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FLAS celebrates over 20 years of sex education

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Founder and Executive Director of FLAS
Courtesy of Elia Chinó

Founder and Executive Director of the Fundación Latinoamericana de Acción Social, Elia Chinó, created the organization in 1994 with the goal of helping the Hispanic community become better informed about HIV, STD, substance abuse, and others after enduring the loss of several friends due to those diseases.

Nearly 22 years later, Chino’s organization is still going strong and her work has earned her guest appearances on the Spanish-language TV show Sabado Gigante, and the recognition as a hispanic hero by the TV network Telemundo.

With the help of private donations and grants, FLAS has continued to provide health and social services to Houstonians, and has helped dismiss taboos about sex education and the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.




 

The Venture: What type of programs do you all offer?

Elia Chinó: HIV prevention and education, substance, alcohol, and also handle the treatment for drug addiction. In addition to these programs, we also offer counseling for HIV patients and testing for HIV, syphilis and hepatitis C. The programs are also geared toward Latin women, African American women and men who have sex with other men.

TV: Why did you decide to open the FLAS organization?

EC: I founded the organization because of the need for education, to inform, ignorance, and fear that exists in our community regarding the topic of HIV/AIDS. The idea came because very close and dear friends of mine passed away due to AIDS. Unfortunately, I was not able to be with them. Precisely due to the taboo that exists in our culture. The ignorance, the misinformation, and the fear that still exists. Their families notified me after they had passed away, and that’s when I decided I am going to do something. Starting FLAS was not easy, because I had to break several barriers. Even today, AIDS is seen as a gay disease, which is not the case. The language barrier and the fact that I am an immigrant and part of the LGBT community, all made it more difficult. Other organizations did not help me, but because I saw the necessity, I insisted and insisted and here we are 22 years later.

TV: What can a person expect from FLAS when they come?

EC: We provide them services, and refer them to other health services. We give those that feel there is no light at the end of the tunnel hope. The psychological support and the counseling is for them to get out of that stress, the anxiety, the anguish knowing that they are HIV positive.

TV: What other organizations does FLAS work with?

EC: We work especially with the Latin American Consulates. We also work with other organizations that provide primary care for people who live with HIV. We work hand-in-hand with the Houston Health Department, Harris County, and the city’s clinics in order to refer those people that have other STDs so they can receive treatment.

TV: Are the medications at low cost or free?

EC: Many of those organizations receive funds from Ryan White. Those funds are exclusively for those who live with HIV and AIDS. There are also organizations that provide emergency help, provide housing and other services.

TV: How do you financially sustain the organization?

EC: The majority is looking for funds locally, statewide and federal. We are constantly looking for grants to bring money to the organization. That’s how the organization is supported. Private donations are always welcome. I have received support from the Houston Endowment, the Health Department, HUD and the US Department of Health. Thanks to them, we are providing these services free and confidentially. All the services are free and open to anyone in the community.

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