Resources and Reproductive Justice for Young Women Living with HIV

By Grissel Granados

In my opinion, the greatest needs of young women living with HIV include, but are not limited to, adequate medical services that are responsive to our sexual and reproductive health needs.

As a young woman living with HIV, I had a terrible experience related to my sexual and reproductive health. Once, I was denied a birth control refill and was told that I would be okay without it since I should be using condoms with my partner anyway. I stormed out of that clinic and was out of care and medications for several months because I refused to go back to that place that insulted me.

grissel granados
Grissel Granados.

Young women must be able to access HIV care with providers that are able to treat women holistically, instead of just looking at viral loads and CD4 counts. The full sexual lives of young women must be acknowledge by providers. Doctors need to ask about young women’s sexual practices without making assumptions. Case managers and therapists must support young women in being able to explore their sexuality in a healthy way, since many young women live in fear of their own sexual selves. I have met young women born with HIV who have grown up in such fear of themselves as sexual beings that they cannot even fathom dating, much less having healthy children someday.

The other big need for young women is to have space. Granted, the numbers of young women living with HIV are small; however, space must still be created to build relationships with other young women living with HIV. It is not acceptable to have absolutely zero resources for young women when it comes to social-emotional support. Young women feel stigma as it is already by living with HIV; it is not OK to isolate them further by not providing spaces that are supportive of their unique needs and experiences.

Grissel Granados is the coordinator of the Los Angeles Integrated Center for Care and Supportive Services at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. She has spoken, presented, and advised on youth and the HIV response, as well as sexuality and sex positivity in youth work, locally and internationally. Granados was recently appointed to the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. She was born with HIV in Mexico City.

Two Women with HIV Join Obama’s Pool of Top HIV Advisors

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Olivia Ford – oford.pwnusa@gmail.com – 347.553.5174

September 4, 2014 – Positive Women’s Network – USA (PWN-USA) congratulates two of our members, Gina Brown of New Orleans and Grissel Granados of Los Angeles, on their recent appointments to the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA). PACHA is the premier federal advisory body on the HIV epidemic, and includes a diversity of stakeholders in the HIV field among its roughly two dozen members. Brown, Granados and other incoming PACHA members are being sworn in today in Washington, DC.

gina brown
Gina Brown

“As a member of PACHA, I hope to keep women a vital part of the conversation,” says Brown, a social worker and member of PWN-USA’s Board of Directors who is currently pursuing her second Master’s degree, in Public Policy. Brown brings 12 years of experience on the HIV community’s frontlines – as a case manager, primarily in a Ryan White Part D-funded program working with women, young people and families, as well as a leader in a number of regional and national planning bodies. “I also bring 20 years of being an HIV-positive woman,” Brown adds; “I am looking forward to this exciting new chapter in my journey!”

grissel granados
Grissel Granados

Granados brings a unique perspective as one of the youngest appointees to the Council, a champion for recognition of youth concerns in HIV policy, and an HIV and STI testing coordinator at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. “My approach to HIV prevention is influenced by a sex positive lens, social determinants of health, and social justice for disenfranchised communities,” she says; “I am excited to do work at a national level, and I look forward to learning from other seasoned activists.”

“It’s exciting to see more women of color living with HIV coming onto the Council, and they have great expertise to bring,” says PACHA member Cecilia Chung, a PWNer and Chair of the US People Living with HIV Caucus.

“We are proud of Grissel and Gina, and know that they will represent the community of people living with and impacted by HIV well,” says Naina Khanna, Executive Director of PWN-USA and a member of PACHA from 2010-2014. “We look forward to supporting their fierce advocacy on the Council.”

“I welcome them both, as colleagues and advocates,” says Rev. Vanessa Sharp (Cephas), a sitting PACHA member, longtime HIV survivor and advocate, of Granados and Brown. “Together, along with all of the other new and current members of PACHA, we are agents of change! We have much work to do to stay the course and accomplish the goals set before us.”

Mujeres Unidas: Representing Latinas Living with HIV at AIDS 2012

Mujeres Unidas: Representing Latinas Living with HIV at AIDS 2012

by Martha Zarate

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My name is Martha Zarate. After 12 consecutive years of trying to have a baby, God gave me the miracle of motherhood in 2000. But through the pregnancy, I had tested HIV-positive. After I received my diagnosis, I immediately faced discrimination. It was hard for me to go into clinics and talk about the disease because everyone made me feel like a leper. Although I hated going into clinics, I forced myself to go because I needed the services that they provided. Regardless of how they treated me, I needed to survive- for myself and for my child.

As a HIV+ Latina in the U.S., I had personally struggled with getting into care, substance abuse, and domestic violence. As an advocate for women living with HIV, I have a greater understanding of the barriers that exist within my community. Common barriers HIV/AIDS Latinas face daily are financial, transportation, food, childcare, language, immigration, domestic violence, substance abuse, depression, and secure health insurance. All of these barriers co-exist and co-depend on each other; therefore, most Latinas have multiple barriers at any given time.

If you don’t have documentation, you can’t get a job. If you can’t get a job, you can’t get money. If you don’t have money, you have to depend on your husband or partner. If you depend on your partner, you are indirectly supporting ‘Macho Mexicano’ which is defined as men who have complete control of the home and of the family. Our culture still defines men as breadwinners and women as homemakers. Therefore as Latinas, we may not be able to work- we are confined to stay at home. We stay silent for many years without medical care because our partners may not let us talk about it. We live in fear.

The biggest barrier for Latinas living with HIV is health care. The first step into care is already extremely difficult, but the fear of losing health care without notice is daunting. The Affordable Care Act, also known as health care reform, will radically affect Latinas. The Affordable Care Act leaves out undocumented individuals and permanent residents who have lived in the U.S. under 5 years. Latinas already have an overarching fear of entering into clinics undocumented because immigration can instantly detain and deport them. Latinas are also limited by an infinite amount of barriers and taking away health care would be a death sentence to us and to our families. We need our medication, our doctor appointments, and a full range of supportive services to live long healthy lives.

As women, gatekeepers, and mothers, we need to keep living for our families and communities. Right now, Medicaid and Medicare are changing dramatically and without much notice. Therefore, we fear that we will be left without medical coverage at any moment. How are we supposed to continue living our lives without health care if our insurance does not cover our basic needs?

As part of the Latina community living with HIV, I would like you to consider helping us fight for access to such services. Secure healthcare and supportive services like food assistance and transportation would be the hope we need and a great blessing to our lives.

We need a voice. We need someone to represent us. Just because we are Latinas, it does not mean that we are different. We are still human. We need our opinions to be heard.

As a Peer Navigator at Christie’s Place, a women-focused HIV organization in San Diego, and a representative of the Latina community, I want to be a voice for my community. I want to be an example for all Latina women and inspire them to speak up. I want to be the first of many; if I can do it, then other Latinas can.

At the 2012 International AIDS Conference, I want to participate, advocate, and represent the underrepresented. I will be the ears and voice for my community by learning new strategies and speaking on behalf of my peers. Although Latinas may be statistically a minority, I want people to know that we exist. HIV/AIDS does not discriminate.