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Last year, Hispanics contracted 32 of the city's 237 new HIV cases, according to the Health Department. That's double the number of new cases among Hispanics recorded in 2004; the infection rate spiked in 2005 and has remained constant since.
Canedo didn't plan to get involved until he went to a health presentation by a friend.
"I was sitting there as he talked, and I knew more than him. I wanted to ask a question, and he says, 'Be quiet now and just let me do my job.' You can't keep people from asking questions," Canedo says. "I got up and I said that's not right, let me show you. He is a good person but knew I knew more. After that, I went to the Good Samaritan Project and asked how I could help.
"He was Mexican, but he knew just straight people," Canedo adds. "He didn't know the Hispanic gay community in Kansas City. I know everyone so I want to help, not just talk. I know gay, straight, bi — everyone."
Canedo knows everyone because of his radio show. He came to Kansas City in 1998 from Mexico to work for La Super X, the Spanish-language station on KKHK 1250. Five years ago, he started talking about sex on the air during his 9 p.m.-to-midnight show. His willingness to discuss adult topics has made him well-known to Hispanics of all sexual orientations.
Besides reaching out to gay Latinos who avoid the clubs, Canedo has organized on-site HIV testing at soccer league games. He usually has talks in his home every couple of months, where men feel more comfortable hearing about safe sex and asking questions.
He has plans to expand his outreach efforts this year. Canedo says he has finally found enough gay men who are willing to participate in the annual AIDS walk in April, and he wants to organize a local event for National Latino HIV Awareness Day this summer. He's also planning a program called "Your Voice Sings, Your Voice Talks," to bring people together for open discussions on sexual health. The idea is to have individuals stand up, one at a time, and discuss their thoughts and experiences regarding HIV.
"And on Cinco de Mayo this year, I want to have a party and invite all my American friends to share it with my Latino friends. I want to get people talking to each other and getting involved.
"We need to get HIV in front of everyone," he says. "Get the family involved."
When Canedo was 23, he lived in Mexico. He had just finished a degree in graphic design at the Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara when one of his friends was diagnosed as HIV-positive. Canedo didn't visit him in the hospital or go to the funeral.
"I feel so bad now. I feel so stupid," he says. "In Mexico then, we didn't know how you got it, so we all stayed away because we were afraid. Now I think, You were so, so stupid, Mario."
Canedo describes the culture he grew up in as far more conservative than the United States.
"No one wants to talk — not about sex," he says, "not my mom, and I grew up without a father. I learned things from my friends, what people would hear and pass along. That's the way you learn when you're in Mexico — from friend to friend. It's not right. It's a culture where little girls get pregnant because no one tells them anything. But it's hard for the parents, too."