Each member of our team is dedicated to providing highly successful training programs. Their diverse histories and experiences come together in a shared commitment for prevention. All trainers are required to meet standards set by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, Center for Disease Control, and Texas Department of Health. Along with regular continuing education, staff undergoes specialized training programs for certifications in particular courses.
Dwayne Michael Smetzer
Chief Operating Officer
Dwayne has worked with the HIV Connection and its parent company, Workers Assistance Program, Inc. (WAP) since January 2015. As Chief Operating Officer, Dwayne is involved in the overall program, fiscal and operations functions of WAP. He looks forward to interacting and working with the providers that the HIV Connection serves.
With vast experience at the policy level, Dwayne worked on various USAID, CDC-funded HIV projects identified by The United States President’s Emergency Plan for AID’s Relief (PEPFAR) under President Bush. Having devoted his entire career in non-profit service, Dwayne’s array of experience in administration, operations and finance afforded him public health opportunities to serve in Latin America and Africa in the areas of HIV/AIDS, child survival and maternal health and nutrition.
After having worked numerous years in the international arena, Dwayne turned his efforts to national and state level initiatives funded by CDC and SAMHSA. He held senior positions regarding direct service, prevention education, mental health services and homelessness with the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) and the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg.
A native of mid-Atlantic region of the United States, Dwayne holds an MBA from Johns Hopkins University and a BS from the University of the District of Columbia.
Justin has been a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor since 2009. He has been privileged and honored to work with and learn from so many people in the HIV and Substance Use community here in Texas. He worked as a contract trainer for The HIV Connection before joining the team as the training director in November 2016.
Justin has experience with HEI Case Management, Ryan White Substance Use Counseling and HIV Street Outreach. During his work as a Substance Use Counselor, he practiced Harm Reduction and Motivational Interviewing to help people living with HIV improve their health outcomes and realize their goals. Over the last 5 years, Justin has supervised the HIV Street Outreach Team at Austin Travis County Integral Care (ATCIC), specifically the Community AIDS Resources and Education (CARE) Program in Austin. As a member of a HIV Street Outreach Team, Justin provided HIV/HCV testing and substance use services to many of our most vulnerable populations.
In his spare time, Justin continues to be a volunteer and advocate for Harm Reduction and Naloxone Distribution. He credits the work you all do with the life he is able to live today and is eternally grateful to all the people who continue to do Harm Reduction work in our communities. The HIV Connection Team is very excited about the perspective and knowledge he will bring to the position as Director.
HIV Training Services Manager
Having possessed an enthusiasm for HIV education and prevention from an early age, Kirsten is thrilled to have joined the HIV Connection team in February 2016.
Kirsten was born and raised in Dallas-area and has been living in Austin since earning her Bachelor of Science in Journalism and English from Texas State University. She previously worked as a news reporter and has a background in communications and animal rights advocacy.
Kirsten serves as the Vice President of H.E.A.T. (Human Environmental Animal Team) Establishment. H.E.A.T. is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving humanitarian, environmental and animal welfare through positive activism. Her work in the organization ranges from fundraiser and conference coordination to volunteering at community river cleanups.
In her free time, Kirsten fosters puppies and bottle baby kittens for PAWS of Central Texas, where she worked as an adoption counselor during college.
In her role as HTS Manager, Kirsten plans the annual HIV Street Outreach and HEI Case Management Conference, is the Continuing Education (CEU) Coordinator, and manages the HIV Connection social media.
Kirsten is honored to be part of HIV Connection and hopes to contribute her creativity and passion for helping the community to the dynamic team.
Kelli joined the HIV Connection team in September 2016. She began her career teaching HIV prevention in Botswana as a Peace Corps Volunteer. There she worked in partnership with Botswana’s Ministry of Curriculum to role out their new life skills and HIV prevention curriculum by working with teachers on integrating it into their lessons. She worked with local NGOs, clinics and service providers on public health, HIV prevention and substance dependency education initiatives. She also served as the guidance counselor at a junior secondary school in her village.
After returning from her service, Kelli began working with foster youth aging out of care across Central Texas. She taught teenagers classes on how to be adults covering everything from getting a job and money management to STI prevention and drug and alcohol awareness.
Most recently, Kelli was running an after school program in an underserved community in Guyana for orphans and vulnerable children infected and affected by HIV. She was brought over on a grant from the President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). In her position, Kelli recruited, trained and supervised the all volunteer staff of the program and wrote and implemented the life skills and academic enrichment curriculum for the program.
Kelli describes herself as a public health enthusiast, and is excited to be working in a public health educator role. Kelli is from East Texas. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. In her spare time, she enjoys dancing and storytelling. She volunteers with Austin Harm Reduction Coalition and is involved with her local Returned Peace Corps Volunteer community.
Gwen began working with the HIV training team in January 2017, after relocating to Austin from her hometown of Denver, Colorado. Her background is in HIV, substance abuse, and mental health prevention and treatment.
While getting her degree in social work from CSU, her interest in prevention work solidified while coordinating a substance abuse prevention program for local Colorado middle schools.
Her passion for prevention and empowerment lead her to work for a local HIV outreach agency and later for a detox and residential treatment center where she provided motivational interviewing and harm reduction counseling, case management, testing, and educational services to people with co-occurring mental health and substance abuse issues.
Gwen is currently earning a MPH at Johns Hopkins, and is excited to join the HIV connection team and continue providing practical and compassionate solutions to diverse and vulnerable populations.