Press Release

Rep. Cuellar Announces $500,000 for PILLAR to Help Fight HIV/AIDS Among High Risk Populations

Funding directly impacting Webb County in partnership with the Laredo Health Department

LAREDO | Olya Voytovich, DC Press Secretary (202-226-1583); Leslie Martinez, District Press Secretary (956-286-6007), September 18, 2018


LAREDO— Today, Congressman Henry Cuellar (TX-28) joined representatives and the City of Laredo Health Department in announcing $500,000 in federal funding for People with Ideas of Love, Liberty, Acceptance and Respect (PILLAR) aimed at decreasing community HIV risk-factors, providing testing to residents and treating those living with HIV. $250,000 will go towards staff retention and expansion, and the other $250,000 will enhance direct treatment services. The widespread impact from this funding will also benefit the 68 community partners which PILLAR maintains.


This award represents the fifth consecutive year that PILLAR and the City of Laredo have been awarded HHS funding through their partnership. Including the grant award announced today, a total of $2.5 million has been awarded through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) grant program.


People with Ideas of Love, Liberty, Acceptance and Respect (PILLAR)

PILLAR, is a non-profit mental health care and outreach center, provides a safe, nurturing and non-discriminatory environment where people experiencing emotional or physical trauma or victimization can seek supportive services to reduce the negative impact of these circumstances. PILLAR’s funding project focuses on high risk populations including racial/ethnic minority populations, such as Black and Latino gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals who are HIV positive or at risk for HIV/AIDS.


Funding from the SAMHSA Grant Program will provide PILLAR with:

·         Increased staff levels and expertise;

·         Upgraded testing equipment;

·         Improved staff resources;

·         Enhanced informational and research access;

·         Increased electronic medical record storage;

·         Improved generation of analytical data; and

·         Continue to ensure all these services are provided for free.


Directly Impacting Webb County

There are approximately 81,873 people living with HIV in Texas, 412 of those in Webb County.  And according to HHS Texas, in 2016 alone, 4,493 Texans were diagnosed with the infection.  PILLAR has proven to be a crucial source of preventative treatment and post-diagnosis care.  Over the last year, they have conducted 6,205 HIV tests in Laredo. In doing so, PILLAR has targeted the county’s most at-risk residents. 


This funding will have a direct impact on the number of affected individuals in Webb County by:

·         Reducing the impact of behavioral health problems;

·         Reducing HIV risk and incidence;

·         Reducing trauma related conditions;

·         Increasing access to treatment; and

·         Increasing retention in treatment.


“PILLAR continues its tremendous service to our community by providing prevention services for at-risk populations and treatment for those who are currently battling co-existing behavioral health and health-related issues,” said Congressman Cuellar. “Their ability to keep individuals who have tested positive in treatment has risen to an impressive 96% rate of retention. Additionally, they have 36,750 students engaged in discussions regarding the risks related to HIV. This grant award will continue to build upon these successes and ensure that our community benefits from their effective efforts of increasing HIV awareness, combating risk factors where possible and providing treatment when necessary.”


Congressman Cuellar continued, “I would like to thank PILLAR representatives, the City of Laredo Health Department and community partners for joining today in promoting the great work and services provided by PILLAR. Today’s funds are an investment in the well-being of our citizens and gives hope for so many in our community.”


PILLAR Co-Founder Arturo Diaz said, “With the assistance of Honorable Congress Henry Cuellar, PILLAR is honored to receive a 2.5 million grant for the next 5 years.  These funds will help us expand treatment, promote recovery and improve quality of life for people that are high risk or are HIV positive and have mental and/or substance health issues.”

“The City of Laredo Health Department is delighted to partner with PILLAR in the great opportunity from SAMHSA,” said Hector Gonzalez, Director of Health at the City of Laredo Health Department. “It will allow us to continue our work on Primary Care and Behavioral Health integration. This is so important as many people are suffering from behavioral health but aren’t being diagnosed. Through this project we can provide medical and preventive care and screen for behavioral health, this build on our efforts to improve wellness through both physical and behavioral health services. Persons can come into a community based organization and get quality early intervention comprehensive medical and social services care.”


Congressman Henry Cuellar (TX-28) presents a $500,000 grant for PILLAR on Tuesday in Laredo. Pictured from left to right: Congressman Henry Cuellar, Director of the City of Laredo Health Department Dr. Hector Gonzalez, PILLAR Clinical Consultant Jesse Hernandez, PILLAR Co-Founder Manuel Sanchez, PILLAR Board Member Kerrisa Vela, PILLAR Chair Gerardo Sanchez, PILLAR Board Member Terrie Martinez, PILLAR Board Member Connie Madrigal, PILLAR Co-founder Arturo Diaz.