Join co-organizers PositiveWomen’s Network – USA (PWN-USA) and the SEROProject — two networks of people living with HIV – and help build a diverse, intersectional movement against HIV criminalization in the South and across the United States.
Plenary and session topics will include:
· Intersections of race, gender and sexuality in HIV criminalization
· Centering the rights of sex workers and other over-criminalized groups
· Updates and tips from active state-based campaigns against HIV criminalization
· Supporting leadership of people living with HIV in the movement to end HIV criminalization
HIV is a human rights issue; criminalization of people living with HIV is a social justice issue. The Training Academy will unite and train advocates living with HIV and allies from across the country on strategies and best practices for repealing laws criminalizing people living with and vulnerable to HIV.
There’s also still time for your organization to become a sponsor of the training academy, and/or send a participant to this important event. For more information, please contact Sean Strub, SERO Project, at sean.strub@SEROproject.com; or Naina Khanna, PWN-USA, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PWN-USA Statement for National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
APRIL 8, 2016: Young women living with HIV have unique needs that often go unaddressed. HIV stigma, discrimination, ageism, complexities of treatment regimens, and economic challenges present a unique set of barriers to care and service delivery that can result in isolation, depression, and poor health outcomes. Navigating disclosure, dating, sex, employment, education, and parenting may be entirely different for young people living with HIV than for older adults. For those born with HIV, the realities of being a long-term survivor at age 20, 30, or 35 may have particular physical and psychological implications. In the United States, mass incarceration, community violence, and growing economic inequality may be affecting young generations impacted by HIV in unprecedented ways.
“When we talk about the needs of women, social support is critically important to our overall wellbeing,” says Grissel Granados, a young woman born with HIV who currently works as an HIV and STI testing coordinator in Los Angeles, and who released a documentary last year, We’re Still Here, exploring the complexities and challenges of growing up with an HIV diagnosis. “Even as we have seen funding cut for women’s support groups, communities of women have found ways to come together anyway. However, for young women living with HIV, it is much harder for them to create community with other young women–being that they are so few in numbers in any given city, young women don’t even know each other. There are not enough young women participating in larger HIV spaces because their needs are not being addressed and because they are not seeing themselves. As a larger community of HIV advocates, we need to make sure that we are intentional about including young women and supporting spaces that can bring young women together, even if it’s just to build a network for social support.”
In honor of this year’s National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NYHAAD), Positive Women’s Network – USA (PWN-USA) calls for a national commitment to addressing the needs and upholding the rights of young people living with and vulnerable to HIV. Advocates for Youth has just released a NYHAAD Bill of Rights, proclaiming:
1. The right to live free from oppression,
2. The right to education,
3. The right to prevention,
4. The right to care and treatment, and
5. The right to live free from criminalization, discrimination and stigma.
“It’s an aspiration of mine to see something like this NYHAAD Bill of Rights in full motion because our young people are worthy to walk in this world with all provided tools, absolute support and love,” says Tranisha Arzah, a PWN-USA Board Member born with HIV who works as a peer advocate in Seattle. “If we demand these rights, with the full support of the larger community, young people can not only thrive but lead the way toward a future where barriers to prevention, treatment and care like stigma and discrimination no longer exist.”
PWN-USA wholeheartedly endorses this bill of rights. As we move well into the fourth decade of the HIV epidemic, we further call on the HIV community to endorse and actively promote leadership by young people living with HIV. We believe that if this epidemic ever sees its end, it will be because of effective, supportive and strategic intergenerational leadership building on the lessons of the past while looking toward a radical and visionary future.
PWN-USA is fully committed to empowering and supporting young women living with HIV to organize and strategize; to demanding and upholding their rights to healthcare, including sexual and reproductive care, that works for them and meets their unique needs; and to ensuring their meaningful participation in decision-making spaces.
Please join us on Twitter today at 4 PM ET/1 PM PT for a dynamic Twitter chat with Advocates for Youth about Article 5 of the NYHAAD Bill of Rights: The Right to Live Free from Criminalization, Discrimination and Stigma. Follow the hashtag #NYHAADChat and join the conversation. See you online!
In September 2014, PWN-USA held our first-ever National Leadership Summit to build advocacy skills and leadership capacity among over 200 women living with HIV from 26 states, the US Virgin Islands, Canada and Mexico. Participants from the 2014 Summit have gone on to do amazing work in their communities, fighting stigma, advocating for fair policies and supporting people living with HIV in their regions. The 2016 Summit will be designed for both first time participants and 2014 alumni as emerging and seasoned advocates to deepen advocacy and collective organizing strategies during a key election cycle.
You can read about the magic that happened at our 2014 Summit here.
The theme for SPEAK UP! 2016 is: Organizing for Collective Power.
We’re serious about building power. In this critical election year, we remain committed to our vision: a world where all people with HIV live free of stigma and discrimination. We work to achieve this by preparing and involving women living with HIV, in all our diversity, including gender identity and sexual expression, to be meaningfully involved at the tables where decisions are made about our lives, our communities, and our rights. We actively work at the intersections of race, class, gender, immigrant status, sexual orientation and more.
If you are interested in contributing to this growing and vibrant community, we encourage you to submit an abstract to conduct a session (workshop or other activity at the Summit). As a session leader you will ensure that information and skill-building activities are provided in line with PWN-USA values, priorities, and goals for the Summit.
There will be 5 core tracks at the Summit:
1) Rights, Power and Justice
2) Building Leadership Skills
3) Policy and Advocacy
4) Media & Strategic Communications and
5) Advancing the HIV Research, Care, and Prevention Agenda
Final decisions on session proposals will be made with an eye towards meaningful involvement of women with HIV and communities of color as presenters. In particular, we seek strong representation of women living with HIV, people of color, trans and gender non-conforming individuals, and young people as presenters. We welcome abstract submissions from well-intentioned allies and encourage allies to submit in collaboration with women living with HIV.
