On World AIDS Day (December 1), the City of West Hollywood honored Los Angeles LGBT Center’s mental health clinician Chris Aguilar with the Paul Andrew Starke Warrior Award, which is given to staff and volunteers of local organizations who provide outstanding services in HIV/AIDS and substance abuse care.
Aguilar, a peer navigator for Health Services’ addiction recovery services, has been with the Center for five years.
“It’s definitely gratifying, but a bit awkward, to receive an award because I don’t do the work for accolades,” Aguilar tells LGBT News Now. “My reward is when a client is showing signs of progress, doing better with coping, or staying sober through life’s challenges.”
He says the COVID-19 pandemic has made his work more important than ever even if it has to be done remotely.
“It’s gratifying to see the Center adapt to the circumstances and still continue to provide services as best we can. Clients have responded to that pretty well,” Aguilar says.
Remarks from Kristen Andersen, the Center’s Manager of Addiction Recovery Services, were read during the virtual awards presentation. She described Aguilar as “always providing ideas for new opportunities and growth. You quickly realize this is not just a job for Chris but something he is passionate about and truly cares for. You never hear him say ‘I can’t,’ and he always finds a way to make it work.”
The pandemic prevented this year’s awards to be presented physically by the city and its Human Services Commission as well as the World AIDS Day procession down Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood. This year’s other honorees included Garry Bowie of Being Alive, Liza Marie Ceballos of TransLatin@ Coalition, Cheryl Hoffman of Friends Research Institute, Emmanuel Sanchez-Ramos of APLA Health, and Spencer Shelton of AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
“These warriors are providing passionate support services to community members living with HIV—many of whom are currently isolated and living in fear of COVID-19,” said West Hollywood Mayor Lindsey Horvath of the honorees. “The warriors continue to provide outstanding services to our most vulnerable community members during this extremely challenging and traumatic time.”
For more information about the Center’s Addiction Recovery Services, ranging from 12-Step group meetings to individual therapy, visit lalgbtcenter.org/recovery or call 323-993-7500.