of leaders to advocate for accessible health care and medications, and end to stigma, and the decriminalization of HIV.

Positive Organizing Project, or POP+, began three years ago to empower people living with HIV (PLHIV) to change the lives of others. “We wanted to share what we wished we knew when we were first diagnosed,” says POP+ coordinator Venita Ray. “This training was developed by PLHIV who know first-hand the challenges of a positive diagnosis.”

POP+ Panelists
POP+ training includes a panel session with well-known Houston HIV activists. Pictured left to right are Dena Gray Hughes, Amber David, Bruce Turner, Cecilia Smith Ross, Gerry Cantu, and Steven Vargas

A grant from AIDS United kicked off the the first POP+ Class in 2014. For many participants, it was the first time to be among others who truly understood their day-to-day lives.

“They’re learning they’re not alone.  We share the Denver Principles with them so they understand they’re part of a long tradition going back thirty years of folks fighting to make a difference for people living with HIV,” says POP+ advisor and Ryan White Planning Council Chair Steven Vargas. “We show them there’s support around to help them get things done.”

POP+ participants remain anonymous unless they make the choice to disclose their diagnosis. They learn about the various types of advocacy, from behind-the-scenes volunteering to public speaking and lobbying.

Graduates of POP+ classes 1 and 2 have already made their marks by organizing HIV affinity groups. The Greater Houston area chapter of Positive Women’s Network, Heterosexual HIV Task Force, and HIV and Aging Coalition provide forums for networking, friendship, and collaboration.

POP+ is supported in part by donations from our generous donors. Click here to make a contribution to the Preserving Our Legacy fund, benefiting Legacy’s HIV education, treatment, and prevention programs.