The deadline for proposal submissions is 11 PM EDT, Friday, April 29, 2016.
For more information about submitting your proposal, click here.
March 22, 2016: PWN-USA Colorado, in partnership with allies including the CO Mod Squad, the Colorado Organizations Responding to AIDS (CORA) and the Colorado Department of Public Health, has made enormous strides toward ending HIV criminalization in their state. Described by PWN CO Co-Chair and PWN-USA Board Chair Barb Cardell as a “community labor of love,” the process that began four years ago and included stakeholder meetings with over 100 participants, is finally starting to pay off.
A bill that would effectively repeal or significantly amend the three HIV-specific criminal codes, remove sentence enhancements for knowledge of HIV status and modernize STI statutes to include HIV was introduced into the state senate by state Senate Minority Leader Pat Steadman on March 4, and is co-sponsored in the Colorado House of Representatives by Represenative Daneya Esgar.
“Changing state law is never easy, but we hope that our Colorado lawmakers will support this legislation,” says PWN CO Co-Chair Kari Hartel. “We believe that common sense and compassion will win the day over fear and stigma.”
From coast to coast and across the World Wide Web, Positive Women’s Network – USA members took advantage of National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NWGHAAD), March 10, and the days before and after to raise awareness: both to the fact that women are still vulnerable to HIV and about the unique challenges facing them.
From hosting or co-hosting special events, like PWN-USA Philadelphia and PWN-USA Ohio did, to speaking at existing events, like PWN-USA Colorado and PWN-USA Georgia did, to writing wonderful blogs like PWN-USA Bay Area did, our members went above and beyond to make sure that the women who needed to hear the message heard it.
Give Love to one another, know matter what the issue my be; we all have the same thing in common, called the Virus, that continues to spread. It’s been around over 30 years.
We, as Sisters, understand one another’s feeling and love each other for who we are. We don’t expect anything from one another.
We will show our Love to each other, and say, “I understand, and together, we will overcome this Virus.”
Think positive, encourage one another, when one feels down, pick her up and give her a loving Sister hug and say, “It’s OK, you’re going to be all right.”
Stand by each other, whether you are black or white, or in-between, in showing one another the Sister hugs. Just because we have the Virus, we are not going to let it get us down, but instead pick us up, and encourage us to pick each other up.
With our Faith, we travel through the New Beginning of a New Day as we walk day by day, encouraging our Sisters and ourselves in saying, “We are someone and will always be somebody,” to encourage other Sisters in fighting this Virus called HIV & AIDS.
PWN-USA is excited to announce our launch of two new web-based training series this month: a 4-part communications training series and a 3-part policy training series, open to all women living with HIV and HIV advocates.
Click below to read more about each series and register for upcoming trainings!
March 10, 2016 – “What would improve your ability to stay in care?” That is the fundamental question 14 researchers, all women living with HIV, asked 180 participants from seven different geographic areas in a community-based participatory research project spearheaded by Positive Women’s Network – USA (PWN-USA), a national membership body of women with HIV. Participants were then asked about which specific services they needed, which services they currently had access to, and how well those services were meeting their needs. Among the key findings:
Women living with HIV are living in extreme poverty. 89.7% of the women surveyed were below 138% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), with 73.8% below 100% FPL.
Poverty affected more than just their ability to pay for drugs and medical services. 50% of respondents who had missed a medical appointment in the past year cited transportation as the reason.
17% of respondents had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and9% with depression. Cost, lack of coverage, lack of available services or waitlists for services presented significant barriers for many women in accessing these services.
While most respondents had been screened for cervical cancer according to current guidelines, only 40% of women of reproductive age had been asked if they needed birth control; just 39.4% had been asked if they wanted to get pregnant. And shockingly, 38.1% of participants had not been told by a provider that achieving viral suppression would dramatically reduce risk of transmission.
The Ryan White CARE Act, first passed by Congress in 1990, has been a life-saving safety net program for hundreds of thousands of women living with HIV, serving as a payer of last resort for medical care and the supportive services that so many people living with HIV—particularly women, who are so often heads of household and responsible for multiple generations living under one roof—need in order to stay engaged in care. The Ryan White Program is due to be reauthorized and remains desperately needed, particularly in states that have refused to expand Medicaid.
The Ryan White Program is working well, but the needs of people with HIV have changed and some women are still simply not able to access the services they need to stay in continuous care. “One thing that struck me is how many women need counseling and mental health assistance, but don’t know how to go about getting it,” said Pat Kelly of Orangeburg, South Carolina, one of the community-based researchers on the project.
For others, stigma or inadequate knowledge among medical providers means women living with HIV are not receiving comprehensive sexual and reproductive care that affirms their rights and desires to have families post-diagnosis. “I believe if more providers discussed the option of treatment as prevention with their patients, especially female patients, it would open up more opportunities for the patients to consider starting a family safely. For a lot of women living with HIV in their childbearing years, having a family is important. Many of them still think it’s not possible to do safely. But if this conversation starts happening with their providers, it will give them a choice and hope. All women should have that choice,” explained Evany Turk, research team member from Chicago, IL.
PWN-USA will be presenting more detailed information about these and other important findings of the project today on a webinar, “Securing the Future of Women-Centered Care,” at 1 PM EST/10 AM PST, and will host a Twitter Chat with special guests Greater Than AIDS and The Well Project at 3 PM EST to continue the conversation using the hashtags #NWGHAAD and #PWNspeaks.
by Teresa Sullivan, Senior Member of PWN-USA Philadelphia, Board Member of PWN-USA
In June of 1987, a small group of strangers gathered in a San Francisco storefront to document the lives they feared history would neglect. Their goal was to create a memorial for those who had died of AIDS related illnesses, and to thereby help people understand the devastating impact of the disease.
