PWN-USA Members Represent on World AIDS Day 2015!

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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 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

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 Louisiana member Rachel Moats shared her story in an article that came out on December 1 in Women’s Health magazine to fight stigma.

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!

World AIDS Day 2014, PWN-USA Style

The impact of advocacy by women living with HIV is happening, and is felt, all the time in communities where our members and sisters are doing their work on behalf of their communities. World AIDS Day is a time to truly highlight, and celebrate, that daily impact.

Below are some highlights of PWN-USA members’ activities across the US this World AIDS Day – Monday, December 1, 2014, and all week long. You can also check out this listing of a range of events featuring PWNers during World AIDS Week!


PWN-USA-Philadelphia members congratulate Regional Organizing Coordinator Waheedah Shabazz-El after receiving her Red Ribbon Award at UPenn Center for AIDS Research (CFAR) 11th Annual Awards Ceremony at City Hall


The Houston Positive Organizing Project, which includes members of PWN-USA, was successful in getting Houston Mayor Annise Parker to officially proclaim December 1 as World AIDS Day in the city. View the proclamation




The Alameda County Public Health Department presented the 5th Annual Dr. Robert C. Scott “Trailblazer Award” to Naina Khanna, PWN-USA’s own Executive Director!






Columbus, Georgia-based PWNer Tammy Kinney (left), with Juanita Hubbard and the Mayor of Columbus, Teresa Tomlinson (center)






Texas PWNer Nell Watts (second from the right), speaking with a panel of educators, Tarrant County Health Department, and Case Managers at University of Texas – Arlington Students for Global Change






Virginia PWNer Janet Hall was a Peer Advocacy Award honoree at the 9th Annual World AIDS Day Gala in Norfolk!



stronger together 2


PWN-USA co-founder and Board member Pat Migliore (second from right) with PWN-USA sisters and allies in Seattle, after she received a Lifetime Achievement Award for her work in HIV/AIDS from Seattle Mayor Ed Murray at the 11th Annual Stronger Together World AIDS Day Breakfast!





Texas advocate and ally Morenike Giwa Onaiwu of Advocacy Without Borders has launched the #NotYourInfection campaign to eliminate stigmatizing language from US laws. Read more about the campaign




Dominique Banks of Memphis, TN, represented PWN-USA and Project SWARM powerfully at the Women’s Empowerment Forum on Dec 4!



PWN-USA-South Carolina member Stacy Jennings reads a poem as part of her submission to’s #RedRemindsMe contest. Vote for her submission!

PWN-USA Board Chair Barb Cardell spoke out as part of a video series from the HIV Disclosure Project about HIV science, stigma, and truths about transmission risk. Read the article and view all three videos



Check out this video of Georgia-based PWNer Tammy Kinney on the 11 o’clock news on World AIDS Day!

Intersectionality, HIV Justice, and the Future of Our Movement

Part 1: An Introduction to Intersectionality


“If we aren’t intersectional, some of us, the most vulnerable, are going to fall through the cracks.”

Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw

HIV thrives in conditions of structural inequity – where the workings of poverty, patriarchy, and other overlapping systems of injustice render community members vulnerable to acquiring HIV. Who is “most vulnerable” and who “falls through the cracks” is not static. We do not all experience these vulnerabilities in exactly the same way. However, the differences in our experiences – the learning edges of power and oppression, privilege and vulnerability – can, for our extraordinarily diverse HIV community, be sources of strength themselves.

Who We Are

We stand together as a group of HIV activists of color. We are Black lesbians. We are Black gay men. We are heterosexual. We are immigrants and descendants of immigrants. We are people living with HIV and people whose lives have been touched by HIV. We are people of transgender experience and non-transgender experience. We are multigenerational, in age as well as HIV movement engagement. We are impacted by trauma in many different and complex ways. We experience intersectional stigmas. We are survivors of a range of health conditions and inequities. We share a vision of social justice and freedom for the communities we serve. In light of the continued impact of the HIV epidemic coupled with, and fueled by, pervasive structural violence facing our communities, this World AIDS Day we call for redefining the path ahead.

Origins and Herstories

There are many origins, histories and herstories, genealogies and legacies, that inform and enrich our current HIV activism work. Here we uplift the vision of intersectionality, as articulated by legal scholar and activist Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw and other feminists of color. This frame holds immense potential to build power among our communities and stimulate inclusive visions of liberation, recognizing that a single-issue approach will fail us all.

