Contact: Suraj Madoori, 708-590-9806, firstname.lastname@example.org or Jennie Smith-Camejo, 347-553-5174, email@example.com
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:
Positive Women’s Network – USA Statement on
World AIDS Day 2015
Dec 1, 2015 – Just four days ago, an atrocious act of terror was perpetrated against Planned Parenthood, an essential source of healthcare for working and low-income women, men and young people in the US. As women living with HIV who have benefited from the healthcare and education services provided by Planned Parenthood, we condemn this brutal violence. We grieve for the loved ones of Jennifer Markosky, Ke’Arre Stewart and Garrett Swasey. And we mourn the devastation of women’s sense of safety, bodily autonomy, and threats to well-being for healthcare providers committed to delivering woman-centered care.
As women living with HIV, many of us have used and still depend on the vital health care services Planned Parenthood provides, including access to HIV testing, screening for sexually transmitted infections, pap smears, and the means to determine if, when and how we have children. We will continue to fight for these services.
Make no mistake. Attacks on Planned Parenthood are assaults on women’s rights to health, dignity, and self-determination.
While brutal violence like the recent incident in Colorado is typically met with condemnation by leaders of all political stripes, a large number of elected officials have waged a relentless war on Planned Parenthood specifically and women’s health more generally in recent years. The growing movement to deny essential healthcare to working and low-income women—accompanied by simultaneous and persistent efforts to decimate programs critical for working and low-income families – including food stamps, Medicaid, and paid parental leave — marks a deep disdain for women. These leaders would not only deny us the right to make decisions about whether, when and under which circumstances to have children – they also seek to deny the support that makes having and sustaining families a feasible reality.
A new study shows that states with higher funding for social services have much lower rates of HIV incidence and of AIDS deaths—signaling that, if the U.S. is serious about “getting to zero,” we have to be willing to challenge the reactionary idea that the working classes and the poor fare better when forced to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps.”
We must also be willing to challenge the rhetoric espoused by those who call themselves “pro-life” while tacitly or explicitly encouraging hatred, dehumanization of women, and violence. As women living with HIV, we know all too well the power of language to affirm or to dehumanize; to show respect or to stigmatize and criminalize. Hostility toward sex education, sexuality and reproductive rights is detrimental to us all—yet is evidenced by the fact that our government released a National HIV/AIDS Strategy in which the word “reproductive” does not even appear.
Women living with HIV—like all women—deserve access to affordable healthcare including the full spectrum of sexual and reproductive services–and yes, abortion and contraception services–that meet all of our health and family planning needs. Since the beginning of the epidemic, the sexual and reproductive needs and desires of women living with HIV have been ignored and dismissed by those in power. On this World AIDS Day 2015, we must take a stand to assert that women with HIV deserve not only life-saving medications, but the right to self-determination—and the full spectrum of healthcare services and options to make that right a reality.
On October 23, 2014, during Intimate Partner Violence Awareness Month, PWN-USA spearheaded the first-ever National Day of Action to End Violence Against Women Living with HIV (Day of Action) to respond to the high rates of interpersonal violence, abuse, and systemic brutality faced by women living with HIV – including several high-profile brutal murders of women because of their HIV-positive status. We joined with well over a dozen endorsing organizations to raise our voices in support of women with HIV of all gender identities and sexual expressions who face violence, and to demand solutions.
This October 23, the Day of Action’s impact and influence will be even broader – and you can help! Sign on early as a partner organization, bring the Day of Action to your community by organizing a virtual or in-person event, and improve culture, programs, and policy for women living with HIV.
“Last year’s events really helped to highlight policy and programmatic opportunities to address violence against women with HIV, as well as the cumulative effects of lifetime trauma,” says PWN-USA’s Executive Director, Naina Khanna. “From the White House to local Ryan White clinics and community-based organizations, we are seeing an emerging commitment to address this issue.”