This meeting of devoted friends and lovers served as the foundation of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt.
Today there are NAMES Project chapters across the United States and independent Quilt affiliates around the world. Since 1987, over 14 million people have visited the Quilt at thousands of displays worldwide. Through such displays, the NAMES Project Foundation has raised over $3 million for AIDS service organizations throughout North America.
AIDS Fund has partnered with the Names Project Foundation to present panels of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. On March 5, 2016, PWN-USA Philly Regional Chapter and the AIDS Fund will display one of the panels in honor of those who are gone but not forgotten at our Annual National Women and Girls HIV Awareness Day event at The Rotunda, 4014 Walnut St., Philadelphia PA 19104. Below is the panel display:
As women activists, we must always remember our Herstory in orderto change the future for women living with HIV or AIDS!
The undersigned organizations committed to addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic are writing to call upon you, as entertainment industry leaders, to continue to defend and support the rights and dignity of entertainment industry workers living with HIV and to help promote greater public education on HIV. Read the full letter here.
Going to the White House was truly something I never had on my radar to do for personal reasons. However, that was years ago when I felt that way. So fast forward and I was invited to participate in a roundtable discussion with members of the Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP), the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and representatives from other agencies, alongside several phenomenal trans women and trans men who are recognized as experts.
The discussion started off with a synopsis of the things these lead organizations need to improve on when servicing the trans population. We who are of trans experience are already privy to this information and we voiced our frustrations about the inconclusive and nonexistent data of the trans community living with HIV.
We had to let these agencies know that the trans community is not being counted because trans women are seen as men who have sex with men (MSM) and trans men are counted as women. That is problematic, because these ASOs and CBOs that claim to provide services for transgender people seldom do. We also had to let them know that the trans women in attendance were more than beautiful women; we are also hardworking, dedicated, fierce, intelligent and persistent advocates who demand a place at the table. In essence, nothing about us without us. We made it blatantly clear that funds intended to bridge the gap in disparities suffered by the trans community living with HIV are not being used in that manner, but more for the leadership building of Black MSMs.
I know that we got our points across and were heard. As I told Douglas Brooks, Director of ONAP, that I thought my meeting with members of HRSA last year in Arkansas was a step in rectifying the situation, yet as a trans woman living with HIV in Arkansas, whatever surveillance measures are being used are not counting me. That is a huge problem for me. What we members of Positively Trans who were in attendance actually did was to share the preliminary results of our survey of trans* and gender-non-conforming people living with HIV in the South, since the southern region is often neglected from funding opportunities.
FEBRUARY 12, 2016: President Obama released the final budget of his presidency this week. While several components of his proposed budget offer good news for women living with and vulnerable to HIV, Positive Women’s Network – USA (PWN-USA) remains concerned by the renewed proposal to eliminate Part D of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, the only federal funding stream that prioritizes services for women, youth and families living with and affected by HIV.
President Obama’s budget maintains level funding of the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) program at $335 million. This program is critical for many low-income, unstably housed people living with HIV, and we are relieved that, under the President’s budget, it would remain in place and funded. Legislative language changes also modernize the program to ensure better distribution of funding to geographic areas where it is currently most needed.
PWN-USA commends President Obama for eliminating funding for abstinence only until marriage (AOTM) sex education, a policy that has proven completely ineffective and unrealistic. Studies show that states teaching AOTM have higher rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, a waste of taxpayer dollars which could be used to fund comprehensive and non-stigmatizing sex education that affirms people of all gender identities and sexual orientations.
Further, we applaud the addition of $9 million through a Special Projects of National Significance (SPNS) initiative in dedicated funding for Hepatitis C testing and treatment through the Ryan White Program. About a quarter of people living with HIV also have HCV; this new initiative will assist in identifying those individuals and making sure they have access to medications that can cure HCV.
We are pleased by the President’s ongoing commitment to the Ryan White Program, a crucial safety net for women living with HIV, a majority of whom are low-income–particularly in states which have refused to expand Medicaid.
As in years past, our primary concern with this budget is the proposed elimination of Part D of the Ryan White Program. Part D-funded programs provide coordinated care and support services to women living with HIV who may be juggling caregiving responsibilities to family members and children. They also ensure support and services for youth who acquired HIV perinatally or at a young age as they transition to adult care. These programs often function as crucial and culturally relevant entry points into care for underinsured women living with HIV — and for youth, the fastest growing population living with HIV in the U.S. For young people and women living with HIV, their ability to stay engaged in care and deal with the psychological aspects of living with HIV may depend on the availability of services which educate and support family members. Part D is the only Ryan White program which has historically had some flexibility for including affected family members in service delivery.
“We are pleased to see the President’s continued commitment to the Minority AIDS Initiative (MAI) and new efforts to address Hepatitis C co-infection, as well as eliminating outdated abstinence-only policies. However, in light of the failure of National HIV/AIDS Strategy 2020 to address sexual and reproductive health of people living with HIV, it is urgently important to ensure that high-quality sexual and reproductive health care is maintained in the Ryan White program and expanded to people with HIV of all ages and genders. In addition, the Part D program has historically provided services that facilitate access to care for women and youth. Independently of the mechanisms to fund such services, they must be maintained,” says Naina Khanna, Executive Director of PWN-USA.
“Part D services are vital to meeting the needs of women, children and young adults,” adds Kari Hartel, co-chair of PWN-USA Colorado and a Client Advocate and Retention Specialist in a Part D program. “The reason we’ve seen a decrease in vertical transmission is because of the extraordinary efforts of these programs. Part D is uniquely equipped to focus on the needs of women living with HIV and provides a level of support to young people that cannot be matched in other parts of the program. As we continue to see increases in the number of young adults being diagnosed with HIV, cutting Part D would be catastrophic, especially at a moment when, for the first time ever, we have the tools in care and prevention to turn the tide.”
For more details on the President’s budget proposal, click here.
