Meet the 2019 Southern HIV Impact Fund Leadership Cohort

Dwain Bridges JrDwain Bridges Jr

Dwain Bridges Jr, is a Detroit native, business owner, real estate agent, and co-founder of THRIVE SS Inc, an organization focused on improving health equity for Black gay men living with HIV through direct support, advocacy, and building collective power.

Dwain developed a passion for helping people at a young age and in 2007 he obtained an Associate’s Degree in Human Services. In 2011, Dwain received his Bachelor’s Degree in Healthcare Administration and his License to practice Real Estate. In 2013, Dwain moved to Atlanta, Georgia to live out a dream of his deceased sister. While in Atlanta he struggled to find a sense of community, support and healthcare. After finding out his HIV status he decided to go back to school. In 2015, Dwain happily received his master’s degree in Business Administration and vowed to utilize his skills to save his community.

Throughout his career in community health, Dwain has served on several community advisory and planning boards and worked at organizations such as The Michigan AIDS Fund, Children’s Hospital of Michigan, Wayne State University, the Detroit Health Department, AID Atlanta, and AbsoluteCARE Medical Center and Pharmacy. Dwain currently serves as the Director of Operations and Finance for THRIVE SS.

Cotrencla “Tren” Burkett

Cotrencla “Tren” Burkett serves as the HOPWA Support Services Coordinator for the AIDS Services Coalition and brings five years of professional experience working directly and indirectly with people living with HIV. The HOPWA program provides housing assistance and support services to individuals living with HIV. In her role, Tren provide programmatic and administrative support focused on quality care and linkage to additional resources for people living with HIV.

As a social worker, Tren’s passion has always been to empower individuals who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty. Early in her career, Tren recognized the need for change in the community related to HIV. This led her to begin a career focused on ending the epidemic, extinguishing stigma, and empowering individuals living with the HIV.

Tren has lived in or around the Jackson, Mississippi area her entire life. She earned her Master of Social Work degree, concentrated on Adults and Their Families, from the University of Alabama (Roll Tide) in May 2015. In her spare time, Tren enjoys cooking, spending time with family, and traveling. She is also an avid football fan who loves the Alabama Crimson Tide and New Orleans Saints!

Jaoquin Carcano

Joaquín Carcano is a native of the Rio Grande Valley along the Texas-Mexico border and a queer, transgender Mexican-American man. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Human Biology in 2011 from the University of Texas at Austin. During his time in Austin, Joaquín was a volunteer hospice worker at Doug’s House of Project Transitions – a residential hospice for those in the final stages of AIDS-related illnesses.

After graduation, Joaquín joined the U.S. Peace Corps and served from 2011-2012 in Peru as a Community Health Promoter. Following his Peace Corps service, he began working at the University of North Carolina’s Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases as a HIV Social Research Assistant. He spent the last 4 years as the Project Coordinator of Enlaces por la Salud, a North Carolina initiative providing HIV care linkage, engagement, and navigation services for the states Latinx community.

In 2016, Joaquín became the lead plaintiff in the North Carolina HB2/HB142 lawsuit which restricted access to public facilities for the transgender community and removed anti-discrimination protections for the LGBTQ community.

In August 2018, Joaquín joined the Latino Commission on AIDS, Latinos in the Deep South staff as the Director of Community Organizing working regionally from North Carolina to Louisiana. He is a member of Nuestra Voz, the LGBTQ community advisory board of El Centro Hispano in Durham, North Carolina, is a board member of Equality NC, and is a recent addition to the Southern AIDS Coalition board of directors.

Giovanni De Stefano

Giovanni De Stefano is the peer support navigator lead (PSNL) for Western North Carolina AIDS Project (WNCAP). He has been with WNCAP for four years, first starting off as a volunteer. His involvement in advocacy and therapeutic work with the HIV Community grew into his current position on the PSNL program, a new program at WNCAP. In his role, Giovanni will build out the program to meet the needs of the Western North Carolina Region.

Giovanni received a liberal arts degree in English from Rutgers University and is currently enrolled in the Chicago School of Professional Psychology where he is obtaining a master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. He taught English abroad for ten years where he traveled extensively and enjoyed the various cultures and people he met. He resides in Asheville North Carolina.

Sydney Duncan, J. D.

Sydney Duncan is an attorney with Birmingham AIDS Outreach (BAO). She brings 16 years of legal experience as client-facing counsel for the organization’s HIV patients and as an advocate for the LGBT community, with a focus on transgender issues. Additionally, Sydney participates in grant writing and project proposals for BAO – a skill learned from her four years working in government and commercial proposal management with Southern Research.

Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Sydney has lived most of her life in Birmingham, where she attended the University of Alabama at Birmingham and graduated from the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University. She lives in the city with her two children and is a published author.