Organizations that sign on as partners in the Day of Action commit to taking at least one of a number of bold actions to address violence against women with HIV on that day. As a partner, your organization name will be listed on our website, and your event or statement on the intersections of violence and HIV will be shared widely through PWN-USA’s channels. Read more about partnership and endorsement of the Day of Action
Three in every 4 women living with HIV in the US reports a history of gender-based violence, compared to 1 in 4 women in the general population. This is part of a larger context in which violence against women, especially women of color, has been normalized and accepted. The Day of Action, conceived entirely for and by women with HIV, was created to raise awareness about the effects and prevalence of violence against women living with HIV, break through the culture that keeps this issue in silence, and push for structural change, including policy changes to eliminate this disparity.
“Laws that criminalize people living with HIV and practices that perpetuate discrimination, including violations of our sexual and reproductive rights and stigmatizing portrayals of HIV in media, are part of the culture of violence against women living with HIV,” says Khanna.
On October 23, women living with HIV, as well as those who love and support them, are invited to take part in Day of Action events both online and in person, sponsored by our partner organizations as well as our nine regional chapters and independent members across the US. Stay tuned to www.pwn-usa.org between now and October to find out more about ways to get involved in your community as well as on social media.
“Everyone is invited to share thoughts, actions, or ideas using the hashtags #pwnspeaks and #EndVAWHIV on social media both during the event and leading up to it,” says Olivia Ford, PWN-USA’s Communications Director.
By Waheedah Shabazz-El, PWN-USA Director of Regional Organizing
“Unapologetically Black” was a major theme amongst more than 1,500 Black activists and organizers in attendance at the 1st National Movement for Black Lives Convening, held July 24-26, 2015, in Cleveland, Ohio, at Cleveland State University. I arrived of course as a Stakeholder and an HIV Activist representing PWN-USA, Philadelphia FIGHT, and HIV Prevention Justice Alliance (HIV PJA) — intent on helping to shape the landscape of the new Black Movement through identifying critical intersectional opportunities for movement building. Highlighting the implications of HIV Criminalization Laws and how they tear at the very fiber of the Black Community.
Something else happened for me as I disembarked the transit bus and approached Cleveland State University, something rather enchanting. I was eagerly greeted by young adults whom I had never seen or known, with unforeseen energy of reverence, respect, and appreciation. Warm smiles, head nods, door holding, bag reaching; along with verbal salutations of “good morning beautiful,” “good morning Black woman,” “good morning sister,” and “Black Love.” All this just for showing up, just for being there, just for being Black.
I soon realized there was another transformation going on here, because in my mind I was arriving as this “kick ass activist.” However, I was being seen and greeted through a prism of unanticipated reverence. I was being greeted as an elder — a tribal elder. Yes I showed up. Yes I was there. Of course I was Black – but beyond that, I was being bestowed the honorable identification as a Black Tribal Elder. A Black Tribal Elder who (now in my mind) had been summoned here to help shape the foundation for real Black Liberation.
Each person that greeted me was cheerful, kind, and jovial, yet maintained an unspoken seriousness which I came to understand to be a greeting from a deeper place inside each of us. It was utterly amazing. Our spirits were meeting, touching, embracing, and speaking in unison, saying to each other: “We are here to be free.”
Day One, July 24
Day One of the conference and I was already hyped. Feeling grand and safe and appreciated, it was time to get down to work. Registration was seamless (since folks at the front of line called my name); then we were off to the opening ceremony. Greetings, salutations and introductions of the founders of the movement, local leaders and honoring of family members of young lives taken much too soon. The highlight of the opening ceremony for me was when Black Lives Matter cofounder Alicia Garza took us on a poetic history journey honoring the city of Cleveland for their leadership in the history of the Black struggle: From Ohio’s long and rich history as a hotbed of Underground Railroad activity to the 1964 Cleveland schools’ boycott to protest segregation to the 1st National Movement for Black Lives Convening.
The panel connecting HIV to the Movement for Black Lives was next and entitled “The Black Side of the Red Ribbon.” Panelists Kenyon Farrow, Deon Haywood, “young” Maxx Boykin from HIV PJA, and myself were given the opportunity to bring Black AIDS Activism into perspective and shared our motivation and years of experience working alongside (the Black side) of other community members in the fight to address the HIV dilemma and the stigma surrounding it.