The Current Landscape

We are encouraged by advances in HIV treatment, prevention, and policy, representative of the scientific innovations that have rejuvenated the field and the advocacy of many of our colleagues. However, we know from experience that vulnerable communities seldom benefit simply from scientific advances. To that end, we are calling for a centralization and integration of intersectionality in the HIV community, as both a lens and a practice, to guide our efforts and inform our vision.

As we write this statement, the appalling and sadly unsurprising verdict in the case of Michael Brown – an unarmed black teenager gunned down by a cop who a grand jury decided last week will not be indicted for this heinous murder – is fresh in the national consciousness. Calls on the streets and on social media that #BlackLivesMatter echo the charges of the most enduring HIV activism: to address structural drivers of the epidemic and of disparities in health outcomes; to promote human rights for people living with and affected by HIV; to assert that our lives matter.

But that assertion cannot stop short of recognizing that those lives may include being unstably housed, or parenting children not biologically their own, or grappling with the effects of lifetime trauma, or with the criminal injustice system – or a host of other conditions that impact our lives and our advocacy. Our whole lives matter, all at once, and must be addressed with holistic advocacy grounded in an intersectional approach.

Unpacking Intersectionality

Intersectionality begins with the idea that interlocking systems of oppression – for instance, racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, xenophobia, stigma, transphobia, and state-sanctioned violence in the form of militarism, policing, and criminalization – can be experienced simultaneously based on a person’s or group’s complex categories of identity. This has significant implications for the HIV community, since many of us who are vulnerable to HIV also experience multiple oppressions. Experiences with intersecting oppressions differ across communities and between individuals; these different experiences of oppressions matter.

Power and Privilege

We all come from different experiences of privilege and oppression. Our privilege is less visible when we’re also part of communities that have experienced oppression. For example, a white gay man living with HIV may experience and resist oppression due to his sexual expression and HIV status, while his race and gender privilege remain unaddressed. An undocumented woman of color from a low-income background may experience classism, racism, sexism, and xenophobia, and yet be privileged in many spaces by her identity as a non-transgender woman. We must commit and be willing to take the risk of exposing and complicating privilege: privilege associated with race, gender, class, sexual orientation, non-transgender experience, and so forth. “Cracks,” like those mentioned in the opening of this piece, are allowed to open when we fail to address how our efforts may privilege some individuals in our communities while leaving others behind. Such tactics are toxic to our work.

The framework of intersectionality comes from an understanding that power, privilege, identity, and oppression are intimately linked and cannot be segmented from each other. The fear, ignorance, othering, and complacency that allow for the mass devaluing of so many of our lives endanger all our intersecting communities. We cannot simply draw from narratives of dominant power; we must seek to build a mass movement from shared intersectional narratives in an effort to challenge systems of oppression.


If we fail to understand that the systems, structures, and institutions we are collectively fighting are far more pervasive and embedded than the HIV epidemic, we fail as leaders.  We will continue to see poor health outcomes, inequitable access across the HIV care continuum, and disparities in death rates. Our community will continue to be plagued by a false sense of victory and strategies that work against each other’s interests. We will continue to see divide-and-conquer tactics that hurt the very people we are here to serve and represent – most especially people of color, poor people, and LGBT individuals.

Ultimately, in the fight for a just and equitable world, intersectionality affords us the understanding that no one truly wins until all of us win.

Moving Forward

We are at an unprecedented moment in the history of HIV activism. As we continue to see communities of color disproportionately impacted by HIV and enduring immense structural violence from the criminal injustice system, the medical industrial complex, stigma, economic distress, and other forms of institutional and ideological assault, we also see stunning examples of movement building, collaboration, and transformation. We are uniquely positioned to hold multiple world-views, which comes from occupying multiple social locations.

We also stand to offer service providers and clinicians better tools to engage the communities they serve, to provide more effective and higher quality care. We must confront the intersectional issues faced by vulnerable communities, to build power and healing to help overcome intersecting oppressions.

Rethinking Our Approach to “Get to Zero”

We face a historic and critical opportunity, where we can unite innovations in the scientific realm with greater inclusivity in the community realm. We can model more democratic, participatory, and inclusive models of leadership and continue to disrupt dominant notions, narratives, and practices around who gets to be valued and who doesn’t.

