By EduardoMorales, Ph.D.
Program participants and staff gathered on Friday April 21 at AGUILAS Office to travel by bus to Enchanted Hills Camps and Retreat in Napa for a three-day two-night retreat. With partial support funding from the Office of AIDS of the State of California Empowerment Initiative, the retreat provided an environment exclusively for Latinx LGBTQ+ persons to learn health promotion strategies in a safe environment. The warm weather helped to make the retreat experience pleasant for the three days. This was the first time the Enchanted Hills site was open since the pandemic. The retreat site provided vegetarian meals and participants stayed in recently renovated camp site.
Upon arriving on Friday, April 21 attendees accommodated themselves to their assigned cabins, had dinner and a welcoming session to introduce them to the purpose and objectives of the retreat. On Saturday April 22 various workshops were facilitated by staff of Queer Arts Featured (AKA Queer A. F.) whose office, store, and galleria are located at 575 Castro Street in S.F where Harvey Milk had his camera shop. Participants engaged in the health promotion workshops throughout Saturday followed by free time in the camp pool for recreation and an evening activity of music and dancing. On Sunday April 23 participants attended a Paint Your Feelings and Expressive Arts workshop facilitated by artist Juan Manuel Carmona, M.F.A. who was one of the artists that created the mural entitled Queeroes on the SF LGBT Building on Market Street. After lunch participants completed their satisfaction questionnaires about the retreat experience before leaving the camp site to return home by bus and private cars.
Upon arriving to the camp site fallen trees, landslides, and limited road access was observed due to the rains and fires in the Napa region. The retreat experience was highly rated by participants with opportunities to bond and network with other retreat attendees as well as to do star gazing during the night in the clear night skies over Napa. In past years AGUILAS has done similar overnight retreats that had significant impact among attendees. It is hoped that funding can be found to continue this activity which has found to reduce HIV/AIDS risk behaviors when compared to persons who did not attend the retreat. These intensified retreat interventions appear to be effective for reducing HIV/AIDS risk behaviors and fostering networking and sense of community among participants.
California Legislative Bodies Plans to Rescind Anti-LGBTQ+ Boycott
In another matter, currently several news articles are reporting that San Francisco and the State of California are considering rescinding its boycott of employees to travel to states that have anti-LGBTQ+ legislation given that this type of economic pressure has not had the desired effect that was initially intended. San Francisco passed the boycott in 2016 after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. It is believed that the travel ban appears to be doing more harm than good. A report released by the city administrator concluded that the policy was raising costs and administrative burdens for San Francisco. By ending the boycott, the report estimates reducing contracting costs by 20% annually. The report states that “no states with restrictive LGBTQ rights, voting rights or abortion policies have cited the city’s travel and contract bans as motivation for reforming their law.” To date about 30 states and over 450 pieces of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation is being considered by various legislative bodies in addition to anti-abortion legislation. The prohibition affects sports teams at public colleges and universities who had to find other ways to pay for road games in various states. Meanwhile anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-abortions sentiments have increase. It is hoped that other strategies such as advertising campaigns might be considered to have a more impactful effect and foster a change in anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-abortion sentiments across the U.S.