Daniel G. Garza, a 50-year-old gay activist from Laguna Beach, Calif., calls himself, “a Mexican-born, Texas-raised, California-living Latino.” He was diagnosed with HIV in 2000 and became an advocate, activist, and community leader almost immediately. “The lack of information that I had when it came to HIV [and] AIDS and the myths that my family had made it necessary for me to educate myself to help them,” he explains. “Then I realized that there was a lack of representation in the Latino community, a message was missing, and someone to speak up. I always had a volunteering nature … and HIV gave me a purpose.”
Garza says that “the top resource my community needs to thrive is communication without fear, stigma, and shame,” so it’s fitting that he’s a spokesperson for the group Positively Fearless. He also serves as a board member for Radiant Health Centers and previously served on the Laguna Beach HIV Advisory Committee.
The podcaster (whose show Put It Together passed the 300-episode milestone this year) says one of his biggest recent accomplishments was landing an interview with folks at the Prevention through Active Community Engagement (PACE) Region 9 Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health. That important conversation revolved around “how the community and local government offices can work together to make prevention, testing, and PrEP part of the conversation in the Latino community while taking into consideration cultural, religious, and social differences, thus reducing stigma, shame, and fear.”
That’s critical, Garza says, because “Latinos are still being diagnosed throughout North, Central, and South America because we are afraid to speak up against years of religious and cultural traditions.”
Although Garza admits he “made HIV a career” through his advocacy, public speaking, and consulting, he adds, “there is so much more to me.”
“Life and the world will give us labels, but they only have value when we accept them,” Garza says. “For many years I was told I was disabled until someone said I wasn’t and then my wings opened, and I flew as high as I could, and I’m still flying!”
Garza is also a life/spiritual coach. Known as “The Card Divo,” the intuitive has developed his own line of tarot cards called “The Alignment.” And he’s written the children’s book Grumpy Bunny and the Colors Game, a “guided meditation for parents to read to children to help them channel their energy.”
With his partner, Christian P. Ramirez, Garza launched Lilmesican Productions Inc – A Social Enterprise, which now has three live stream shows airing on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube. And through all of it, Garza has continued to act and do stand-up.