Browsing Category: Lady Bloggahs

The Personal is Political: National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

By Liz Brosnan, Executive Director, Christie’s Place

The HIV/AIDS epidemic is a formidable health threat to women in the United States, particularly young women and women of color. As Executive Director of a women-serving organization founded eighteen years ago in memory of Christie Milton-Torres, the first woman to unabashedly share her life and struggles of living with HIV in San Diego, National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NWGHAAD) plays a critical role in bringing much needed attention to the impact HIV has on women and girls. I’ve had the honor to serve as Executive Director of Christie’s Place for the past twelve years and sadly the struggle to have women count – to ensure that they have the resources and care they need to survive – has not lessened. As an activist for the past 16 years, this day represents much more than raising awareness. It represents a synergy of efforts to offer support, encourage discussion, teach prevention and the importance of getting tested, as well as how to live with and manage HIV.

Over the past year it seems to me that the national discourse is minimizing the impact of the epidemic amongst women. It is my hope that NWGHAAD will reinforce that there is an ongoing need to address HIV/AIDS among women and girls domestically. The theme, “Share Knowledge – Take Action”, is important now more than ever. We need to raise the collective consciousness that HIV affects women and girls in complex ways along the care continuum and take action to ensure their needs are adequately addressed.

Last summer Christie’s Place joined the AIDS United Public Policy Committee (PPC). Like many of my sister organizations, we don’t have a budget for advocacy work. A colleague, Doug Wirth, was visiting our agency and when I shared that as much as I would like to join the PPC, membership dues weren’t in our budget. Without blinking, he took out his checkbook and gave Christie’s Place a donation to sponsor our membership. He shared in my belief that it was important for a women-centered community based organization to be involved because we would offer a unique perspective. I was honored and humbled, and after I wiped the tears from eyes I joined that afternoon. It’s important for organizations like Christie’s Place to be at that table because we provide a grassroots and grasstop perspective about how policy impacts organizations and women we serve on the ground. Being part of the PPC emphasizes the importance of solidarity – not just in sisterhood but with our brothers who are in this struggle with us and for us.

The role of policy is vital in our local response to serving women. It is a bidirectional process where we lift up the lived experiences of women as well as advocate at the national level for policy, funding and services that fully address their needs. Social determinants, gender inequalities along with the pervasive intersections of violence and trauma all fuel women’s health disparities. Violence and trauma are deeply interwoven in women’s lives. In order to “get to zero” our public health, healthcare and social service systems need to be trauma-informed and trauma-responsive. Christie’s Place and others across this country have been working to this end over the past year. The White House Interagency Federal Working Group Report on the Intersections of HIV/AIDS, Violence Against Women and Girls, and Gender-Related Health Disparities is a much needed first step in addressing the need for a coordinated, integrated and holistic approach to caring for women and girls within this context.

As a woman, the personal is political. Stigma, shame and fear fuel this epidemic. This past year has been one of great reflection. I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, violence and trauma. I have lived in silence with this stigma for most of my life. NWGHAAD is a call to action, so how can I expect women to share their status to combat stigma, to share their resilience in surviving trauma to inspire hopefulness, to turn the tide on AIDS by speaking out when I have concealed my own lived experiences crippled by shame and fear? I’ve been a hypocrite, but that ends today. In honor of NWGHAAD, I lift my cone of silence in solidarity and to speak truth to power.

Guest Blog: Continued Rise in STD Rates Threaten Our Fight Against HIV

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By Stephanie S. Arnold Pang
Director of Policy and Communications, National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD)

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the 2012 STD Surveillance report, which is a compilation of statistics and trends for the three reportable sexually transmitted diseases in the United States (chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis). In 2012, STD rates for all three diseases continue to increase, particularly in young people and men who have sex with men (MSM).

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There are many facts in this report which should give great pause to any of us working in the STD and HIV prevention and treatment field. Rates of primary and secondary syphilis rose a dramatic 11.1%. This increase was seen solely among men, particularly MSM. Trend data shows that MSM account for 75% of the primary and secondary syphilis cases. Rates of chlamydia, a disease that is most prevalent in women, rose in men 2012, but not in women.

Gonorrhea rates also rose for the third year in a row, rising 4% in 2012. The rates in men, however, rose over 8%. Every new gonorrhea infection can facilitate the transmission of HIV and can undermine HIV prevention efforts. Increasing gonorrhea rates continue to be deeply troubling due to rising drug resistance in gonorrhea and thanks to our surveillance networks, we know that the highest rates of gonorrhea resistance are in MSM.

This data also show that both the case and rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea continue to be highest in people 24 and younger. Almost 60% of reported cases of gonorrhea occur in this population. A shocking 70% of cases of chlamydia are in young people below the age of 25.