PWN-USA Statement for National Black HIV Awareness Day
by Vanessa Johnson and Waheedah Shabazz-El
Black Americans have endured an exceptionally brutal history which complicates our present and challenges our future. Torn from our native land–the continent that gave birth to humankind–we have been systematically dehumanized to serve as chattel in a foreign land. Even now, the United States offers Black Americans citizenship only at a substandard quality of life and without an opportunity for reparations and healing. Given this history, and our understanding of HIV as an epidemic that thrives on inequality and injustice, an HIV epidemic among Black Americans should hardly come as an unexpected surprise.
National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD) is anything but a celebration. It is a grim reminder of how far we still have to go, and how hard we still have to fight. Black lives will matter when our nation confronts and conquers the hypocrisy of those who claim to cherish all life yet place greater value on fetuses than on living, breathing Black children and adults.
Throughout this epidemic, HIV has shined a bright spotlight on the wide range of injustices confronting Black Americans: intergenerational poverty, mass incarceration, institutionalized racism, inadequate access to health care, inferior educational opportunities, disproportionate targeting by police, a racist criminal justice system, and more. If there is anything that the HIV community has universally accepted, it is the understanding that HIV is more than just a medical condition. The federal response to this epidemic serves as a very window into the soul of one of the richest nations on earth — a nation which continually leaves Black Americans in its wake, drowning in the torrents of a largely preventable disease. Merely half a century after the end of segregation, in a nation whose economic basis is founded on Jim Crow laws and which turns a blind eye to the systemic injustices facing people of color, we cannot feign surprise that there continues to be an epidemic of HIV among Black Americans and that Black people living with HIV face worse health outcomes on average.
Although some progress has been made, Black Americans are still fighting for access to the most fundamental human rights – including water, food, employment, education, and the right to vote. We continue to be locked out of meaningful civic participation, fair representation and decision-making from the local level to the highest halls of federal government.
This rings particularly true for Black American women, whose plight and leadership in this epidemic continue to be minimized. Despite the advances made to reduce new infections, Black American women still acquire HIV at an alarming rate–representing 60% of new infections among women–and remain the majority of women living with HIV in this country. Although Black women comprise nearly two-third of the domestic HIV epidemic among women, Black women living with HIV are still not a priority in the newly-released National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS 2020).
As an advocacy organization, Positive Women’s Network-USA (PWN-USA), the premier voice for women living with HIV in the United States, will not stand idly by in silence while women of African descent continue to bear the brunt of this disease and policymakers’ indifference to its effects on our community. We demand that our government invest in effective HIV prevention for Black women, as well as in women-centered, whole-person, universal health care that addresses the barriers to engagement and retention in care for women with HIV. Medicalization of HIV will continue to fail in addressing the needs of women living with and vulnerable to HIV when they do not have adequate access to basic resources to stay healthy.
The HIV epidemic in this country will end when America commits to the underlying conditions which enable HIV to thrive, such as racism and poverty. We demand a laser focus on upholding the full health, rights, and dignity of Black women living with HIV over the next five years of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy’s implementation.
Want to get a sense of what to expect or a chance to review policy priorities before you arrive in DC?
Join the US People Living with HIV Caucus, a national coalition of PLHIV networks and individuals, for an orientation webinar to AIDSWatch 2016! The HIV Caucus will provide an overview of the agenda and program, share some opportunities for networking, and discuss the AIDSWatch 2016 policy platform.
“What would improve your ability to stay in care?”That is the fundamental question women with HIV sought to answer in a community-based participatory research project. 14 women living with HIV (WLHIV) from across the US surveyed other WLHIV in their communities to assess what is and is not working well for women in the context of Affordable Care Act implementation, changes to Ryan White service delivery and the updated National HIV/AIDS Strategy.
“One thing that struck me is how many women need counseling and mental health assistance, but don’t know how to go about getting it,” said Pat Kelly, PWN-USA Board Co-Parliamentarian and one of the community-based researchers on the project.
In honor of National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, we invite you to join Positive Women’s Network – USA for a webinar presenting the key findings of this research project: Securing the Future of Women-Centered Care. Discussion will focus on implications for the future of the Ryan White program.
January 20, 2016: Registration for the much-anticipated HIV is Not a Crime II Training Academy, to be held May 17 – 20, 2016, at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, is open!
HIV is a human rights issue; criminalization of people living with HIV is a social justice issue. The Training Academy will unite and train advocates living with HIV and allies from across the country on laws criminalizing people living with and vulnerable to HIV, and on strategies and best practices for repealing such laws. “It’s time for us to advance the discourse around intersections between HIV criminalization, racist policing, drug policy reform, and sex worker criminalization,” says Naina Khanna, Executive Director of Positive Women’s Network-USA, which is co-organizing the Training Academy with Sero Project. “We can best do this by building a grassroots movement for policy change, led by the communities most impacted by these issues.”
Have an idea for a workshop? We are now accepting abstracts!
There will be three tracks, focusing on:
1) Effective and Accountable Leadership,
2) Rights, Policy and Justice
3) Campaign Planning, Strategy and Messaging
Workshops will help advance informed and effective grassroots organizing and coalition-building, providing participants with concrete tools and resources to enact local, state, and federal strategies in their communities.
The deadline for abstract submissions is Friday, February 26, 2016 by 5:00 pm CST (6:00 pm EST, 3:00 PST). You will receive notice of acceptance on Friday, April 1, 2016.
As a reminder, scholarship applications are due Feb. 5 and can be found here.
Are you interested in providing financial support for this important event? Please contact Sean Strub, SERO Project at email@example.com or Naina Khanna at Positive Women’s Network – USA at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Questions? Please contact Tami Haught, SERO Organizer and Training Coordinator, at: email@example.com.
