March 31: Earlier this week, over 600 advocates from 34 states and the District of Columbia descended upon Capitol Hill for the largest AIDSWatch yet; Positive Women’s Network – USA (PWN-USA) still made its mark. About 50 PWN-USA members participated in AIDSWatch 2017, some for the very first time, and some who have been coming for years. Continue reading “PWN-USA Rocks AIDSWatch 2017!”
March 16, 2017: For National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (#NWGHAAD), PWNers from coast to coast hosted and participated in events, in person and online, raising awareness and educating our communities about HIV and its impact on women and girls and asserting the bodily autonomy of women living with HIV.
From the Women Living Conference in Atlanta (PWNer Shyronn Jones shares her experience there in this blog) to a special event focused on the theme of bodily autonomy in Philadelphia, PWN-USA members and regional chapters took advantage of the occasion to speak out, share our stories and advocate for our rights. You can see the events PWN-USA members and chapters hosted, participated in and/or presented at here. And check out the slideshow above! Continue reading “On #NWGHAAD, PWNers Assert and Celebrate #BodilyAutonomy”
March 10, 2017: Today is National Women & Girls HIV Awareness Day. In honor of the approximately 300,000 women living with HIV in the United States, please join Positive Women’s Network – USA in asserting and celebrating the bodily autonomy of all women and girls living with HIV, including women of trans experience.
Yesterday, we presented Bodily Autonomy: A Framework to Guide Our Future in a special webinar (watch the recording here!) Today at 12 PM EST/9 AM PST, we continue the conversation on Twitter using the hashtags #NWGHAAD and #BodilyAutonomy with special guests from HIVE, SisterSong, Desiree Alliance, The Well Project, Positively Trans, Arianna’s Center and Prevention Access Campaign. We invite you to join the conversation online! You can also access our complete #NWGHAAD #BodilyAutonomy social media toolkit here, complete with sample social media posts and shareable graphics.
Women and girls living with HIV across the U.S.: Today, and every day, we honor you. Allies: Thank you for your continued support and commitment to upholding the rights of women living with HIV.
Feb. 17: In honor of National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NWGHAAD), Positive Women’s Network – USA invites you to join us in asserting and celebrating the bodily autonomy of all women and girls, including women of trans experience, living with HIV.
What is “bodily autonomy,” and why talk about it now?
Bodily autonomy is the simple but radical notion that individuals have a right to control what does and doesn’t happen to their bodies. This is central to PWN-USA’s vision of a world where all women and girls living with HIV can lead long, healthy, dignified lives, free from stigma, discrimination, and violence in all forms.
Please join us for a webinar on Thursday, March 9, at 3pm EST/12pm PST explaining bodily autonomy as a crucial framework for understanding and fighting the intensifying, oppressive attacks on women, people of color, immigrants, Muslims, LGBQ and trans folks, and people living with HIV and other chronic health conditions.
It will require all of us to demand a world where the bodily autonomy of all women and girls living with HIV is respected and upheld, including the right to control our reproductive decisions, health and labor; freedom of movement and migration; and freedom from state violence.
An Open Letter from Positive Women’s Network – USA in Observance of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD)
February 7, 2017: From the moment the winner of the 2016 U.S. presidential election was announced, many of us of African descent have experienced disappointment, anger, outrage, and anxiety. A communal reaction to what some have dubbed a referendum against the human rights and dignity of people of color left some of us in physical shock, while confirming what others already knew to be true: This country, built on the genocide and enslavement of our ancestors and elders, continues to be plagued by deeply entrenched racism.
Now, three weeks into an administration that is quickly transforming the nation into something more closely resembling a neo-fascist totalitarian state than a democracy, 45 has made good on campaign promises by waging war on immigrants, Muslims, women, and poor people in a rapid-fire succession of assaultive policies intended to distract and create an environment of “shock and awe.” This traumatic environment, characterized by unbridled intolerance and suppression tactics, have left some folks confused and resigned to a seemingly daily assault on institutions, policy advances, and programs that have at times supported our journey from “bondage” to “freedom.” Yet our survival during this time, as always, depends on our ability to resist, love, and protect each other. We cannot stop now.
**FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE**
February 6, 2017
CONTACT: Jason Howe, Equality California
PHONE: 323-848-9801 MOBILE: 415-595-9245 EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Wiener and Assemblymember Gloria Announce Bill to Modernize Discriminatory HIV Criminalization Laws
Equality California, Positive Women’s Network – USA, ACLU and others join in support of bill to reform outdated laws enacted during a time of fear and ignorance to make them more consistent with laws involving other serious communicable diseases
San Francisco – Today, Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Assemblymember Todd Gloria (D-San Diego) introduced a bill to modernize laws that criminalize and stigmatize people living with HIV. Assemblymember David Chiu is also a co-author of the bill. SB 239 would amend California’s HIV criminalization laws, enacted in the 1980s and ‘90s at a time of fear and ignorance about HIV and its transmission, to make them consistent with laws involving other serious communicable diseases. The bill is cosponsored by the ACLU of California, APLA Health, Black AIDS Institute, Equality California, Lambda Legal and Positive Women’s Network – USA. The organizations are part of Californians for HIV Criminalization Reform (CHCR), a broad coalition of people living with HIV, HIV and health service providers, civil rights organizations and public health professionals dedicated to ending the criminalization of HIV in California. San Francisco Supervisor Jeff Sheehy also attended the announcement.
January 20, 2017: Today, a thin-skinned, authoritarian narcissist who lost the popular vote by almost 3 million votes is being sworn into the highest office in the United States, and arguably the most powerful position in the world. He has shown utter contempt not only for women, Muslims, Latinx and Black people, immigrants and the LGBT community, but also for the Constitution and its most basic protections, including freedom of the press; democracy; facts; and human decency.
Tomorrow, members of Positive Women’s Network – USA will join hands with an estimated 200,000 women and others who believe in freedom, justice, and equality at the Women’s March on Washington, and with an estimated two million women at “sister marches” in 616 cities around the world.
Continue reading “#WhyWeMarch: Toward Liberation and Justice”
January 19, 2017: Positive Women’s Network-USA (PWN-USA) is proud to launch applications for our inaugural 2017-2018 Policy Fellowship for women living with HIV (WLHIV). The yearlong Policy Fellowship will advance our organizational mission to prepare and involve WLHIV in all levels of policy and decision-making by increasing participants’ ability to engage effectively in the federal policy and advocacy arena. In the current political environment marred by threats to sexual and reproductive rights, basic healthcare, the social safety net and civil and human rights, it is critical that WLHIV are equipped with a wide array of tools to support vibrant, visionary and strategic advocacy on behalf of their communities. Register for an informational webinar about the program and application process here.
The fellowship is open to all women living with HIV, including women of trans experience. We especially encourage young women, women of color, immigrant women, folks who are trans, LGB and gender nonconforming, who live in the South and who possess a strong desire to effect meaningful change in the lives of other WLHIV to apply. Continue reading “PWN-USA Launches Inaugural Class of Policy Fellowship!”
December 19, 2016
To the Positive Women’s Network Sisterhood and Allies –
At the 2016 PWN Speak Up Summit in Ft Walton Beach, white women living with HIV committed to study and challenge racism, within ourselves and in our communities. We promised to do this work even when it makes us uncomfortable. We want and need to stand with our Black and brown sisters living with HIV in the struggle for dignity, justice, and rights for us all.
The election of Donald Trump and Mike Pence has shaken this country to its core. As women living with HIV, we are gravely concerned about our ability to maintain our health and health care, housing, childcare, wages, and support services. As white women living with HIV, we are also frightened for the safety of our Black and brown sisters, cisgender and transgender, for our own Black and brown children, and for all members of non-white and non-Christian, non-heterosexual communities. As this wave of white supremacy crashes over our country, we commit to stand together and to fight alongside our Black and brown sisters and communities.