Later that evening, July 24, we were addressed as a mass assembly by several of the recent families who have lost loved ones to police brutality and state violence. Family members of Eric Garner, Rekia Boyd, Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, and Tamir Rice and Tanisha Anderson — both local victims of police murder. There was also cousin of the late Emmett Till.
Day Two, July 25
Day Two was more of the same “Black Love,” “good morning Black Man” and an opening plenary, yet something a bit different occurred. The Movement for Black Lives made its first essential internal transformation without any resistance. The challenge was eloquently articulated by a delegation of transgender and gender-variant participants who were invited to the stage: “The Movement for Black Lives must be a safe place for all, and inclusive of all gender identities and sexual expressions.”
The delegation introduced a list of logistic challenges that were overlooked, which included: an application with more than two gender choices; trans*-related workshops spread out on the schedule and not all in the same time slot; conference badges that allowed preferred name and pronoun preferences; and use of gender-neutral restrooms. In addition, the delegation offered some “not-so-gender-specific” language. Instead of referring to one another as brother and/or sister, we could use the word “Sib” (short for sibling) a more inclusive term. On the website, the Movement for Black Lives Mass Convening was framed as a space and time that would be used to “build a sense of fellowship that transcends geographical boundaries, and begin to heal from the many traumas we face.” So the transformation is to build a sense of siblingship, instead of fellowship.
“HIV Is Not a Crime, Or Is It” was the title of the panel I participated in later in the afternoon on Day Two, and it was a blast – aka a huge success. An expert panel with Marsha Jones, Kenyon Farrow, Bryan Jones, and I fiercely articulated how HIV Criminalization laws disproportionately affect and break down the very fiber of Black Community: their implications on Black Women, their children and Young Black Gay Men, and the impact the laws were having on public health within our Black Community.
Day Three, July 26
In the closing strategy sessions, HIV criminalization was kept on the agenda of the Movement for Black Lives. Ending HIV is a must and it will take a movement, not a moment, to take on the issue of ending yet another way of policing Black communities – this time through legal discrimination of people living with HIV.
All in all, the Movement for Black Lives was a gathering where we connected to Black love, Black leadership and Black power, Black culture, Black art, and the Black aesthetic in music. The convening included an amazing workshop on “Building Black Women’s Leadership.” The Movement for Black Lives’ journey continues as we commit our energy toward deepening and broadening the connections that were made at the convening. Again: It’s a Movement not a moment.
Black women, Black men, Black youth, Black elders, Black artists, Black straight people, Black queer people, Black trans* people, Black labor, Black Muslims, Black Christians, and Black Panthers. We laughed together. We cried together, and cheered for one another. We challenged each other and shared life experiences. We shared resources, studied together, and created new networks. We debated. We danced. We chanted. We partied together. We healed. I left there pumped with pride, chanting continuously in my head:
I believe that
I believe that we
I believe that we will
I believe that we will win! And #wegonnabealright.
Waheedah Shabazz-El is a founding member of PWN-USA and serves as PWN-USA’s Regional Organizing Director. She is based in Philadelphia.
I have been incredibly excited about making my transition to New Orleans, as I had become really homesick over the last year and a half, desiring to return to the City of my birth.
There is something about New Orleans … the people, the sights, the smells, the sounds, and the rhythm and energy of the City; unlike any place else in the world!
Another reason for my homesickness and desire to leave Denver, CO, is because I grew lonely and fatigued at looking at so many faces that didn’t look like me, and desired to be in a community that does, especially in a community of Black women. In the two months that I’ve been here, I have been able to find and join in a few events that have fed that need in my soul; to hear and learn about and participate in actions that highlight the state of trans women, Black women and girls in New Orleans, and to assist me in finding my place as to where I can serve and give something back to the community.
On June 18, 2015, I had the great privilege of attending a Summit entitled “Breaking the Silence: A Town Hall on Black Women.” The intention around this Town Hall – which is a part of a National Series spearheaded by Kimberle Crenshaw, Executive Director of the African American Policy Forum – is to address challenges Black women in New Orleans experience on a daily basis, and then identify opportunities that local decision-makers can take back to their organizations and effect policy change.