January 4, 2016: After a very successful inaugural HIV Is Not a Crime National Conference last year, the SERO Project and Positive Women’s Network – USA are pleased to announce that the HIV is Not a Crime II National Training Academy will be held May 17 – 20, 2016, at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. The second national conference is designed to support repeal and modernization of laws criminalizing HIV non-disclosure, perceived or potential exposure and transmission.
HIV is Not a Crime II will unite and train advocates living with HIV and allies from across the country on laws criminalizing people living with HIV and on strategies and best practices for repealing such laws. Skills-building training, with an emphasis on grassroots organizing, advocacy, coalition-building and campaign planning, will leave participants with concrete tools and resources to work on state-level strategies when they return home.
Scholarship applications are available here and must be submitted with a letter of support by February 5, 2016. Please note that only complete applications will be reviewed. Your application will be evaluated and scored by volunteer reviewers on the Scholarship Committee, and you will receive an email response to your application by March 11, 2016.
Please stay tuned for more details in the coming weeks and months.
Are you interested in providing financial support for this important event? Please contact Sean Strub at the SERO Project or Naina Khanna at Positive Women’s Network – USA for more information.
PWN-USA members were on the move this World AIDS Day, representing at events from coast to coast! (Don’t see your event and/or photos here? Please contact Jennie at firstname.lastname@example.org with relevant info and/or photos and she will add them!)
PWN-USA New York City–our newest affiliated regional chapter!–participated in the Brooklyn “Saving Our Homes, Saving Our Lives” charity awards benefit to raise awareness of the challenges facing low-income and formerly homeless people living with HIV, as well as in a World AIDS Day event at Harlem’s legendary Apollo Theater organized to show support for Governor Cuomo’s plan to end AIDS epidemic in New York by 2020.
PWN-USA South Carolina members attended a screening of the film Wilhemina’s War at the Nickelodeon Theater in Columbia, SC, sponsored by the South Carolina HIV/AIDS Council. PWNer Stacy Jennings also starred in a play, “Sex HIS Way,” with a plot line about women and HIV.
PWN-USA Colorado member and Board Chair Barb Cardell was quite busy on and before World AIDS Day, shuttling from one event to another, speaking at a concert hosted by the Boulder County AIDS Project, a breakfast in Fort Collins for the Northern Colorado AIDS Project, a lunch in Denver for the Colorado AIDS Project, and a World AIDS Day candlelight vigil and community education event hosted by the Pueblo County Health Center. (She somehow also found time to be interviewed for this awesome article by former PWN-USA Communications Director Olivia Ford for thebody.com.)
PWN-USA member Lepena Reid in Florida rivaled Barb for being in the most places in a single day, assisting the Florida Department of Health in testing over 190 people on December 1, representing PWN-USA at a historical black church in Tampa alongside students from University of South Florida, Pastors on Patrol, local ASOs, National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, Purple Up for Domestic Violence, Delta Sigma sorority; and at a dedication of the AIDS Memorial Park in Tampa with the mayor, the AIDS Institute, the Department of Health, other ASOs and government officials. (See photos in slideshow above.)
PWN-USA Philly, not to be outdone, represented PWN at a World AIDS Day event at Temple University, addressing the gathering on the subject of HIV criminalization (see photo in slideshow above).
In San Francisco, PWN-USA Bay Area members attended the amfAR Cure Summit at University of California at San Francisco (UCSF), where researchers explained progress toward a cure for HIV that will be furthered with a $20 million grant just received from amfAR, bringing attention to populations (such as women) too often left out of clinical trials.
In North Carolina, PWN-USA Strategic Communications Action Team member Alicia Diggs participated in a press conference with the North Carolina AIDS Action Network in Durham (see photo in slideshow above).
PWN-USA Georgia members were very active in fighting stigma across the state, representing at a World AIDS Day event at Morehouse College in Atlanta and at another at the Betterway Foundation in Columbus, GA. (See photos in slideshow above.) Members and allies participated in a special event in honor of World AIDS Day at Shy Temple Memorial Church in Atlanta on December 4, including a writing workshop led by author Khafre Kujichagulia, a candlelight vigil and a balloon release (see photos in slideshow above). One of the chapter’s newest members, Danielle Atkins (a.k.a. Ghetto Rose) even performed in a World AIDS Day commemoration event at Tavernpointe Kitchen and Bar in Atlanta. And on December 1, a breathtakingly beautiful documentary about another new PWN-USA Georgia member, Patricia Semiens, was released. Watch it here and share widely!
Both documents represent missed opportunities to fully address the HIV epidemic in the U.S.
As researchers, government officials, policy experts and advocates gather for the National HIV Prevention Conference, a diverse coalition of networks of people living with HIV (PLHIV), and our key partners and allies, from all over the U.S. have joined together to express our deep dissatisfaction and disappointment regarding the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS): Updated for 2020 and the accompanying Federal Action Plan.
We have repeatedly attempted to engage in dialogue with and share our recommendations for the NHAS, but have been met with little interest from the Administration. The development and implementation of a National HIV/AIDS Strategy that included greater and more meaningful involvement of PLHIV and community partners would hasten progress in the effort to end HIV as well as be a powerful legacy for President Obama and subsequent administrations.
The Federal Action Plan is an underwhelming update and trumpets what has already been accomplished rather than providing specifics about what must be done. For example, citing the July 2014 issuance from the Department of Justice’s Best Practices Guidance informing state Attorney General’s about HIV criminalization concerns, while important, is not new.
In other cases, we see that mandates are not met. President Obama’s Executive Order, issued in July 2015, required the development of recommendations for increasing employment opportunities for PLHIV. Yet such recommendations are not evident in the Federal Action Plan. There also are no assigned roles for key federal agencies (including those responsible for HIV care and prevention) to identify and address employment needs, nor capacity building to support community-based efforts to do so.
