Natasha is a young, proud, and successful transgender woman living in the North Hollywood area. Born Shawn Felipe Garcia to Black and Latina parents, family was a big part of her life growing up in East LA. She was always very close to her abuelita and would spend much of her free time as a child at her house learning to cook and sew. This caused a lot of tension with the men in her family, who saw Natasha as a boy and expected her to play soccer and other sports like her brothers. When Natasha finally came out as transgender in high school, her brothers, uncles, and cousins reacted negatively and threatened to disown her. Her father kicked her out of the house and her mother wept for days. Natasha moved in with her abuelita, who accepted her for who she was. With her abuelita’s support, she finished high school with honors. She began medically transitioning during the summer after her graduation and continued throughout college career. In college, she interned at a local radio station and worked in the Pride Center at her university, all the while saving toward her gender confirmation surgery (GCS). In spite of so many personal hardships, she graduated at the top of her class with a double major in Journalism and Spanish and landed an entry-level position at a Los Angeles television station. Her abuelita was so proud of her, and Natasha finally was able to reconnect with her family shortly after graduating. Natasha spent the next few years working her way up to being an on-air journalist. Soon after, she was approved for her GCS, and, just two months shy of her twenty-sixth birthday, she completed her surgical transition. Upon returning to work, Natasha was assigned to investigate a drug called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Natasha already knew a lot about safer sex. She had volunteered as a safe sex educator in college, teaching students about healthy relationships, condom use, and other preventive measures; however, PrEP was a game-changer – a drug up to 99% percent effective against HIV for those who are HIV negative! Natasha was so excited by what she learned that she decided to conduct an in-depth investigation into PrEP. As she focused on the investigation and channeled her energy, she discovered that she had the gift of parabolic hearing (the ability to focus hearing to a certain area and /or filter out unwanted noise around the area). With her new superpower, Natasha expanded her investigation and her mission became even clearer. She would use her hearing to alert her to opportunities to dispel myths and provide accurate information about PrEP. As she set forth on this mission, she learned that she had allies who also embraced this cause. Natasha knew that if she could channel their collective energy, they could create a super team that could educate the masses about PrEP and rid the world of stigma, shame, homophobia, and transphobia. She would call this team, The Protectors.
Armando was born and raised in East Los Angeles. He grew up in a religious household and attended mass regularly. Armando’s parents always wanted him to follow the family tradition of getting married in the church and starting a family of his own. However, as he began to grow up, he started to realize that he was attracted to other men. During his school years, Armando struggled with his sexuality. Ultimately in his senior year of high school, Armando decided to come out as gay to his family and friends. His parents were devastated. Armando was terribly hurt by his parents’ reaction.
As Armando continued to mature and embrace his identity as a gay man, he decided to become a firefighter because he liked the idea of helping people and working in the community. But even as a strong, powerful firefighter, Armando still battled with stigma, shame, and ignorance from others based on his sexual identity. And he continued to struggle with feelings that he shamed his family while never wanting anyone else to feel that way.
One morning while watching television as he was getting ready for work, he was fascinated when investigative reporter Natasha Solano aired an investigative story about the effectiveness of PrEP. As he learned more about PrEP, Armando decided PrEP would be a great tool to use in addition to condoms One day, Armando’s mom found his PrEP in the medicine cabinet and confronted him about it. She automatically assumed that he was HIV positive after seeing his medication, so Armando had to educate her about HIV prevention and PrEP.
Now, he educates thousands of people about PrEP through his blog. He contacted Natasha to feature her story on his blog and when they met, he immediately felt her power to protect others. As he became empowered to educate people about PrEP, Armando’s power to break down barriers by sharing facts about HIV prevention emerged. It was then that Natasha recruited him to become one of The Protectors.
Hailing from south LA, Jordan is a 21 year-old student, actor and documentary filmmaker. After losing a family member to breast cancer as a child, he was inspired to create documentaries highlighting health issues affecting the Black community. Although his work keeps him busy, he recently started dating a guy who is HIV positive. Naturally an inquisitive person, Jordan went online to find information about ways to protect himself. He stumbled upon getprepla.com, where he found information about PrEP and decided that he wanted to give it a try. He made an appointment at the student health center to discuss PrEP with a doctor, Dr. Jefferson. Armed with his new-found PrEP knowledge, Jordan anxiously awaited the doctor. When he mentioned PrEP to her, she was dismissive and said, “I’ve never heard of that. You should just use to condoms to stay safe.” Jordan quickly replied, “I’ve done a lot of research about PrEP. It’s been shown to be 99% percent effective against HIV for those who are HIV negative and take it every day.” He then handed her information he found online from the Department of Public Health. After she reviewed the information, she apologized, tested him for HIV and other STDs, and started him on PrEP the same day. In that moment, Jordan became the all-knowing “Oracle.” As the “Oracle,” Jordan could use his intuition about people and his inquisitive nature to read people and address their concerns about HIV and STDs. He dedicated his power to ensuring that the people of Los Angeles County and beyond would no longer live in fear of HIV. His powers allowed him to find people who had questions and concerns about HIV and provide them with information to help protect them. After discovering that there were others called The Protectors who shared the same mission, he quickly joined them in their quest!