After holding moments of silence for the nine martyrs who lost their lives to unspeakable terror and violence on June 17 in Charleston, we began.
The Town Hall was divided into 3 very rich panels:
Economic Violence in Post-Katrina New Orleans;
State Violence and Criminalization of Black Women and Girls; and,
The one panel I will focus my thoughts on today is Economic Violence in Post-Katrina New Orleans. In future blogs, I will address the other two panel topics.
The women who were on this panel were: Ashana Bigard, housing and education advocate; Cashauna Hill, housing advocate; and Dr. Adrienne Dixon, education advocate.
This is a critical time in New Orleans in the recovery and building process, and it has been identified that so many crucial voices have been left out of the recovery and building conversation. Marginalized Black women and girls and other women of color have fallen out of the recovery intervention equation. The idea that racial and economic justice would trickle down to women and girls through dads, brothers, and sons is an ideal. The idea that women and girls are strong enough to wait for racial and economic justice to get to us is a myth. Women are verbalizing that the way forward is to lift up the truth of Black women’s stories and come forward to say that Black women and girls matter.
Ashana shared that the City of New Orleans has brought in outside contractors who have charged massive amounts of money and who have given their opinions and conclusions of post-Katrina recovery solutions, vs. inviting Black women and women of color to the table who are from the City, and are EXPERTS in and on their communities. For many reasons, numerous women and families have been displaced and are unable to return home to help re-build their neighborhoods and communities.
Although salaries in the city have remained the same, rent and groceries have tripled and lack of economic opportunities makes it difficult for women to be stable in housing.
She also shared about Parish housing authorities establishing ordinances that discriminate against people of color for housing opportunities. A perfect example she gave was of the St. Bernard Parish that engaged in a campaign to limit housing opportunities for Blacks in the Parish. These policies made it very difficult to find or keep housing and these civil rights violations on the part of the Parish unfolded over the course of more than seven years. This ordinance restricted the rental of single-family residences to those related by blood to the owner of the property (keeping in mind that the racial makeup of the Parish is 88.29% White and 7.62% Black). Even after settling with the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center and the U.S. Department of Justice, the Parish and the Parish Council were repeatedly held in contempt by a federal judge for violating the voluntary agreement. They were also found guilty of repeated actions to delay construction on multi-family housing developments in the Parish. It was noted by the Department of Justice that racial discrimination has been a clear and consistent theme throughout the course of the legal battle. So after years of litigation and $2.5 million later, St. Bernard Parish is building low- and moderate-income homes.
Everyone should have an opportunity to choose where they want to live regardless of their race.
Cashauna provided statistics stating that 83% of those receiving housing assistance in the state are women. Further, a 2009 report by the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center found that Housing Choice Voucher holders in Orleans Parish were 99% African American, and that they were facing severe discrimination. Criminal background checks keep Black women and women of color out of housing, especially if landlords and rental companies enforce different standards of criminal background checks on potential Black, Brown and White renters.
Cashauna also shared that women she advocates for have shared that they are constantly threatened to be evicted if they do not trade sexual favors in exchange for housing, especially and including undocumented women. They voice that they are harassed and discriminated against on a regular basis. This harassment makes them more vulnerable to eviction and often puts them in situations where they may turn to survival sex for retention of housing.
This speaks to the fact that Black women and women of color feel under-protected in these situations and may often feel like there is no resolution or help for the challenges they face. These situations show the potential incidence of high-risk behavior for these women, and could place them in the category of populations at high risk for acquiring HIV.
Additionally, the City, by order of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), has eliminated public housing units for 3,000 families and only 670 of these units have been replaced. These uncensored bodies, which include HUD, City and Parish Housing Authorities, and private developers, are in fact participating in public and private-funded gentrification. These bodies have made the decision about who can and can’t come home with the elimination of these 11 public housing units. This elimination of housing units and these appalling housing policies disproportionately impact Black women and women of color, especially considering what I said earlier: that women make up 83% of people in New Orleans who use subsidized housing and Blacks are 32.4% of Louisiana population, and 59.7% of Orleans Parish population.