All of this spells trouble for the HIV epidemic. We will never reduce the number of new HIV cases without reducing the number of STD cases, particularly in the populations hardest hit by our STD epidemics: young people, people of color, and MSM. It is not coincidental that these are similar populations disproportionally affected by HIV.

Any STD increases your risk of both acquiring and transmitting HIV. Data also suggest that as many as 40% of MSM with syphilis are also co-infected with HIV. Additionally, research has also found that active STD infections can increase the level of HIV found in the semen of MSM, even if no HIV was found in the blood. This NCSD resource also lays out in more detail the how STD prevention strengthens the approach to HIV prevention.

Those on the front lines of the overlapping STD and HIV epidemics need to continue to prioritize young people, people of color, and MSM, or risk allowing the heavy burdens of these diseases to continue to rise among these populations. All HIV providers should also use the CDC STD screening and treatment guidelines to their advantage and as a tool to keep their patients protected from STDs. All who are providing HIV and STD services need to test for both HIV and other STDs, no matter where their clinics are located.

Rising STD rates greatly threatened our fight against HIV. We can’t afford to work in silos—as it turns out, these diseases do not.

Lady Bloggahs – I’m Every Woman

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“I’m Every Woman: HIV Does Not Discriminate”

By Gina Brown, Regional Organizer

Last month in New Orleans, LA, AIDS United, NO/AIDS Task Force and Positive Women’s Network-USA collaborated on a National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day program. There were 14 women and six NATF staff members present.  After dining on chicken marsala, spring mix, green beans, Au gratin potatoes and Bread Pudding for dessert, participants watched the movie, Life Support starring Queen Latifah and Gloria Reuben; there was not a dry eye in the house at the end of the movie.

The best part of the day was that some women showed up with a relative or friend. To be able to have an honest conversation about HIV was a 1st for some of the women. They spoke openly and honestly about their struggles and their victories, there was no shame in that room, only pride in the fact that they were there on NWGHAAD. The women whose status was not made public were told about the risk, the statistics for women; poor black and latina women were more likely to contract HIV than her white counterpart. Each woman received a gift bag that included; a diffuser, journal, pen, and three female condoms (FC2).

LadyBlogahas-webWe discussed the FC2 in depth, including the material it’s made out of and how that material, nitrile, molds to the body and warms up quicker than the 1ST generation Female Condom. At the end of the program, we all went out onto the roof and released red balloons as we called out the 1st name of a woman that has been lost in this battle. Because of the myths about HIV and women, I charged each woman with taking the information they learned today back to people in their communities.

Sharing correct information is one of the ways we will get to an AIDS-Free Generation!

Caressa Cameron-Jackson Speaks on National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day Panel Discussion at Hampton University

NatashaBy Natasha Abrams, Senior Sports Management Major at Hampton University
Journalist, Gamma Iota Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

On Thursday February 7, 2013 the Gamma Iota Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority (DST) Inc. helped support the fight against HIV/AIDS during a panel discussion featuring Miss America 2010, Mrs. Caressa Cameron-Jackson. Mrs. Cameron-Jackson shared her story of how HIV/AIDS had such a large impact on her life at such a young age.

When she was just a little girl, her uncle was diagnosed with HIV. “He was an African American gay man,” Caressa said. “He eventually stopped taking his medicine and died”. Her uncle’s death encouraged her to want to educate the world about HIV/AIDS because her uncle’s death could have been prevented if others had taken the time to increase their knowledge of the infection. “He [Caressa’s uncle] chose to stop taking his medicine because of the stigma in my family. No one wanted to talk about the fact that my uncle was gay with AIDS nor did they want to do anything to help. He already felt defeated before he could start his fight”.

Mrs. Cameron-Jackson is the Mid-Atlantic Regional Organizer for AIDS United and loves what she does. The Hampton community welcomed her with open arms and was greatly impacted by her knowledge. The Gamma Iota Chapter of DST would like to thank Mrs. Cameron-Jackson and her team for helping to make National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day a success.

Since National Black AIDS Awareness Day fell during Delta Week at Hampton University, we wanted to provide information about HIV/AIDS to the student population and the broader Hampton community to educate them about the impact HIV is having on the African American community. We felt it was important to remind students that you must know your status and practice safer sex. We also wanted to provide an opportunity to get an HIV test onsite.

Professor Carrion (Pharmacy Department) spoke candidly HIV about HIV medications and the real life impact HIV medication has on his clients. He also shared the impact that HIV has had on his family. His aunt was HIV positive and experienced stigma in the family as well as in the community.

Sandra Baker decided to mark National Black AIDS Awareness Day by speaking publically for the first time about her HIV status. Positive for the past eight years, Ms. Baker wanted the Hampton community to know the importance of knowing their HIV status so that transmission can be prevented. She explained that you can still have relationships as an HIV positive person, but you must care for yourself and your partners. She explained she is married, has four children and all of them remain HIV negative.