These Drag Queens are fighting HIV in the Rio Grande Valley

 

Drag Out HIV! is a training and mentorship program for drag queens in the Rio Grande Valley to provide them with the training needed to become advocates and “dragtivists” in the fight against HIV in South Texas. The program was funded by the University of Texas Austin and was developed collaboratively by Beatrix Lestrange with Valley AIDS. Nine queens made the cut to participate in trainings ranging in topics from HIV and PrEP 101, RGV Queer History, Social Justice, and Intersectionality.

Each training centered around the Rio Grande Valley and the work organizations and community activists are doing to help address the Sexual Health and Reproductive Justice needs in our community.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have noted the rise in HIV in Latino populations, at the current rate “one in four Latino gay and bisexual men will be diagnosed with HIV during their lifetimes” making this project especially key in South Texas.

“By day I’m a Risk Reduction Specialist for VAC, but by night I’m at the club, doing drag as Beatrix,” Lestrange said. “People will come up to me backstage and ask me questions about where and when they should get tested, how to access PrEP. I’m off the clock per se, but the community still sees me as a resource, which I’m always happy to provide the information. If I can do this one on one, imagine if we had a whole group of drag queens ready to talk about this very information throughout all the gay bars in the RGV? Drag Out HIV! is definitely an unconventional but exciting approach to HIV prevention, it’s worth a try.”

Each queen was given a chance to participate in a Drag Calendar (promoting safer sex practices, HIV testing, and PrEP) that will ultimately be released at several events in December throughout the RGV. Each queen also received personalized business cards: on one side they can promote themselves for bookings, on the other side is information on where people can access testing.

“Drag Out HIV! is creating a new generation of dragtivists,” Lestrange described. “It won’t just be me anymore. They’re like promotoras, but with big hair, big lashes and lots of glitter”.

A Workshop on “Drag Out HIV!” will be presented at the Aqui Estamos conference on Saturday, Dec. 2 at the South Texas College Cooper Center in McAllen. Register free at aquiestamosrgv.org/register.