Ernie W. Hoskins

Ernie W. Hoskins began work in the field of HIV Prevention as a prevention coordinator Project Act in January 2015. Since then, Ernie has helped grow the program, including the addition of new team members, and is now the Prevention Director. In this role, Ernie oversees the HIV, HCV and STI testing programs as well as the PrEP navigation and Syringe Service programs.

Ernie strives to provide a safe and judgment free space for the community while fostering a relaxing environment for clients and coworkers alike. Ernie recently earned his B.A. in Applied Behavioral Science and is currently contemplating further educational opportunities. In his free time Ernie enjoys relaxing time at home, reading, working out, traveling, watching movies, Spartan Racing, and cooking for friends and family.

Jon Harris Maurer

Jon Harris Maurer serves as Equality Florida’s Public Policy Director.  As Public Policy Director, he is Equality Florida’s boots on the ground in the state Capitol and for local policy work around Florida advocating for full LGBTQ equality.  He has previously served in nearly every position with Equality Florida, from volunteer petition gatherer to statewide board co-chair.

A Fort Lauderdale native, Jon Harris moved to Houston, Texas to attend Rice University. He later served as a legislative aide in the Texas House of Representatives and worked on the Annise Parker for Mayor campaign in Houston, which successfully elected the first openly lesbian mayor of a major American city. He then attended law school at Florida State University, where he worked as a policy intern for the Florida House of Representatives State Affairs Committee and served as Editor-in-Chief of the Law Review. He spent more than five years in private practice at an environmental and administrative law firm before making the move to Equality Florida.

Jon Harris lives in Tallahassee with his husband Nate and their dog Pascal. Outside of Equality Florida, Jon Harris devotes time to various professional organizations and recently participated in Leadership Florida – Connect Class VIII. He also volunteers with Children’s Home Society, enjoys true crime podcasts, and is a mediocre volleyball player with the Tallahassee Gay Athletic Association.

Mandisa Moore-O’Neal

Mandisa Moore-O’Neal is a Black Feminist and founder of The Moore-O’Neal Law Group, LLC, a black feminist law and policy practice. She also serves as Litigation Director at Frontline Legal Services, one of the few non-profits in the state led by a Black PLWH.

In 2012, Mandisa received her JD from Louisiana State University Law Center. In 2007, she was awarded a 2-year New Voices Gulf Coast Fellowship and in 2006 completed her undergraduate degree in History and Sociology at Loyola University New Orleans. As a civil rights attorney, she is focused on HIV de-criminalization litigation, education and advocacy, family law litigation, education and advocacy, employment and public accommodations discrimination litigation and education, and police accountability litigation and advocacy.

Mandisa’s primary organizing support work is as Co-chair of the Black Youth Project100-New Orleans’ chapter.  She also serves on the BYP100 501c3 Board of Directors, the Center for Resilient Individuals, Families, and Communities Board of Directors and Lift Louisiana’s Advisory Board and chair of the Racial Equity and Inclusion Advisory Committee. Mandisa has researched, published and presented on reproductive justice and the law, punitive social policies, and state violence. Her current research project is “A Black Feminist Approach to HIV De-Criminalization.”

Korey Willis

Korey Willis works in HIV prevention and support services at Abounding Prosperity. Originally from Waco, TX, Korey graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington with a degree in Criminal Justice/Criminology. He is currently working towards a graduate degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Lamar University.

Korey’s passion to help people was his biggest motivation to pursue his Masters in Mental Health Counseling and to begin working for Abounding Prosperity. His personal experiences and obstacles inspire him to help people navigate through those same struggles. Additionally, Korey is the father to a 4 year little boy who motivates him to be greater. Outside of work and school, Korey likes to go to the movies, out to eat, hang with friends, and do different cultural activities with his child around Dallas.​

Helen Zimba

Helen Zimba is an international HIV and reproductive justice leader whose career encompasses business management, communications, and community health. Since earning a certificate in nonprofit leadership from Southern Methodist University in 2010, Helen has served as a case manager to people living with HIV, chaired her local HIV Planning Council, and is an active member of the Positive Women’s Network USA. Based in Dallas, she currently manages HIV services at the Afiya Center and as a GLOW Trainer for NMAC.

Over the past twenty years, Helen has served on numerous grant review committees for HRSA, SAMSHA and the NIH, and as a board member and trainer for AIDS Alliance. Additionally, Helen is a dedicated volunteer to a number of causes, including mission work to Malawi with her church, assisting with AIDS Walk South Dallas, and many Texas Black Women’s Initiatives.

Helen’s dedication to advocating to end the stigma and isolation plaguing women living with HIV has led her to be selected to participate in the national Love Your Life Campaign. Ms. Zimba is the recipient of numerous awards, such as the Gigi Nicks – AIDS Alliance, Neighbourhood Hero recipient by WFAA Television, and Women that Soar.