Browsing Category: Puerto Rico Direct Grantmaking

Día Nacional Latino para la Concientización del SIDA (NLAAD): Una perspectiva desde Puerto Rico

by Peter M. Shepard Rivas, MS
Coaí, Inc

La epidemia del VIH es una seria amenaza de salud pública para la comunidad hispana o latina. Los latinos representaron, al 2009, el 20% (9,400) de las nuevas infecciones de VIH (incluidos los residentes de Puerto Rico), siendo a su vez el 16% de la población total de los Estados Unidos (CDC HIV/AIDS among Hispanics/Latinos Fact Sheet, Revised 11/2011). En términos de las estadísticas de Estados Unidos y sus territorios, Puerto Rico se encuentra entre los primeros lugares de incidencia y prevalencia de sida en adultos.

Según el resumen de la epidemia del VIH en Puerto Rico de la Oficina de Epidermiología e Investigación de Vigilancia SIDA, Departamento de Salud de Puerto Rico cada día son diagnosticadas 3 personas en la isla (11/2009) con un promedio de 1,116 casos reportados anualmente. Basado en la data del Departamento de Salud y la División de Vigilancia SIDA al 31 de enero de 2012, en Puerto Rico hay reportado 35,080 casos acumulados de SIDA y 8,961 casos diagnosticados de VIH desde junio de 2003. En términos de la población objetivo de nuestro programa, los casos acumulativos de sida diagnosticados al 30/09/12 en adultos y adolescentes por conducta de riesgo la de Hombres que tienen Sexo con Hombres (HSH) representan el 17% (N=34,696), siendo la segunda categoría por género (UDI Hombres – 39%; Heterosexuales – Mujeres 15%) Además la categoría de HSH-UDI representa un 7% (N=35,080) adicional. La importancia de atender la situación del VIH en la isla, sobretodo siendo nuestra área estadística metropolitana una de las más afectadas, la ha convertido en una de las 12 ciudades participantes del esfuerzo del Enhanced Comprehensive HIV Prevention Planning (ECHPP). Esta iniciativa y el desarrollo de nuestro Plan Integral de Prevención nos ponen a la par del NHAS.

El impacto que ha tenido en VIH en la sociedad puertorriqueña amerita que continuamente se refuercen las estrategias de información pública y de concienciación. El Día Nacional Latino para la Concienciación del sida (NLAAD, por sus siglas en inglés) es un gran esfuerzo para alertar a nuestros ciudadanos, como latinos que somos, de la importancia de conocer las formas de prevenir el VIH y de conocer nuestro estatus. Además, la situación política de Puerto Rico crea un constante puente aéreo de intercambio entre los isleños y residentes de los EU creando unos lazos especiales con la comunidad latina dentro de los estados y otros territorios. Aunque las actividades relacionadas al NLAAD está todavía en desarrollo en Puerto Rico, cada año las personas están más consientes de su celebración y de su importancia para erradicar el estigma y discrimen hacia el VIH/sida con la esperanza de que no solo las personas que viven con VIH tengan una vida digna y sin perjuicios, sino que todas las personas que se puedan sentir a riesgo tengan la tranquilidad de acceder a conocer su estatus de VIH y entrar en tratamientos de así necesitarlo.

En Coaí, Inc., durante los últimos 7 años, el programa Aché ha estado realizando pruebas de detección de anticuerpos al VIH y educación en salud & reducción de riesgos. Con los fondos de AIDS United nuestro programa puede reclutar a HSH (negativa a riesgo de VIH o positivos) a participar de un modelo preventivo conocido como Muchos Hombres, Muchas Voces (3MV). A través de este modelo las personas adquieren conocimiento y herramientas para prevenir o reducir el daño al contagio del VIH. Nos sirve, además, como vehículo para reforzar en nuestros participantes la importancia de hacerse la prueba. Por eso, en conmemoración del NLAAD, nuestro programa estará distribuyendo condones, información y realizando pruebas de VIH en lugares donde socializa la población que servimos el 20 de octubre.

National Latino AIDS Awareness Day: A Perspective from Puerto Rico

by Peter M. Shepard Rivas, MS
Coaí, Inc

The HIV epidemic is a serious public health threat to the Hispanic/Latino community. Latinos account for 20% (9,400) of new HIV infections (including residents of Puerto Rico), which is itself 16% of the total population of the United States (CDC HIV/AIDS among Hispanics / Latinos Fact Sheet, Revised 11/2011). In terms of the statistics of the United States and its territories, Puerto Rico is among the top of incidence and prevalence of AIDS in adults.

According to the summary of the Office of Research and AIDS Surveillance, Department of Health regarding the HIV epidemic in Puerto Rico, each day three persons are diagnosed on the island (11/2009) with an average of 1,116 cases reported annually. Based on data from the Division of AIDS Surveillance as of September 30, 2012, Puerto Rico has  reported 35.080 AIDS cases and 8.961 diagnosed HIV cases since June 2003. In terms of the objective population that we reach in our program, cumulative AIDS cases diagnosed at 30/09/12 in adults and adolescents for the risk behavior of men who have sex with men (MSM) account for 17% (N = 34.696), the second category by gender (Men who are injection drug users (IDU) – 39% and Heterosexual Females 15%). Also the category of MSM-IDU represents 7% (N = 35.080). The importance of addressing the HIV situation in Puerto Rico, especially our metropolitan statistical area, has been the reason that we have has become one of the 12 cities participating in the effort of Enhanced Comprehensive HIV Prevention Planning (ECHPP). This initiative and the development of our comprehensive prevention plan put us on par with the National HIV/AIDS Strategy.