This is another issue that shows the connection between safe and affordable housing and HIV. The effort to expand access to subsidized housing and other housing supports is crucial to vulnerable people living with HIV, because safe and affordable housing is healthcare.
I grew up in The Magnolia Projects, in 3rd Ward, and had close and extended family members living throughout the same housing project. Not only were there family members, but there were many other families in the Magnolias that treated me like family. There was always someone or someplace I could go to if my relatives were not around to let me in, feed me and/or give me a place to sleep. Today, the Magnolia Projects are no longer there and neither is my family. They, along with so many others throughout Orleans Parish, were demolished after Katrina and my family members that lived in New Orleans subsidized housing have been scattered to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Houston, Atlanta, and Long Beach, CA.
Many of these housing units did not experience any storm damage, but the City made the decision to totally flatten them anyway. What sits on the land now throughout Orleans Parish are some of the housing projects that remain empty or with mixed-income housing that have high-end rents or condos and townhouses for sale, that are in the higher $200,000s and low $300,000s, that often have workout gyms, recreation and community centers, and retail shops on their premises.
I have had the good fortune of being able to purchase a duplex home in the 7th Ward neighborhood. I am glad to be a part of the neighborhood and as I live in one of the units, I have made a commitment that I want to be able to provide a safe and pleasant living environment for a mother and her children on subsidized housing in the other unit.
Another endeavor I am anticipating is being a part of the City-Wide Katrina 10-Year Anniversary Day of Service, on August 29th, 2015. The Mayor of New Orleans hopes to have 10,000 people gather in New Orleans, during the week of August 24th-29th, to be a part of the Day of Service. I have volunteered to help build a Habitat for Humanity home for a family in my 7th Ward neighborhood. I look forward to putting in “sweat equity,” to help a family achieve their dream of homeownership!
Ashana mentioned how this economic violence also has a great impact on the health outcomes of Black women and girls and women of color because the stress, unsafe and unhealthy living and housing conditions all have an impact on women’s quality of life and general wellbeing. There is an intersection between poor health and homelessness. Health outcomes for Black women and women of color can be disastrous, especially women with an HIV diagnosis. These women may suffer illnesses at three to six times the rates of others and have a higher death rate and have dramatically lower life expectancy.
Dr. Adrienne shared that before Katrina, there were 7,000 teachers in the Orleans School District, and 80% of them were women. Post-Katrina, the majority of these teachers were fired, forced to retire, and/or were unable to return. This factor has had a huge impact on the number of Black women in the City. These experienced members and pillars of Black communities have now been replaced with Teach-for-America associates, who are predominantly young and white, have no history in the communities where they work, and do not serve as role models for Black girls. This greatly impacts Black girls’ success and ability to navigate an educational system that wasn’t created with their mental, social, emotional and educational well-being in mind. She states that New Orleans teachers have been displaced and disgraced.
With the establishment of a 100% charter school system in New Orleans, educational institutions are given free rein on determining what their policies and practices are and who can be accepted into their schools. Keeping in mind that Black students make up 44% of the public school body, but receive 67% of out-of-school suspensions, 68% of expulsions and arrests, and Black girls were 23% of those arrested. Black girls often report they are reprimanded for being “loud” or “defiant” when they were simply trying to express themselves in ways that were natural to them. Cashauna reported that once the students are arrested, many families of these students are then kicked out of their public housing, often leaving them homeless, and shelters aren’t an option for many families because a mother isn’t able to keep all of her male and female children with her. These policies demonstrate how Black girls and their bodies are marginalized, pushed out and over-policed just by being them, and are victims of economic violence in the area of housing and educational opportunities.
Some of the solutions members of this panel suggested were the establishment of Community Accountability Boards that look at a wide range of community disparities, and use the findings to shape policies to guarantee that all voices are heard, and needs factored in when making recovery and revitalization decisions that impact all citizens in the City of New Orleans. This also includes undergoing comprehensive fair housing training.