Dr. Jefferson knew she wanted to help people since the tender age of five. Growing up in Long Beach, California, she was smart and curious, with a strong interest in math and science. Attending college, she volunteered in the student health center teaching safer sex practices to her peers. She took a keen interest in adolescent health care and decided to dedicate her career to working with young adults. After she became a family practitioner, she worked in the student health center two afternoons a week to give back to her community.
On one of her busy clinic days, a student, Jordan Washington, came in to discuss his sexual health and ask for a prescription for PrEP. Dr. Jefferson was initially unsure about why PrEP was necessary. She recommended condom use to reduce HIV and STD risk. However, Jordan gave her information that PrEP could decrease his risk of HIV by up to 99% when taken daily. Dr. Jefferson was interested in learning more about PrEP and quickly did her research. She agreed that PrEP was a great tool to protect Jordan from HIV infection and prescribed PrEP for him that same day.
Shortly after this experience, Dr. Jefferson was contacted by an old college friend, Natasha Solano, a news reporter. Natasha was working on a story about PrEP and wanted to know if the Student Health Center was prescribing PrEP. Natasha and Dr. Jefferson began discussing the benefits of PrEP and Dr. Jefferson saw how empowering it was to the community to have access to this medication. After their conversation, Dr. Jefferson was inspired to educate more students about the benefits of PrEP and condoms to protect them against HIV. She began to routinely screen patients for their sexual risk behavior and when appropriate talk to them about PrEP. One day, while educating a young man about PrEP, the patient began to share with Dr. Jefferson his anxiety about wanting to have sex with his partner. She was quickly overwhelmed by a feeling of anxiety and panic emanating from the young man. At that moment, Dr. Jefferson realized that she had the ability to feel others’ emotions — the power of empathy. As both a doctor and an empath, she began to understand that she had the power not only to heal and guide others as a doctor, but also to embrace and channel the emotions of her patients in order to help them.
She contacted Natasha and told her the about this strange power she had discovered. Natasha explained that these new powers manifested because she had committed herself to educating others about PrEP. Seeing the potential of a super physician who can feel the emotions of others, Natasha invited Dr. Jefferson to be one of The Protectors.
Known to those close to him as Freddy, Federico was born and raised in the Pacific Palisades. The son of Latino actors, Freddy spent much of his childhood traveling with his parents. His childhood was spent in hotel rooms with his Grandmother where Freddy developed a wild imagination and a strong urge to create. His beloved Grandmother bought him his first sketch book, which he always kept close by. Relying on his creative mind, keen imagination and his ability to draw, he mastered the art of fashion design and became one of LA’s most accomplished fashion designers.
One afternoon Federico was in his shop researching fabrics when a young woman walked in smiling brightly. This woman was none other than Natasha Solano, the famed news reporter from one of the world’s leading news sources. She had heard many good things about his clothing and accessories, so she wanted to do a news story about him. After Natasha saw more of Freddy’s work, she knew she’d met the perfect person to help her with a benefit in collaboration with the LA Condom campaign. Freddy was excited to work on this important project and quickly sketched an idea for a new condom. While sketching the condom wrapper design, his eyes suddenly became blurry and began to tingle. A burst of white light then burst from his eyes, seemingly drawing power from his sketch. Freddy began experimenting with his new power, dropping items from the upper shelves of his design closet and catching them with the light from his eyes before they hit the ground. With practice, he was able to completely shield people and objects with his power. However, as his power grew, he became very sensitive to light. Being the fashionable designer that he was, Federico designed fashion-forward sunglasses and with them a head to toe look.
With his new look and powers, Federico developed an alternate identity—“The Glove”. Though he continued to be known as Federico in his daily life, he became “The Glove” when he needed to use his superpowers to protect others. Now, nothing can stop him from helping protect people from HIV and STDs. Using his alliance with the other Protectors, he shares knowledge about the importance of condoms and PrEP in the fight against HIV.