Starting in January 2017, our newly formed group- Women of PWN Dismantling Racism, will initiate an antiracism curriculum by and for white women living with HIV. We will host webinars for all women living with HIV where we can meet, hear, learn, and support each other. As we do this, we will continue, on our own and through PWN, to monitor events in Washington, hold all our elected officials accountable and take action to fight anything that negatively affects marginalized communities or our Black or brown sisters in any way. We will continue fighting for justice for women living with HIV, our families and our communities.
We invite you all to be part of our kickoff webinar on January 17, 2017, 5:30 – 7 PM EST (2:30 – 4 PM PST) as we provide an overview of the curriculum goals and welcome those who want to participate in and support this work. Please click here to register for the webinar.
In Sisterhood, Solidarity, and Action –
Women of PWN Dismantling Racism
December 16, 2016: Last month, the president-elect announced his decision to nominate ardent opponent of women’s health and the Affordable Care Act (ACA; a.k.a. “Obamacare”) Representative Tom Price (R-GA) to serve as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and health policy consultant Seema Verma as the chief administrator for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
Who is Tom Price?
Rep. Price, who is formerly a practicing orthopedic surgeon, has a long record of opposing abortion access and other reproductive rights and has voted several times to defund Planned Parenthood. He has also been a leader in the charge to repeal the ACA and supports shifting Medicaid programs to block grant funding structures with less federal oversight and fewer protections for low-income people.
Who is Seema Verma?
Verma worked alongside Vice President-elect Mike Pence as a key architect of Indiana’s Medicaid expansion program, which erected barriers to low income people maintaining coverage, such as requiring enrollees at the poverty line to pay into the program and penalizing missed contributions with lockouts or more restrictive plans lacking benefits like dental coverage.
What does this mean?
Rep. Price’s leadership of HHS–the government agency that houses Health Resources Services Administration/Bureau of HIV/AIDS (HRSA HAB), home to the Ryan White CARE Act providing care and treatment to hundreds of thousands of people living with HIV, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and most federal health related agencies–could have grave consequences for women living with HIV. With Price and Verma at the helm of the federal health care system, safety net coverage and assistance programs could see unconscionable cuts in the name of free-market approaches and “personal choice.” This could hinder access to lifesaving treatment and even further curtail the reproductive autonomy of women living with HIV, who are more likely to be low-income and rely on publicly funded coverage options.
For more information on what’s at stake for women’s health if the ACA is repealed under Price’s leadership:
For more information on projected changes to Medicaid and other safety net programs:
Both Verma and Rep. Price will be subject to senate confirmation by majority vote but will first be vetted by two key committees, the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) and Finance Committee, likely in the first few weeks of the new year. Before these hearings take place, it is critical that we hold our elected officials accountable to vigorously interrogate the records of these nominees and press them to answer tough questions about their plans to dismantle the nation’s health care safety net, as well as the sexual and reproductive health care delivery systems our communities rely heavily upon.
Check here to see if your senator is a member of the Senate HELP or Finance Committee and call, write and/or tweet them to express your opposition to Rep. Tom Price as our next HHS Secretary and Seema Verma as the next administrator of CMS.
Sample script for email or phone call
My name is [your name], and I am a constituent from [your state and city]. I’m [writing or calling] to express my opposition to the nomination of Rep. Tom Price to lead our nation’s federal health care system. The ACA has expanded coverage to more than 20 million people including people living with HIV. Rep. Price’s voting record reflects that he does not support access to the comprehensive healthcare needs of women living with HIV.
My name is [your name], and I am a constituent from [your state and city]. I’m [writing or calling] to express my opposition to the nomination Seema Verma to lead CMS. Medicaid program reforms as proposed under Verma’s leadership will prevent low income women living HIV from maintaining coverage and accessing life-saving treatment.
@[Senator’s handle] We cannot afford to lose #healthcare! Please oppose@RepTomPrice for HHS & Seema Verma for CMS!
December 1, 2016: This #WorldAIDSDay, Positive Women’s Network – USA honors President Obama’s legacy in addressing the domestic HIV epidemic. Over the past eight years, the Obama Administration has advanced essential human rights protections for people living with HIV while ensuring meaningful involvement of the communities most impacted by HIV.
