A GROUP has been established in Melbourne to support LGBTI people from Latin American and Hispanic backgrounds and to identify the issues they face.

The project was developed as a means to connect those living in and migrating to Melbourne, and to provide information around the various community services available.

The idea was formed by Cristian Cortes, who works with Living Positive Victoria and volunteers at Refuge for Hope.

Cortes said he had been thinking about the project for a couple of years.

“Since working here at Living Positive Victoria we’ve had some cases of Latin American people coming to us for help,” he told the Star Observer.

“Last year we had around five people in that community who had recently been diagnosed with HIV here in Australia… and there were so many complicated things they needed to sort out, like finding a counsellor that could speak Spanish.

“The Latin American community, like many other multicultural communities, tend to stick together and not engage with the Australian community that well – so we want to provide resources and referrals to other organisations.”

The project was organised and supported by four organisations, including Living Positive Victoria and the Victorian AIDS Council (VAC).

Cortes said when coming to Australia for the first time, it was important to provide information to the community around sexual health.

“Many international students feel free to express themselves here and to embrace their sexuality, but they can sometimes still be confused,” he said.

“There’s not much information around sexual health so they don’t know there are places they can go to get condoms or tested for free.

“They’re going to have support from the four organisations that organised the group, and will be able to meet LGBTI people that can speak the same language and guide them.”

He added that above all else the group was formed to hear the needs of LGBTI people from Latin American or Hispanic backgrounds.

“We would like to hear the needs they’re having or activities they would like to be involved in,” he said.

“We want to leave it to them to decide and provide leadership in the group.”

If you’d like to be part of the LGBTI Latin American and Hispanic group in Melbourne, visit this website and fill out an application form

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