Over two hundred attendees came out to the August 15th Community Connections Open House at the historic Strand Theater. Sponsored by the Upham’s Corner Health Center (UCHC), the 8th Annual Open House honored the work by Community Connections and Home Health HIV Services Program.
The event invited the community, including school age children, to learn about the Community Connections program, as well as have an invigorating afternoon with musical performances by local jazz legend, Gil White, and local mayoral candidates. The program aims to demystify the AIDs community and stigma surrounding the disease in the Dorchester neighborhood. Community Connections and their Home Health HIV Services provides medical and social case management, peer support and home based nursing services to individuals living with HIV. Program staff communicates valuable information, facilitates care, and utilizes community resources in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Haitian Creole.
Deidre Fuentes, a nine-year old attendee from Savin Hill, said of the event,” Homie D Clown was really funny... I liked learning about different people and how we can help them when they’re sick.” Her mother explained,” Her uncle has HIV. It’s been difficult for our family to deal with since learning about it. We didn’t want the little kids to know, at first. I like this (program) though. It makes me think that there is support and help out there for him and for the rest of the family.”
“This was an opportunity for community residents to get up to date information about HIV/AIDS, as well as enjoy themselves in a fun, casual environment. We have health center services and community resources available to help those infected and affected by the disease and ways to live a healthier life with the disease,” Brown said about the event.
Brown, himself a recovering addict and motivational speaker, has been at the Upham’s Corner Health Center for twenty-four years, and has spent a total of forty years in human services field. He started out as an outreach worker at UCHC and then became the HIV Services Coordinator upon completing his graduate studies at Springfield College, Boston campus with a Master of Organization, Management and Leadership.
As one of the most sought after motivational speakers in the city of Boston regarding substance abuse and HIV/AIDS, Poncho is a home grown treasure. Brown volunteers his time to speak to youth and the community about his experiences and the truth around substance abuse. “I shouldn’t be here, but I am,” says Brown. He often recounts how over a hundred of his past friends and associates have passed from substance abuse and HIV/AIDS and why he has since dedicated his life to making sure youth do not travel the same road as he did in his early life.
Since community health centers remain a valuable place for one-stop-shop primary health care and linkage to community resources, the event was successful in highlighting ways for those not yet connected to care can be linked to services and for those already engaged to get up to date information and celebrate the milestones of living healthier with the disease. The event was well attended by community residents and patrons from the Upham’s Corner Health Center and City of Boston’s HIV Programs and related support services and was sponsored by Upham’s Corner Health Center and the Boston Public Health Commission.