Welcome to another episode of Illinois Latino News Opinion+ where we talk about major issues the Latinx and underrepresented communities face in our state.
This week we spoke with Joshua Gutierrez, the Prevention and Health Education Manager of TPAN.
TPAN, the Test Positive Aware Network, was created in 1987, during the heart of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, to establish a peer-support network at a time where fear and misinformation dominated society’s understanding of the virus. Today TPAN serves those living with or vulnerable to HIV through a variety of services ranging from education to healthcare.
Given his role, Gutierrez is very passionate about education and sharing resources with the community. A lot of the misinformation surrounding sexuality and healthcare starts in the household and leads to issues later in life, such as the Black and Latinx communities being disproportionately affected by HIV and STIs.
“I don’t think it’s because parents don’t care, I just think that maybe they don’t know how to approach it, or they don’t know how to talk about it,” said Gutierrez.
He says that he sees education and wellness as self-investment, and he takes pride in TPAN’s ability to help individuals help themselves.
“We give you science-based, research-based information and we hope that we are giving you the tools to make the best health decisions for yourself,” he said.
Gutierrez says that much progress has been made from the 1980’s to now regarding our understanding of HIV/AIDS and how people living with the virus are treated, including Illinois’ decriminalization of those living with HIV in 2021. House Bill 4430, a bill that would allow HIV prevention and post-exposure medications PrEP and PEP to be accessed without a prescription, recently passed in both the Illinois House and Senate.
“This is great news. This is going to be a game changer. As I was saying that people of color, BIPOC folks are disproportionately affected by acquiring HIV, and a lot of the reason is because there’s barriers to acquiring it [PrEP],” said Gutierrez. “…we all know that a tool is only effective if you have access to it.”
TPAN provides access to a wide range of services including therapy groups, HIV testing, syringe exchange, a youth drop-in program and much more. All of these programs are free for every client.
TPAN’s website: https://www.tpan.com
Ending Criminal Penalties for People Living with HIV in Illinois: https://www.aclu-il.org/en/news/governor-pritzker-signs-hb-1063-ending-criminal-penalties-people-living-hiv-illinois
CDC information on PrEP: https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/prep.html
CDC information on PEP: https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/pep.html
Positively Aware, The HIV Treatment Journal of TPAN: https://www.positivelyaware.com