We are disappointed to note that once again, as was the case throughout the Bush presidency, key stakeholder groups that are disproportionately impacted by the epidemic have been entirely omitted or miscategorized, including sex workers, immigrants and people of trans experience.
The Federal Action Plan also fails to set forth any mechanisms for involvement by people living with HIV, including PLHIV networks, in achieving critical goals, including universal viral suppression.
We are tired of having our vital concerns and expertise ignored or dismissed and being invited to participate at tables already set for us, with an entire menu already planned, and usually at the last minute. Since the first NHAS was released in 2010, we know our involvement, usually uninvited — perhaps sometimes unwelcome — has constructively helped to shape improvements in HIV prevention, care and treatment.
NHAS 2020 calls for “greater and more meaningful involvement of people living with HIV”. It is time to back up that rhetoric with specific steps to more proactively engage and more efficiently utilize the expertise of networks of people living with HIV.
We call for PLHIV to be seen as the subject matter experts on our lives—not merely as “patients,” “clients” or “consumers”—and to be included in meaningful and specific ways in the ongoing implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy.
If we as a nation truly seek to end the epidemic, it will require more than biomedical interventions. It will require leadership by and partnership with the networks of PLHIV and every key population of people living with or at risk of acquiring HIV. Among our most pressing priorities are the following:
We must include sex workers in every conversation, acknowledging that criminalization of sex work and the related policing of transgender people are directly linked to consistently worse health outcomes for communities affected by this criminalization.
We must provide culturally relevant access to testing and healthcare for immigrants without criminalization and penalties, not only through Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities, but also through the providers that serve these communities.
We must provide strong leadership against state and military laws that target PLHIV and provide for review of previous prosecutions.
We must collect better housing data for those under the age of 18 who are living with or at risk of acquiring HIV and we must measure housing needs by assessing housing instability and not just homelessness.
Rather than simply address discrimination with current laws, we must research and acknowledge HIV stigma to address it systematically with federal agencies, partners and federal grantees.
PrEP is an important prevention strategy within a limited range of communities but for many transgender people and sex workers “test and treat” and “treatment as prevention” approaches, including PrEP, divert resources away from approaches that we know work, such as comprehensive peer-led prevention programs and advocacy to remove legal barriers, criminalization and policing of condoms and medications.
We must immediately remove transgender people from the MSM (men who have sex with men) category to truly measure and address the epidemic in this community.
Finally, we must act quickly and comprehensively to address the social and structural factors which continue to drive the incidence of HIV and health disparities in communities of color, particularly black gay men and black women, who remain severely disproportionately impacted by HIV.
We, PLHIV and our networks, as well as those allied with us, deserve and demand a better and more inclusive National HIV/AIDS Strategy that includes meaningful engagement for PLHIV networks and key population stakeholder groups to partner with the Interagency Working Group created in the Executive Order.
We demand to have meetings with the Office of National AIDS Policy, the Federal Interagency Working Group, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to discuss NHAS 2020 and its accompanying Federal Action Plan and the Community Action Framework that was developed without adequate community input.
This statement is supported by #PersistentAdvocates living with and affected by HIV.
Contact: Suraj Madoori, 708-590-9806, email@example.com or Jennie Smith-Camejo, 347-553-5174, firstname.lastname@example.org
ATLANTA: This week, as representatives of multiple federal agencies and organizations working in HIV prevention and care convene in Atlanta for the 2015 National HIV Prevention Conference (NHPC), advocates and activists representing key constituencies disproportionately impacted by the HIV epidemic will be gathering blocks away to highlight issues that are largely ignored by the NHPC. Among the issues that will be addressed at the People’s Mobilization on the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (also known as the “Counter Conference”) are the intersection of criminalization of HIV with mass incarceration and the War on Drugs; lack of integration of reproductive justice and sexual health; prevention funding, housing and healthcare access for people living with HIV in the South; increasing employment opportunities for people living with HIV, and upholding human rights for transgender people, immigrants and sex workers.
WHAT: People’s Mobilization on the National HIV/AIDS Strategy: A Counter Conference to the NHPC focused on issues facing communities inadequately addressed by the National HIV/AIDS Strategy & Federal Action Plan WHEN: Monday, 12/7, 10 AM-4 PM; Tuesday, 12/8, 10 AM-4 PM WHERE: National Center for Civil & Human Rights, 100 Ivan Allen Blvd. NW, Atlanta Possible press conference to be announced.
“The LGBT Institute shines a spotlight on issues that don’t often get a platform,” says Ryan Roemerman, Executive Director of the LGBT Institute at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, which is hosting the Counter Conference. “Our hope is that we can help organizers amplify their message that a strong focus on intersectionality, human rights, and social justice are necessary when creating and implementing strategies to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic.”
The NHPC and the Counter Conference come just days after the Obama Administration’s Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) released its highly anticipated Federal Action Plan to implement the National HIV/AIDS Strategy 2020 (NHAS) unveiled this July. While the Action Plan does show some progress in areas long championed by advocates, including discrimination, data collection for transgender women and incorporating trauma-informed care in healthcare services for people living with HIV, advocates say it does not go far enough even in these areas, and falls woefully short in others. For example, sex workers—a population extremely vulnerable to HIV—are mentioned nowhere in the Action Plan. There is still no mandate for reproductive and sexual healthcare services to be provided to people living with HIV in primary care settings. Testing, prevention and treatment for immigrants appear to be addressed only in the context of detention centers. And indicators for addressing homelessness among people living with HIV are so limited as to miss those unstably housed. Of great concern is that the Action Plan contains no clear mechanisms for the involvement or leadership of people living with HIV in the monitoring and evaluation of NHAS. Advocates have also critiqued the Strategy’s sex-negativity and ONAP’s failure to engage with the community in the process of developing the Strategy (see links below).