The inclusion of the voices of marginalized Black women and girls and women of color is a critical solution – they are valued as contributing members of the City, their voices are important, their unique and critical stories and needs must be taken into account in discussions about the recovery of the City.
Another solution that was presented was for charter schools to be more inclusive in engaging community members where they’re located, to give them a sense of ownership and to give them opportunities to help create procedures for the school and bodies they serve, with the hope of eliminating the school-to-prison pipeline connection. The voices of community members in residential neighborhoods, they feel, is crucial to improving the process of enrollment and encouraging the hiring of seasoned female educators of color.
The same is true for women living with HIV. These women are the EXPERTS on their lives and the virus, and they have a vested interest in ensuring the health and wellbeing of women are taken into consideration when decisions are being made about our lives. This includes inviting us to the table to hear our personal stories about our lives. The ending of the HIV epidemic will not be in reach without women being at the table and our meaningful involvement in vision and mission setting, and the development of policy and programs that take women living with HIV and their experiences into account.
I hope that local and national policy-makers will hear, regard and include the community’s solutions in their programs and policies to legislate change for marginalized Black women and girls and other women of color in New Orleans (and in communities infected and affected by HIV/AIDS).
The NHAS is a plan created under President Obama to comprehensively address the domestic HIV epidemic. The first NHAS included four main goals: 1) reducing the number of new HIV infections 2) increasing access to care for people living with HIV 3) addressing population-level disparities in prevention, care and treatment and 4) improving coordination of HIV programs and funding across federal agencies.
The first NHAS addressed some issues which are really important to women with HIV, including repealing HIV criminalization laws and expanding employment opportunities for people with HIV. But it missed the boat on others – failing to mention sexual and reproductive healthcare for people with HIV, failing to talk about the high rates of trauma and violence that impact women with HIV, and not meaningfully addressing the specific needs of transgender women.
Now, the White House Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) is soliciting input for the next National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which will be released this summer. This new Strategy (NHAS 2.0) will help to guide priorities for the domestic epidemic, likely for the next five years – which means it will go into the next Administration. It’s critically important that the voices of women with HIV and those who care about us are heard in this process.
The deadline to provide input ends this Friday, May 22nd. Here’s how to provide input:
1. Go to: https://nhas.uservoice.com
You can enter your email address to create a profile.
2. You will see that the opportunity to provide input is grouped into “feedback forums” according to the four goals of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. You can click on any of the feedback forums to see which ideas have already been proposed.
3. Once you have access to a profile, you have two options:
a. Vote for a recommendation that has already been proposed
b. Propose a new recommendation You can do both of these.
Note that you get 25 votes per feedback forum. You can vote for multiple recommendations, and you can also cast more than one vote per recommendation.
There are a lot of good recommendations already proposed in the forum. Also, a few weeks ago, PWN-USA released our own top five recommendations for the next National HIV/AIDS Strategy. In line with PWN-USA’s policy agenda and NHAS recommendations, here are just a few of the recommendations which have been proposed on ONAP’s forum that we think are really important. Click the links below to read more about each one. Starred (***) items are drawn from PWN-USA’s five top recommendations!
HIV and Justice Organizations Stand with Michael Johnson and All Black Gay Men, and Condemn Laws Criminalizing HIV-Positive Status
As organizations committed to human rights, social justice, and dignity for people living with and vulnerable to HIV, we release this statement in solidarity with Black gay men who have been organizing a response to the criminalization of Michael L. Johnson.
After only two hours of deliberation by a jury in a trial that was fraught with misinformation about HIV transmission, misunderstanding about gay hookup culture, and inadequate legal counsel, a nearly all-white jury quickly convicted Michael Johnson, a 23-year-old Black gay man in St. Charles, MO, finding him guilty on five felony counts and sentencing him to 30 years in prison.
HIV criminalization is yet another tool used to police and incarcerate bodies that are too often poor, Black or brown, or queer-identified. In this case, Michael will be incarcerated for the next 30 years for allegedly exposing sexual partners to HIV, a condition that is chronic and manageable with proper care and treatment. This is atrocious. As a point of comparison, killing someone while driving under the influence of alcohol carries a sentence of 7 years in Missouri.