In 2010, President Obama formally finalized the repeal of the HIV travel ban, which barred entry into the U.S. of people living with HIV, allowing the International AIDS Conference to return to the U.S. following an absence of more than 2 decades. The move not only ended a policy of state-sanctioned discrimination, it conveyed an accurate public message that people living with HIV are not a public health threat, and that banning or isolating people living with HIV is not the way to fight the epidemic.
Candidate Barack Obama committed to develop and release a national plan to address the domestic HIV epidemic – a promise he fulfilled in July 2010 with the release of the first ever National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS), a comprehensive approach to domestic HIV prevention, care, and social justice issues intersecting with human rights. In particular, we commend President Obama for the Administration’s focus within the NHAS on review and repeal of HIV criminalization laws, increased employment opportunities for people living with HIV, and, more recently, commitment to addressing HIV-related stigma through broad-based social action. The Affordable Care Act prohibited insurers from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions (including HIV) and increased access to essential sexual and reproductive health services, including guaranteed coverage of contraception, preventive services for women’s health, and screening for domestic violence.
President Obama reactivated and redefined the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA), which was first convened by President Clinton in 1995 but receded under President Bush, with few meetings or recommendations and some questionable appointments. Under President Obama, PACHA not only increased representation and meaningful participation of people living with HIV from impacted communities, including young people, people of color and of trans experience, but also maximized their expertise and contributions in developing the updated NHAS 2020 and the federal action plan.
We would additionally like to take this opportunity to honor and uplift the following individuals who have helped to vision, lead, and organize a coordinated and powerful domestic HIV response in the Obama Administration.
Jeff Crowley was the first Director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy in the Obama Administration as well as Senior Advisor on Disability Policy, serving in these capacities from February 2009-December 2011. Jeff led the development of our country’s first domestic National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) for the United States, which continues to guide the Administration’s efforts in this area. He also coordinated disability policy development for the Domestic Policy Council and worked on the policy team that spearheaded the development and implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Since leaving the White House, Jeff has remained deeply involved in the community and instrumental as a policy expert and thought leader on HIV, disability issues, and access to healthcare for low-income communities. Thanks, Jeff, for your ongoing commitment to people living with HIV.
Gregorio Millett, MPH
Detailed from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Greg Millett served as Senior Policy Advisor at ONAP, helping to write the first National HIV/AIDS Strategy. Greg’s extensive research on HIV incidence among black gay and bisexual men has helped to frame a national conversation on the importance of addressing HIV in this community.
James Albino served as Senior Program Manager in the White House Office of National AIDS Policy during Jeff Crowley’s tenure, leaving to head the White House Task Force on Puerto Rico. While at ONAP, James was instrumental in the creation of the Federal Interagency Workgroup on HIV, Violence Against Women, and Gender-Related Health Disparities. He also championed a domestic focus on the Latinx community as well as funding and HIV services for Puerto Rico.
As Senior Advisor to Vice President Biden, Lynn Rosenthal served as the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women and co-chaired the Federal Interagency Workgroup on HIV, Violence against Women, and Gender-related Health Disparities. Lynn’s commitment to hearing directly from impacted communities was clear to us, as was her background in leading direct service provision. As a keynote speaker at PWN-USA’s 2012 International AIDS Conference pre-conference for women living with HIV, Ms. Rosenthal stayed and spent time with our members for several hours to better understand their experiences. We value and appreciate this kind of commitment to the community.
Grant Colfax, MD
Grant Colfax served as Director of ONAP from March 2012 through December 2013, during which time he helped develop and launch the HIV Care Continuum Initiative, designed to increase access to HIV testing, care, and treatment rates.
Douglas Brooks, MSW
Under Douglas Brooks’ leadership, the White House Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) was guided for the first time by a Black gay man openly living with HIV. He showed commitment to addressing the disproportionate impact of HIV on Southern states, gay and bisexual men, Black women, youth, and the transgender community, as well as to exploring and addressing the complexities of disclosure. We appreciate Douglas ensuring a focus on addressing stigma, as well, as employment, in the NHAS.