The Counter Conference seeks to include people living with HIV in the national conversation around prevention happening at the NPHC–the conference, at about $500 per person, is far too expensive for many to attend, especially considering the vast majority of people living with HIV live at or below the poverty level. “The National HIV/AIDS Strategy’s success rests on universal viral suppression, because that will drastically reduce the rate of new HIV acquisitions. But only about 30% of people living with HIV are currently virally suppressed. It will be impossible to get to universal viral suppression without working hand in hand with networks of people living with HIV, representing the most impacted communities. We understand how to look at barriers to engagement in care – from unaddressed trauma, unstable housing, economic and food insecurity to discrimination in healthcare settings,” says Naina Khanna, Executive Director of Positive Women’s Network-USA, a national membership organization of women living with HIV and a Steering Committee member of the US People Living with HIV Caucus.
Throughout the day on Monday and Tuesday, attendees of the Counter Conference will participate in sessions in forum and workshop settings presented by people living with HIV and allies.
Partners and collaborators for the Counter Conference include: ACT UP/NY, AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Counter Narrative Project, Drug Policy Alliance, HIV Prevention Justice Alliance, Human Rights Watch, the LGBT Institute at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, Positive Women’s Network – USA, SERO Project, Southern AIDS Coalition, Southern AIDS Strategy Initiative, TheBody.com, Transgender Law Center and the Positively Trans Project (T+), Treatment Action Group, SisterLove Inc., U.S. People Living with HIV Caucus, Women With A Vision. For more information and to RSVP, please visit this link: http://events.aidschicago.org/site/Calendar?id=101682&view=Detail
For more information on advocate critiques of the NHAS 2020 Federal Action Plan, please visit these links:
December 2, 2015 – Yesterday, on World AIDS Day 2015-a day to remember the millions who have died of HIV-related causes over the past three decades, honor long-term survivors, and to strategize the way forward toward an HIV-free generation-the White House Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) released the Federal Action Plan of the newest version of the US National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS, or Strategy), outlining key steps various federal agencies will take toward addressing the domestic HIV epidemic. President Obama is the first US President to create and implement a comprehensive plan to address the domestic HIV epidemic, and Positive Women’s Network – USA (PWN-USA), a national membership body of women living with HIV, applauds the Obama Administration’s continued commitment to address the HIV epidemic and its disparities.
“The federal action plan demonstrates some commitments to improving the health and quality of life of people living with HIV,” says Naina Khanna, Executive Director of PWN-USA. “We are particularly pleased that action steps are mentioned to address some critical needs for highly impacted populations, including the integration of behavioral health and supportive services with primary care, and activities that will support identification and healing from trauma and interpersonal violence (IPV) experienced by people living with HIV. We are also encouraged that the Department of Justice will advise states to modernize or repeal HIV-specific laws that unfairly criminalize people living with HIV. These are advances that advocates, including members of PWN-USA and allies we collaborate closely with, have been fighting for for years.”
Indeed, the plan reflects progress in several crucial areas that PWN-USA has long championed. It calls for implementation science and translational research for prevention and treatment in transgender women, and specifically promises a pilot study of IPV services in behavioral health settings for trans women. Under the plan, an inventory of federally funded trauma-informed programs as well as lessons learned from federally-funded grantee prevention and care programs for women and girls will be created; IPV screening capacity in clinics receiving grants from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will be expanded; and crucially, IPV-related services will be implemented in primary health settings, including health centers serving people living with HIV. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will do outreach and provide technical assistance to the states in addressing employment discrimination against people living with HIV. The plan also shows an expanded commitment to research and development of new prevention modalities for women and men, including treatment as prevention and a focus on connecting at-risk populations to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
PWN-USA commends ONAP for its progress on these critical issues. However, there are still shortcomings in the implementation plan that we hope to see actively addressed over the next five years. For example, while the plan calls for creating an online mapping tool to show women living with HIV where Title X and Ryan White-funded clinics are located, we firmly believe sexual and reproductive healthcare services should be fully integrated into primary care settings for all people living with HIV. Also, while NHAS 2020 discusses discrimination of many types, e.g., employment, healthcare, housing, and the provision of prevention services, the emphasis is on enforcement of federal laws rather than prevention of discrimination. A change in internal policies and practices of institutions, organizations and programs coupled with enforcement will ensure stronger protections for all people living with HIV, including trans women, who face the highest levels of discrimination in employment and housing. We remain concerned at the lack of clear mechanisms for the involvement and leadership of people living with HIV in the ongoing implementation, monitoring and evaluation of NHAS.
Equally concerning are key populations that are either left out completely–like sex workers–or for whom the plan does not do enough. Paradoxically, the plan appears to call for testing, prevention and treatment of immigrant populations only in the context of detention facilities rather than addressing systemic barriers to prevention, care, treatment for immigrants, as well as problematic policing practices that might place immigrants in detention facilities in the first place.
“This federal action plan represents real progress toward ending the disparities in health outcomes among people living with HIV and, more broadly, toward ending the epidemic,” remarks Khanna. “It clearly shows the effectiveness of–and need for–advocacy from people living with HIV. We still have a long way to go, and as people living with HIV, we must continue to hold all the concerned agencies and the next Administration accountable for keeping the promises of the NHAS–and filling in the gaps that remain.”
November 12, 2015: After a very successful inaugural HIV Is Not a Crime National Conference last year, the SERO Project and Positive Women’s Network-USA are pleased to announce that the planning process is underway for a second national conference to support repeal and modernization of laws criminalizing HIV non-disclosure, perceived or potential exposure and transmission, to be held in June 2016.
HIV is Not a Crime II, to be held in June 2016, will unite and train advocates living with HIV and allies from across the country on laws criminalizing people living with HIV and on strategies and best practices for repealing such laws. Skills-building training, with an emphasis on grassroots organizing, advocacy, coalition-building and campaign planning, will leave participants with concrete tools and resources to work on state-level strategies when they return home.