The impact that HIV has had on Puerto Rican society necessitates that we constantly reinforce public information strategies and awareness. The National Latino AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD) is an effort to alert our citizens that, as Latinos, it is important to know how to prevent HIV and to know our status. Moreover, the political situation of Puerto Rico creates an “air bridge” between the island and mainland with a constant exchange between the islanders and residents of the U.S., creating special ties with the Latino community within states and other territories. Although NLAAD-related activities are still under development in Puerto Rico, every year people are more aware of this observance and its importance to eradicate stigma of  HIV/AIDS in the hope that, not only people living with HIV/AIDS have a healthy without harm, but everyone who might be at- risk have access to HIV prevention, testing and treatment services.

For the past seven years in Coaí, Inc., and our Aché program we have been providing HIV tests and health education & risk reduction. With AIDS United funds our program recruits MSM (HIV negative at risk or HIV positive) to participate in a preventive and educational intervention known as Many Men, Many Voices (3MV). Through this model MSM acquire knowledge and tools to prevent or reduce damage for HIV infection. It also serves as a vehicle to reinforce in our participants the importance of getting tested. So in commemoration of NLAAD, our program will be distributing condoms, information and conducting HIV tests in places where the population we serve socializes on October 15.

Coaí, Inc is a grantee of AIDS United’s Puerto Rico grantmaking initiative

A Territory Away…

by Stephanie Cruse, NAF Program Associate

I was able to travel to San Juan, Puerto Rico at the beginning of August to conduct site visits to a few NAF grantees through our direct prevention grantmaking portfolio there, as well as to attend a Johnson & Johnson grant ceremony with Kandy Ferree, NAF President and CEO. It was a fantastic opportunity to see our grantees’ work in action in addition to reading about their projects in our Washington office.

Carlo

Carlo

I spent Thursday visiting three grantees, each with very different prevention programs.  The first grantee was called PR Concra,(Puerto Rico Community Network for Clinical Research on AIDS). I met with Carlo, who is the peer educator for a program that we fund just outside of San Juan, near the University of Puerto Rico in an area called Rio Piedras. PR Concra is a center mainly for gay youth, and they provide HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment services, as well as medical/dental/mental health services.

PR Concra is the only organization on the island to provide programming for young gay men. The project Carlo works on focuses on conducting outreach to young gay men via social networks, primarily Facebook. After joining the Facebook group, young men are invited to go to PR Concra to take an HIV test or receive services.

My next site visit was to an organization called ASPIRA, and I met with the Executive Director, Adalexis Rios and the peer educator for the program we fund, Lizbeth Rivera. The NAF-funded program is an HIV prevention intervention called Solo para Chicas, and Lizbeth travels to four different rural sites around the island giving the intervention to adolescent girls.  Two of the sites are actually on separate, smaller islands off the Eastern coast of Puerto Rico, Culebra and Vieques. It’s hard to imagine, but these islands are even more remote and receive even less information and services than the island of Puerto Rico does.  In workshops, Lizbeth emphasizes self-esteem, trying to empower young women to feel comfortable with themselves and in their decision-making skills when it comes to their sexual health.

Iniciativa-Comunitaria's syringe exchange vending machine

The last visit was to Iniciativa Comunitaria, an organization that offers 13 programs in both prevention and direct care services.  NAF funds the Punto Fijo syringe exchange program through its Syringe Access Fund, and the syringe vending machine through our direct grantmaking program.  During this visit Kandy and I learned more about the vending machine which was introduced to the community in October 2009.  This project received quite a bit of international attention when it was implemented because it is the first of its kind in the Americas, so I was really excited to see it.  The justification for this project was that injection drug users (IDUs) couldn’t always make it to the syringe exchange room during business hours, so the vending machine is available 24/7 to those who have a token. They receive a packet from the machine which includes a clean syringe, needle, other necessary equipment and educational sheets on how to clean syringes/needles and HIV prevention.

I was so grateful to go on this trip because even though I had learned about the grantees’ projects here at NAF, being there and seeing the programs in action in the local context really opened my eyes.  There were a few main themes that I took away from my experiences in San Juan. The first is that all areas of Puerto Rico, but particularly rural areas outside of San Juan are in dire need of basic HIV/sexual health information. Secondly, stigma is a huge issue, and there is a lot of discrimination (sometimes violent) against gay or transgender individuals, as well as IDUs.  This results many times in lack of support systems, which push people even further into the margins, and can result in riskier behaviors, putting them at higher risk for HIV.

My last thought is that as “mainland” funders, we should be mindful of the context in which we make grants in Puerto Rico, and to really make an effort to understand how Puerto Rico’s territorial status affects relationships with the local and federal government, and with funders from the U.S. mainland.  I’ve had many conversations with our grantees, who express frustration that Puerto Rican community-based organizations often fall through the funding cracks, because they are considered internationally-based by many U.S. funders, but international funders consider them to be U.S.-based organizations.  Due to its unique status as a U.S. territory, Puerto Rican organizations are unfortunately not receiving adequate funding for the great need there.  I am proud that NAF has taken a leadership role and will be able to continue our funding in Puerto Rico and convince other potential stakeholders to invest in the many organizations that are doing a great amount of work with very few resources.