Amy Lansky, PhD, MPH
Dr. Amy Lansky began serving as Director of ONAP in March 2016 upon Douglas Brooks’ departure and previously played a key role in the writing and release of NHAS 2020. Under Amy’s leadership, new developmental indicators for the National HIV/AIDS Strategy addressing stigma, and engagement in care and treatment for women of trans experience were released today. We are additionally appreciative of Amy’s presentation at PWN-USA’s Speak Up! Summit this September, demonstrating her commitment to advancing and investing in PLHIV leadership.
November 18, 2016: Transgender Day of Remembrance—or Transgender Day of Resilience, to give full credit to the power, strength, creativity and determination our brothers and sisters of trans experience have shown in the face of relentless persecution—is observed November 20 of each year.
On this solemn but critically important day, and every day, Positive Women’s Network – USA commits to hold and uplift our transgender siblings and to do all within our power to protect them from the outpouring of hate, encircle them in love and give a platform to their voices.
This year, TDOR falls just 12 days after an election that threatens to roll back decades of progress for many communities—immigrants, LGBTQ, people of color and women—but which is particularly foreboding for the transgender community. As people of trans experience have increased their visibility in a struggle for equal rights and protection under the law, they have also faced hate crimes, including murders. Far too often, our trans family are further brutalized even in death, misgendered in the news. In fact, pervasive misgendering by police departments and media sources make it difficult to keep an accurate count of murders of transgender individuals, and can also impede investigation of incidents as hate crimes.
Separately from threats of physical violence, simply accessing health care, housing, education and employment opportunities can be like navigating a minefield for people of trans experience.
Please read the following statement from Jada Cardona, a Latinx woman of trans experience living in New Orleans, Louisiana, which was written prior to last week’s election.
Transgender People in the South Need Meaningful Change
by Jada Cardona, Executive Director of Transitions Louisiana
Being transgender in the Southern United States has its unique set of challenges. We can consider it positive movement when we haven’t lost any footing but unfortunately, there is not much forward progress. Despite last week’s election, we refuse to go backward.
1. Affordable access to gender-affirming, non-discriminatory health care.
Since the adoption of the Medicaid expansion, we have been left out of the loop, as none of the states in the Deep South has expanded their Medicaid programs to be in line with ACA recommendations. More and more, young transgender women are resorting to underground silicone to have their bodies feminized. Hormones are super expensive and are not available to young transgender women. In fact, if you are living with HIV and are not adherent to the HIV meds, in some areas you risk being cut off of hormone treatment. There are no gender care clinics or after care clinics here in Louisiana. Getting gender reassignment is dangerous whenever you have to travel out of state (closest in Georgia) and have to recover in cheap motels instead of at home. Gender affirming care is still a dream on the horizon and not available in the South.
In a needs assessment survey of transgender Americans released by Positively Trans this spring, only 67% of Latinx respondents and 75% of African American respondents reported having health care coverage. Just 70% of respondents earning less than $12,000 a year had coverage. And 53-82% of respondents who reported having possibly or certainly been denied care because of their gender identity or HIV status had gone six months or longer without health care since their HIV diagnosis. Given the South’s failure to expand Medicaid, it is highly likely that the numbers in the South are even higher than these figures.
Further, 8% of respondents to the survey living in the South had never had an HIV viral load test. Viral suppression was also a full 10% lower among respondents in the South than elsewhere (71% compared with 81%).
These grim numbers highlight the urgent need for access to health care that is affirming for people of all genders and affordable.
2. Inclusion of gender identity in non-discrimination and equal opportunity laws and policies.
The Positively Trans needs assessment survey shows that 65% of respondents earned $23,000 or less annually, with a full 43% earning less than $12,000. Extreme poverty related to discrimination in education and employment settings forces some transgender people to resort to survival sex work or other survival strategies as they worry about where they will be sleeping and what are they going to eat.
This marginalization also increases risk of HIV acquisition for people of trans experience. Homelessness, lack of socially acceptable employment opportunities, and mental health challenges resulting from internalized oppression are killing our transgender sisters and brothers. The suicide rate is alarming and no one seems to be addressing the root causes of the problems.
