New health center for gay South LA

Kevin Tsukii

The new Gleicher / Chen Health Center is located at 3743 S. La Brea Ave. and officially opened on Oct. 1. | Kevin Tsukii

Vallerie Wagner swears she’s not the sex police.

“Sex should be fun,” Wagner said in a new office still smelling of fresh paint.

She’s sex-positive, but fighting a battle to keep the citizens of South L.A. HIV-negative. Wagner runs the Gleicher/Chen Health Center which is part of APLA Health & Wellness, the first Federally Qualified Health Center in South L.A. aimed at serving both HIV-negative and -positive people of color. According to the Federal HIV/AIDS Web Council, this is the population most affected by AIDS.

The health center resides at the intersection of La Brea Avenue and Rodeo Road in the Baldwin Hills Shopping Center and aims to serve the predominantly Black gay community of South L.A.

The 6,700-square-foot building is outfitted with five exam rooms, a blood lab, a state-of-the-art dental clinic and three counseling rooms. The modern furniture and vibrant colors make the space feel like a welcoming lounge.

[Read more…]

HIV in South LA, Ron Finley profile + Tijuana-style tacos

Felipa Mayo cooks on the street in South L.A. | Daina Beth Solomon

Felipa Mayo cooks on the street in South L.A. | Daina Beth Solomon

A roundup of recent news stories about South Los Angeles:

KCET: Rudy Espinoza writes that street vendors can bring healthy food to South L.A. (See from Intersections: South LA street cooks could soon go legit)

LA Weekly:  In South L.A., Young Gay Black Men are Mired in Old Taboos — and HIV

KCET: Going green, the South L.A. way

The New Yorker: How Magic Johnson fought the AIDS epidemic

LA Weekly: A profile of Ron Finley, South L.A.’s “guerilla gardener”

LA Weekly: A profile of Gia Medley, “First-Generation Spitter” from South L.A.

LA Times: Food critic Jonathan Gold visits Tacos Los Poblanos in South L.A.

Environmental Protection Agency [Press Release]: The EPA has awarded the Los Angeles Conservation Corps $200,000 to continue providing “job training and skills to unemployed and economically-disadvantaged residents of South Los Angeles.”

NAACP trains Black church leaders about health equity

1.1 million people in the US are diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.

1.1 million people in the US are diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.

African-Americans comprise about half of all HIV-positive people in the United States. The NAACP is promoting education that might help halt the trend. It held a forum on Thursday in Manhattan Beach on HIV, health equity, and the black church.

The event, part of NAACP’s California Hawaii State Conference, drew an array of people, including Black pastors from South L.A. “We’ve been in this losing streak for a long time,” one said.

A long-time health care worker from Inglewood also attended. “Everyone thought this was a gay, white disease,” she said. “And I said no, that’s not true.”

Hear more voices from the event in a story from Annenberg Radio News:


HIV Statistics among Black women

HIV Statistics among Black women


OPINION: From Cameroon to South Los Angeles—Get tested on National HIV Testing Day

HIV testingby Marcel Fomotar, M.A., MSN

A few years ago, I traveled from my home country of Cameroon to South Los Angeles to pursue a career in nursing as my contribution to ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic. My dear aunt fought a long and hard battle with AIDS and in her last moments, she told me that her remaining days were filled with light and happiness because of the kindness of her nurses.

It is with that overpowering memory that I changed my original career path and ventured to the United States to pursue a career in nursing.  I chose Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science (CDU), a health professions school dedicated to transforming the lives of underserved communities. They train health professionals who promote wellness and provide care with excellence and compassion – exactly the kind of health care leader I wanted to become. I wanted health to become a means of empowerment for the community and improve the overall health of a home, whether that be in CDU’s community of South Los Angeles or abroad in Cameroon. [Read more…]

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in South LA

By Claire Pires
Annenberg Radio News

In honor of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, “In the Meantime” provided free HIV testing and distributed condoms to the community.

image“We spend time in the black community because it’s one of the communities that’s most at risk in the United States. We’re talking about 12% of the population that’s responsible for 40% of the new infections,” said James Vellequette, director of condom-provider Condom Nation.

At the protest, USC student Kai Green rallied the crowd when he spoke of how he stands with the people “who dare to fight and say I am black and gay.”

Local South L.A. resident Vanessa Robinson was more skeptical of the movement because she does not want her son to grow up in “that type of environment,” and says she grew up attending church.

Homosexuality has not always been accepted in the church, but Reverend Russell Thornhill, co-pastor of the Unity Fellowship of Christ Church, urged the crowd to “stand” and support this new pro-gay movement. image

“It’s a call that says that we won’t stand for the transmission of HIV and AIDS in our community,” said Reverend Thornhill.

Members of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and TrueEvolution, Inc. also spoke and urged protestors and listeners to get tested for HIV in the buses behind them.

As they chanted in front of a bus covered in a large poster with “We get tested” printed next to two shirtless men embracing, the protestors waved posters and cheered with honking cars as they advocated to end discrimination against African American gay men.image