This particular prosecution and the media hysteria around it were fueled by homophobia, HIV stigma, and anti-Black racism embedded in portrayals of Black male hypersexuality. Michael Johnson is not the first Black gay man to be incarcerated under these laws, and it is unlikely he will be the last.
Black lives and Black leadership matter. We stand in support of the agenda released today by Black gay men:
Support Michael Johnson while he’s in prison, continue to raise awareness about his case, work to support any potential appeals or strategies to reduce his sentence or overturn this ruling altogether.
Continue to dialog with Black gay men around the country in person and through social media about the importance of opposing such laws.
Repeal the laws that criminalize HIV exposure, nondisclosure, and transmission, in Missouri and nationwide.
Challenge our allies in Black progressive organizations, criminal justice reform, HIV prevention and treatment, and the LGBT movement to take more of an active role in challenging HIV criminalization.
Develop more capacity for Black gay men’s grassroots organizing.
When people with HIV are prosecuted under HIV criminalization laws, no justice is achieved. Stigma, fear, and, in many cases, racism, win. And independently of HIV, criminalization, incarceration, and police brutality disproportionately impact Black and brown communities, LGBT folks, and people living in poverty.
Black gay men cannot and must not be removed. With the recognition that anti-Black racism, homophobia, and HIV stigma are at the heart of the epidemic and the verdict in the Michael L. Johnson case, we as an HIV community must commit to centering Black leadership and to ensuring that the police state does not factor into addressing the HIV epidemic. Incarceration and prisons are never the solution.
May 6, 2015 – Today, Positive Women’s Network – USA (PWN-USA), a national membership body of women with HIV, is proud to announce the release of a new model for bringing trauma awareness and healing into primary healthcare settings. The conceptual framework, developed in partnership with University of California – San Francisco (UCSF) clinician-researchers, provides a practical guide to help providers incorporate trauma-informed care into clinical practice.
“Trauma-informed care is the missing ingredient to engage women with HIV in care successfully and to ensure good health outcomes,” says Naina Khanna, Executive Director of PWN-USA, who co-authored the paper presenting the new model. Rates of intimate partner violence and post-traumatic stress disorder are estimated to be 55% and 30%, respectively – much higher than national rates – among women with HIV.
“HIV care and treatment cannot work if women can’t get to the healthcare provider in the first place, because they have trauma-adaptive coping mechanisms getting in the way of showing up,” Khanna says, “or because unaddressed trauma and a healthcare environment that ignores trauma are making it difficult for a woman to communicate with her provider about what her real healthcare needs are.”
“Addressing trauma is our opportunity to move beyond treatment to actual healing for women with HIV,” Khanna explains. Advocates believe that failure to heal from the effects of current and past trauma explains the crater in the HIV care continuum for women: Only 70% of women with HIV link to care, and fewer than half remain connected to care.
The paper’s lead author, Edward L. Machtinger, MD, director of the Women’s HIV Program at UCSF, called understanding the link between trauma and overall health “an epiphany for clinicians.”
“Many of us have spent years struggling to help our patients be genuinely healthy and strong, but did not realize that there was a missing ingredient in our care model,” said Machtinger, a pioneer in trauma-informed care research and practice.
“Because trauma is so common, we need to critically examine how the healthcare environment affects not only patients, but also providers and staff,” said Leigh Kimberg, MD, UCSF Professor of Medicine at San Francisco Hospital and Trauma Center and the paper’s senior author, in a recent statement. “By adopting foundational trauma-informed practices and policies, healthcare providers and staff promote increased safety, reliability, trust, and empathy to create a more healing environment for everyone.”
The changing landscape of healthcare delivery, and of the HIV care system, finds the US at a critical moment of opportunity to transform these systems. While the first National HIV/AIDS Strategy failed to address the parallel epidemic of violence and trauma among women, President Obama’s creation of an Interagency Federal Working Group on the Intersection of HIV/AIDS, Violence Against Women and Girls, and Gender-Related Health Disparities was an attempt to correct this oversight.