As we have seen in Ferguson, Mo., and beyond: There is great power in communities, and resistance is alive. Part Two of this statement will outline concrete examples of work being done in our communities, which serve as guides and inspirations for HIV organizations looking to adopt an intersectional approach. We must build upon our communities’ precious assets, including culture; wield our stories as tools and our differences as strengths; and commit fully to the occasionally uncomfortable yet invaluable work of intersectionality.

In this way, in the US, we may not only “get to zero” in the context of HIV – which we take beyond the public-health paradigm to mean zero structural inequities, zero discrimination, and zero human rights violations that block access to HIV care, treatment, and prevention. We will also build a unified, inclusive, and transformative movement for social justice.


In solidarity,

Cecilia ChungTransgender Law Center, San Francisco, CA

Olivia FordPositive Women’s Network – USA, Brooklyn, NY

Deon HaywoodWomen With a Vision, New Orleans, LA

Naina KhannaPositive Women’s Network – USA, Oakland, CA

Suraj MadooriHIV Prevention Justice Alliance, Chicago, IL

Charles StephensCounter Narrative Project, Atlanta, GA


Iván Espinoza-Madrigal and Kenyon Farrow also contributed vital perspectives to the development of this statement.


Download a PDF version of this statement.

Women, Violence and HIV

ImageBy: Loren Jones

As the oldest and only girl born to a welfare mom who had six children in nine years , way back in 1952, in North Philadelphia, I long ago accepted violence as a way of life. I didn’t realize until Junior High School, when I was bussed to a middle class white school, that not everyone yelled, sc reamed, and beat their children to get them to behave; not everyone knew someone who had been murdered on their block, and not every Christian household lived by “spare the rod, and spoil the child.”  If your partner only slapped you when he was mad, so what? You were lucky.  It’s not the same as a black eye or a broken arm.  And of course there was no HIV.

60 years later, the world has definitely changed and it is mostly for the better.  But why is it that so many poor black women, even in big cities with lots of good doctors, lots of buses and trains to get to them and free medications, still are not doing well in their fight for survival with HIV.  Many are still dying sooner in an age when we should all be looking forward to living as long, and as productively as those without HIV.  Could it be the violence that is still in so many of our lives?

I have lived with HIV for at least 28 years that I know of, and I am fortunate to be both a member of the Board of Directors for Positive Women’s Network-USA, and a member of Alameda County’s Ryan White Part A Community Collaborative Planning Council. As part of our yearly Ryan White Needs Assessment Activity required by HRSA, I was able to make a push to have some of our consulting money spent on gathering data and making recommendation for improving the quality of life and survival rate of HIV+ women in our community who also have histories of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV).

Our 2013 survey of 97 consumers showed that 26 (more than 1 in 4) were survivors of IPV. 75% of the people who completed the survey were People Living with HIV and 92% of those who are positive experienced IPV. More than half of those who experienced IPV felt that their experience with IPV affected whether they became HIV+ or had an impact on their health.

62% of the survey respondents were women, 20% white, 27% African American, and 28% Latino.

Here are a few follow-up recommendations to aid us in charting a pathway to a better quality of life, self esteem and health outcomes for HIV-positive people who experience intimate partner violence.

  1. Increase the existence and availability of psychosocial and clinical supports for perpetrators of IPV (both male and female) to help them recognize and deal with their behaviors in order to heal themselves, gain new skills to handle triggers, and reduce violence, and have healthier relationships overall.
  2. Raise visibility about how to identify IPV for oneself or others, promote IPV resources, and reduce shame, and stigma about IPV through a social marketing/and or social media campaign.
  3. Ensure the existence and appropriateness of IPV services for both survivors and perpetrators of IPV.
    1. Needed services may include: housing support, assistance with protective custody of children, substance abuse treatment, mental health support, emergency medical treatment, employment assistance, childcare, assistance with ADAP, assistance with new healthcare under the Affordable Care Act, and other needed government programs, and help with developing a safety plan.

Of course our service providers first need to ask the question about possible violence in the lives of their clients and be educated to provide trauma informed treatment.  I am confident however, that if we don’t let the flag fall, this could be the year that we make progress in breaking the links between women, violence and HIV.

Survey information and recommendations provided by: Facente Consulting, Richmond, CA (