Employment may grant an unprecedented level of self-efficacy necessary to build better lives. Non-discrimination laws must include protections for gender identity, and employers must be trained to comply with these laws both in the employment process and on the job.
Housing discrimination also remains an enormous barrier to stable employment and health care.. Homelessness can make it all but impossible to secure or hold down a job, as well as making it much more difficult for people of trans experience living with HIV to stay engaged in care. Non-discrimination laws and policies around housing must protect gender identity and must be enforced. Additionally, transgender individuals should have equal access to affordable housing opportunities.
Despite these challenges, I must point out that there is some growth that has been happening in our lives. For instance, we are more visible than we have ever been. People are now listening to our stories, and some organizations like PWN have embraced us. It is wonderful to know that there are some people who are committed to changing the political climate to one of inclusion and love. As we continue to change hearts and minds by sharing our truths, we demand that our neighbors, public and private institutions, and policymakers put down their prejudgments and recognize us as equal, so that we can finally get the respect that we need to thrive and supersede all that is against us in this world.
November 15, 2016: Today, we grieve. Tomorrow, we fight.
Resistance in the face of terror is nothing new for our communities.
Our bodies are transgressive: Black, brown, and otherwise pigmented; queer; HIV-containing; border-crossing.
Our bodies and those of our ancestors have mostly migrated – some by choice but many by force – to a country that does not love us. 60 million people told us that last week. But our ancestors have been organizing in the face of hate, bigotry, terror, and loss for hundreds of years. We will not stop now.
Combatting racism, misogyny, xenophobia, transphobia, and patriarchy is an everyday reality for women living with HIV in the U.S. We are not strangers to living in fear or to having our rights violated. We know full well that justice has always been a fantasy for many of our members because Lady Justice’s blindfold is just for show; the heavy fingers of bigotry and resentment have weighed on the scales of justice throughout American history.
Regardless of the election’s outcome, we would have had to continue to fight vociferously for the safety, health, dignity and equality of ourselves and our loved ones. With a different outcome, our work likely would have been defined by an offensive strategy: pushing for progress and accountability to campaign promises. What transpired with last week’s election sets us back on the defensive, threatening decades of progress for women, people of color, those of us living with chronic health conditions and disabilities, queer and trans people—that is, just about everyone in this country who is not a white male.
For now, we commit to encircle and uplift those who will be increasingly targeted in the face of a Trump administration – for being brown, Black, queer, Muslim, immigrant, indigenous, non-English-speaking, womyn, and trans and gender non-conforming. Our next steps cannot be a reform agenda. Our tactics must be radical, revolutionary, and intersectional – building and centering leadership and strategic investment where it is most needed. Civil rights were not granted through an election; they were won in the streets.
Still, it is not enough to protest in the streets while we allow the institutions we work for and that purport to serve us to perpetuate the same oppressions we are fighting in our governmental institutions. We must actively work to combat racist, misogynistic and patriarchal practices within institutions and organizations, while we fight state-sanctioned violence.
And at the same time, we commit to radical self-care, because our preservation, health and dignity itself is revolutionary. As the great Audre Lorde said: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
Elections have consequences, and we fear the worst from this one; but that only means we must fight harder, smarter and more relentlessly than ever before. In the coming weeks, months, and years, we must work intersectionally and in solidarity. We cannot work narrowly on one issue; more than ever, we need to fight for a broad progressive agenda, inclusive of ensuring that our very rights to healthcare, food, housing, land, movement, migration, and even to participate in democracy are protected. Our fates are intertwined. Only through fierce solidarity will we be strong enough to withstand the attacks on our communities and our very right to exist.
We will fight as if our life depends on it, because it does. In the meantime, love each other fiercely and hold each other tight.
See you in the streets and in the halls of Congress.