The next National HIV/AIDS Strategy will soon be released, and must fully integrate the Federal Interagency Workgroup’s call for trauma-informed approaches to be implemented in all settings where women with HIV receive care and services. The recently published care model provides a blueprint for providers to begin to make this vital commitment to their clients.
Figure 1. A framework for trauma-informed primary care
On March 25, 2015, many lobbyists – including me – from the grassroots e-advocacy network “Tell Them,” which works to improve reproductive health policy in South Carolina, gathered for an opportunity to meet with House Representatives seeking their support for a much needed bill.
Watch my video about why participating in Bee Day was so important to me:
This bill authorizes South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control to provide 7th graders in South Carolina schools with a series of vaccines and information regarding vaccinations, including the HPV vaccine to prevent cervical cancer;
This bill is responsible for strengthening criminal domestic violence laws to increase penalties for perpetrators, and making state law compliant with federal law in denying legal ownership of firearms for those found guilty of domestic violence.
Want to know more about Bee Day?
Stacy Jennings lives in Columbia, South Carolina, and is a member and co-Representative to the Strategic Communications Action Team for PWN-USA-South Carolina.
Remarks Delivered at the White House’s National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day Event, “Stepping Out of the Shadows: HIV & Violence against Women and Girls”
By Vanessa Johnson, PWN-USA National Training and Leadership Director
I bring you greetings from the Ribbon Consulting Group, a Washington, DC-based firm where I serve as one of its Co-Directors. I am also a Board member of the Positive Women’s Network-USA (PWN-USA) as well as the National Women and AIDS Collective (NWAC). I was diagnosed with HIV 25 years ago in 1990, the same year I graduated from Temple University’s School of Law.
I want to thank Douglas Brooks, Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy, for inviting me to speak and I want to acknowledge all the other women living with HIV who are with us today, and those who are not. I stand in solidarity with them.
It is on this day, the 10th Anniversary of National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NWGHAAD), that I begin my remarks by noting, the World Health Organization, as one of its strategies to end the global AIDS epidemic, authored three international declarations which make commitments to support the greater involvement of women, including women living with HIV, to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Here in the United States, the basis for supporting the participation of women living with HIV is found in the Denver Principles, an historic document authored in 1983, which outlines the rights of people living with HIV as well as recommendations for participatory leadership and decision-making. Over the course of this 34-year fight, people living with HIV, both men and women, have worked tirelessly to ensure we have a stake in an ongoing battle which has taken the lives of over 600,000 Americans and threatens the health and well-being of another 1.2 million Americans, including 300,000 women, who are living with HIV today in the U.S.
For example, today’s focus on domestic violence and women would not be possible without the leadership and advocacy of women, especially women living with HIV. The leadership of women living with HIV led to the March 2012 Presidential memorandum establishing a White House working group on the intersection of HIV/AIDS, violence against women, and gender-related health disparities. President Obama’s signing of this memorandum might not have been possible if it were not for the willingness of women in a domestic violence shelter in Duluth, MN, to share their lived experiences with intimate partner violence.
Without their stories, we might not have an understanding that violence against women is grounded in power and control. Likewise, if it were not for the willingness of countless women living with HIV to tell their stories of past and present experiences with violence and trauma, we might not be here at this moment in time affirming what was noted in earlier presentations and the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) Resolution that, “women most at risk for or living with HIV are more likely to experience sexual or intimate partner violence one or more times in their lives.”
I stand in here in hope that both communities of women, HIV and domestic violence, which are inextricably linked, will build upon a shared vision to create a world where women, regardless of HIV status, no longer experience violence in their lives. We together must advance collaborative, shared, and supportive leadership which:
1) brings gender equality and human rights perspectives to the forefront;
2) clearly recognizes the role and influence of all women, including women living with HIV;
3) spearheads strategies that effectively address the underlying causes of HIV such as violence against women, feminized poverty and women’s limited voice in decision-making; and
4) reminds our national leaders and partners that the best outcomes are always ones that start with meaningful involvement of affected populations.
Watch the video from the White House event (Vanessa Johnson’s comments begin at 2:27:00)