PrEP with Purpose

Daniel Mendez is a born and raised Chicagoan. Having dedicated over 12 years to HIV prevention efforts, he has worked closely with high-risk populations in high-prevalence areas throughout Chicago. He has provided HIV and STI screening, implemented and facilitated support groups, hosted presentations on HIV, STIs, and HCV throughout Chicago. He has alsohelped design SMART lifestyle goals for newly diagnosed individuals, navigated linkage to care, managed short-term case management, and planned city-wide HIV screening events and retreats, expanding online and in-person outreach through collaborations, partnerships, and creative social media marketing. He handles project development through quality control to introduce new tactics and strategies to evolve and innovate programming.

Daniel’s current role is PrEP Manager at Howard Brown Health while serving as a member of the Gay MSM and Trans (GMT) Collaborative and the Latinx PrEP Collaborative.  He resides in Chicago and enjoys writing, vintage shopping, and spending time with loved ones at local hangouts.

“Acknowledging my depression at a young age made me want to help people. Moments of clarity in my personal growth helped me better understand the needs of other individuals. My passionate awareness of health disparities in the lives of those greatly affected by those disparities is what made me choose this career.  Over years of working in prevention, I allowed myself to evolve and begin providing unconventional safe spaces that literally meet people where they are.

One night during an outreach event, I met two people drinking their pitchers of beer before work. I was there to talk about sexual health, but one approached me about their fear of getting an HIV screening and the other person spoke about feeling suicidal.  This is one of the first times I was caught not knowing what to do, but they had a need and they relied on me to help.  This was not an isolated incident. Many conversations flow from sexual health, stigma, relationships, depression, substance abuse, and loneliness. These two people just needed someone to validate them. Through experience I learned that HIV was more of an umbrella topic, covering an existence of many underlying personal concerns that affect our daily lives.

When PrEP became more widely available, I believed this was a breakthrough in tackling the HIV epidemic. PrEP’s existence brought a new level of discussion across generations within the community about HIV. Now, I give myself permission to analyze and see things differently than before. It is challenging because change needs to happen, and we need to break out of the box. Otherwise, the current shape of the epidemic remains, and growth is truncated; nothing changes. Currently, my day-to-day intent is to help the community understand that every individual matters, regardless of their status and walk of life. I strive to do my part in showing people they deserve to be loved for who they are. These are the moments to remember that what matters is making the effort to be a voice for the voiceless to create a powerful impact for years to come. This will change lives.”

For additional information about PrEP or to make an appointment, call 773.388.8885. You can also send an e-mail to prep@howardbrown.org for more information.