For people living with HIV and AIDS (PLWHA), Nueva Luz Urban Resource Center (Nueva Luz) serves as a vital support system. Through holistic and wraparound services, including housing, nutrition, recovery, and legal services, Nueva Luz provides PLWHA the necessary resources to ensure they can live safe and healthy lives.

The Foundation supports Nueva Luz by funding its legal clinic, which helps PLWHA with civil legal issues, including housing, Social Security, and gender marker issues for LGBTQ+ individuals.

Max Rodas, executive director of Nueva Luz, never thought he would dedicate the better part of his career to serving PLWHA. As an ordained minister, Rodas first encountered the community in the 1980s at the height of the HIV epidemic. Heartbroken by the reality of the disease and the community’s lack of support, Rodas was moved to help.

“I didn’t know anything about this community at first,” Rodas said. “But [at that time] living with HIV was like dying with HIV. Many gay men were dying alone because once their parents found out that they had HIV, they were kicked out of their homes. It impacted me, and I knew I wanted to do something to help.”

Rodas began educating himself on HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ+ history. After working as a prevention educator, Rodas and his wife eventually founded Nueva Luz in 1999.

“We felt we needed to do something a bit more systemic because a lot of the work around HIV was reactive,” Rodas said. “Our first mission statement was to seek to reduce the negative impact of HIV infection through holistic services.”

As PLWHA often live at the intersection of race and class, Nueva Luz has a diverse clientele and offers services in four languages. Nueva Luz seeks to challenge the root causes of systemic poverty through culturally humble services and community building.

“At the end of the day, the context of our people is poverty,” Rodas said. “It’s poor people who are resourceless, so those are the people we are trying to empower.”

Nueva Luz also has several other focuses, including a youth development program, a fatherhood support program, and immigration legal services. Rodas’ lived experience as a Guatemalan immigrant has been crucial in his work with Nueva Luz, providing a firsthand understanding of the challenges facing new Americans.

As Nueva Luz gears up to celebrate its 25th anniversary this July, Rodas is grateful for the strides made to ensure PLWHA can live healthier and longer lives and for the deep sense of purpose he’s experienced working with PLWHA.

“This work has put flesh to my faith,” he said. “It has given me a purpose because I no longer live for me only, but I live for others. And when you live for others, that gives you freedom, which is wonderful.”

The Foundation funds specialty legal service providers like Nueva Luz to address the unique civil legal needs of specific populations. Learn more about specialty providers.