For this training academy, organizers will also emphasize movement building with other decriminalization and criminal justice reform groups. “It’s time to look at the whole context of mass incarceration, racist policing practices, drug policy, sex work policies, and the ways that LGBT and immigrant folks are disproportionately vulnerable in criminalization proceedings, as we consider strategies for repeal and modernization,” says Naina Khanna, executive director of Positive Women’s Network – USA.
Advocates say last year’s conference invigorated on the ground rights-based advocacy led by communities living with and impacted by HIV. “Last year’s HIV is Not a Crime Conference was great because it brought together advocates and people working on changing HIV criminalization laws to brainstorm best practices for people to take home to implement a plan for their state. This was incredibly helpful for us in Tennessee, and really gave us the boost we needed to work on our plan to change the laws here,” states Larry Frampton of Tennessee AIDS Advocacy Network.
“The HIV Prevention Justice Alliance is thrilled to be part of this process again that prioritizes PLHIV, builds power, and ultimately pushes the momentum from the first HIV is Not a Crime conference and this past year in a concerted organizing effort to end these laws across the U.S. in 2016,” says Suraj Madoori, manager of the HIV Prevention Justice Alliance.
“I thought last year’s conference was one of the best discussions in HIV in a long time. It was very powerful to participate in a conference organized by people living with HIV and to hear about their personal experiences around disclosure, prosecution and criminalization,” commented Marsha Martin, Director of the Urban Coalition for HIV/AIDS Prevention Services (UCHAPS). “We have to take on criminalization if we are going to bring about an end to the epidemic. That’s why continuing conferences like this one is so important–and necessary.”
“HIV is Not a Crime II will provide an opportunity for people living with HIV and their closest allies to define their priorities and agenda, educate and mobilize each other and their communities, and further strengthen the community of PLHIV advocates. Michael Callen, one of the authors of the Denver Principles, used to say there was a ‘special magic’ when people with HIV worked together to organize and that is as true today as it was 30 years ago,” states Sean Strub, Executive Director of SERO Project.
Get involved in making the HIV is Not a Crime National Training Academy a success!
The planning partners are currently seeking volunteers for five workgroups, as well as financial support for the conference. To read about and join a working group, click here.
Are you interested in providing financial support for this important event? Please contact Sean Strub, SERO Project or Naina Khanna at Positive Women’s Network – USA for more information.
Last month, PWN-USA and the Women’s HIV Program (WHP) at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) submitted a letter to the Health Resources and Services Administration HIV/AIDS Bureau (HRSA HAB), administrators of the federal Ryan White Program, recommending key National HIV/AIDS Strategy implementation steps to advance trauma-informed care. (Read the full text of PWN-USA and WHP’s letter to HRSA HAB here.)
50 organizations from around the country signed onto the letter in support of these requests for action to support implementing trauma-informed practices in clinics receiving federal Ryan White funding:
30 for 30 Campaign
AIDS Foundation of Chicago
Albany Damien Center
Association of Nurses in AIDS Care
Bedford Stuyvesant Family Health Center
Black AIDS Institute
Borinquen Behavioral Health
Boulder Community Health
Cascade AIDS Project
Colorado Organizations Responding to AIDS (CORA)
Community AIDS Resource and Education Services of Southwest Michigan
Counter Narrative Project
Hartford Commission on HIV/AIDS
HIV Prevention Justice Alliance
HIVE at UCSF
International Community of Women Living with HIV, North America
Iris House, Inc.
Khulumani Support Group
Legacy Community Health
Let’s Kick ASS (AIDS Survivor Syndrome)
Michigan Coalition for HIV Health and Safety
National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD)
National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, Inc.
National Working Positive Coalition
Pediatric AIDS Chicago Prevention Initiative
Positive Iowans Taking Charge
PWN-USA Colorado Chapter
PWN-USA Louisiana Chapter
PWN-USA Michigan Regional Chapter
Ribbon Consulting Group
Sex Worker’s Outreach Project
Southern AIDS Coalition
Southern HIV/AIDS Strategy Initiative (“SASI”)
Treat Me Right, Inc.
US People Living with HIV Caucus
Wayne State University Prevention Services
Women with a Vision, Inc.
The Women’s Collective
PWN-USA thanks all of these organizations for their help in emphasizing the importance of trauma-informed care in the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and in holding HRSA HAB accountable for prioritizing it in the implementation steps.
HIV is a human rights issue; criminalization of people living with HIV is a social justice issue. The Training Academy will unite and train advocates living with HIV and allies from across the country on strategies and best practices for repealing laws criminalizing people living with and vulnerable to HIV.
Session tracks for the training academy are as follows:
1) Effective and Accountable Leadership – Building relevant and current leadership skills for an effective and intersectional criminalization movement
2) Rights, Policy and Justice – Invite and encourage submissions on issues specific to communities targeted by policing practices due to race, gender identity, sexual orientation, substance use, and other forms of discrimination.
3) Campaign Planning, Strategy and Messaging – Submissions may focus on the “nuts-and-bolts” required in organizing grassroots advocacy efforts, including messaging research and positioning, how to best utilize research to persuade media, policy leaders and legislators and creation and execution of a campaign plan.
We welcome proposals for sessions that are participatory, timely, intersectional, practical, and action-oriented – as well as intergenerational, multiracial, and demonstrating geographic diversity in their analysis and in the team of facilitators.
The deadline for abstract submissions is Friday, February 26, 2016 by 5:00 pm CST (6:00 pm EST, 3:00 PST). Email workshop submissions to email@example.com. You will receive notice of acceptance on Friday, April 1, 2016.
“It’s time for us to advance the discourse around intersections between HIV criminalization, racist policing, drug policy reform, and sex worker criminalization,” says Naina Khanna, Executive Director of Positive Women’s Network-USA. “We can best do this by building a grassroots movement for policy change, led by the communities most impacted by these issues.”