Maria Jose Garza Asencios Suárez
September 28, 2022
We are heartbroken to have lost our beloved Garza, a core member of the Bridge HIV team for 17 years, who embodied the heart and soul of who we at Bridge HIV aspire to be.
Garza joined the Community Programs team at Bridge in September of 2005, quickly learning about all of the HIV prevention studies we conduct. She was hired as a recruiter, but became so much more – she was a true liaison to many communities with whom we work. Garza elevated how we support our communities with programs such as Hot and Healthy, a monthly drag production that raised funds for Bay Area HIV/LGBTQ/trans organizations. In addition to recruiting volunteers to participate in our studies, Garza did community outreach and education about HIV (and later COVID) prevention, and was a peer health navigator for transgender women, providing counseling and linkage to many different types of services.
Garza created deep ties over many years with multiple organizations in the community, serving a diverse array of clients, and used her considerable talents to raise funds for these organizations. Whenever Bridge HIV did outreach events in the community, Garza was always at the center, attracting people with her effervescent personality and her Wonder Woman (and other spectacular) costumes, eager to share her knowledge about HIV prevention, the importance of our studies, and the various ways in which people could become involved. Everyone seemed to want to talk and take selfies with Garza, who was selfless with her time and energy.
Garza was a talented dancer and teacher, leading us to dance through Pride Parade formations, ever patient as we strived to learn her dance routines to make her proud. Garza taught so many of us how to do outreach into communities, the importance of clear and compelling communication, and to have joy while building these connections. Garza was so full of warmth, light, and love, and was a true pleasure to work with.
“Garzas” (herons in English) are said to symbolize tranquility, serenity, elegance and grace, all qualities that our Garza embodied. There is a hole in Bridge HIV with her passing, and we hold her in all of our hearts.