In sisterhood and solidarity ~
Positive Women’s Network – USA
Read PWN-USA Communications Director Jennie Smith-Camejo’s call to white people to engage in this moment:
“White friends, I understand your grief, and I know it’s real. I am living with it too. We are grieving together-mostly for the death of a rosy vision that many of the people around us, people we know and love, never had the privilege of believing in. Now it’s time for us to stand in that discomfort and feel it. Really feel it. And think about it. And talk about it. Not just to each other, but to everyone. To other white people specifically.” Read more here.
November 7, 2016: Positive Women’s Network – USA is devastated by the sudden loss of our sister, PWN-USA Philadelphia co-chair Patricia Williams, who passed away unexpectedly Friday, November 4.
Patricia, better known to many of her friends as Pattie, is mourned by her devoted mother, for whom she was named, three brothers, one sister, several aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, as well as many friends and the community. (Please consider helping her family bury her by contributing whatever you can here.)
Patricia lived her life giving to the community, training and advocating for a better world, free from stigma and discrimination.
“I helped mentor and train her myself, and I can attest that she was eager to learn and eager to apply all she learned toward helping to shape a better world for all marginalized people,” says Waheedah Shabazz-El, PWN-USA Regional Organizing Director.
Diagnosed in 1992, Patricia lived proudly and openly with HIV as a way of eliminating HIV-related stigma. Patricia had extensive connections with the faith community and was a member of the Helping Hands Ministry in her church, helping to feed and clothe the homeless.
She was a graduate of several of Philadelphia FIGHT’s Project Teach Programs. She was also a graduate of a women’s trauma support group called “Still Rising.”
Patricia’s hard work as a peer educator for Philadelphia FIGHT was to educate communities living with and vulnerable to HIV. She provided motivation and encouraged others to build their own capacity to be a part of the fight to eradicate HIV in our lifetime. She was a specialist in teaching HIV prevention and about other sexually transmitted illnesses to disproportionately impacted communities.
Patricia had a keen focus on treatment of HIV education issues. She was also a steadfast member of a 12-step fellowship and was a regular speaker and presenter for We The People, a former community-based organization for people in recovery and with various other social needs. She was a strong advocate and a firm believer that you must fight for your human rights, “because no one is going to hand them to you on a silver platter.”
Patricia recently was a co-coordinator of a funded project by PWN-USA Philadelphia to address stigmatizing language in HIV and graduated herself and a dozen other community members as Stand Up to Stigma Champions. She led the PWN-USA Philly chapter–one of PWN-USA’s most successful regional chapters–with consistency and integrity since 2014.
She will be greatly missed by all who knew her. Please consider contributing whatever you can to help her family give her the burial and tribute she deserves. Click here to contribute. Every little bit helps.
October 24, 2016: With community events around the country happening from last week through the first week of November; a vibrant radio show on the theme hosted by PWN-USA Colorado member Pozitively Dee on Saturday; a Twitter chat scheduled for 2 PM ET today with special guest co-hosts from Christie’s Place, Futures Without Violence, National Network to End Domestic Violence, The Well Project and the Women’s HIV Program at UCSF (follow using the hashtags #EndVAWHIV and #pwnspeaks!); and at least two cities (Philadelphia and Houston) issuing proclamations for the Day of Action, our third annual Day of Action to End Violence Against Women Living with HIV is shaping up to be another success.
Friday, we released a new factsheet examining criminalization as a perilous form of structural violence against women living with HIV. This factsheet contains invaluable information you will find useful in fighting criminalization and other forms of structural violence.
Be sure to read these powerful blog posts written for the Day of Action: a very raw, personal story of coping with violence from member Angel (trigger warning), and a beautiful tribute to the power of PWN and our members from Bruce Richman, executive director of Prevention Access Campaign. Also, be sure to check out the incredibly powerful blog posts from last year’s Day of Action.
And check out some photos of our members in action for the Day of Action below!
structural violence, and to offer solutions and ways that government, institutions and organizations can help prevent and mitigate violence and trauma. We will also be hosting a Twitter chat Monday, Oct. 24, at 2 PM ET/11 AM PT to look at the promise of trauma-informed care for women living with HIV as a means to healing the trauma that is far too often a barrier to retention in care (follow the hashtags #pwnspeaks and #EndVAWHIV). Community events are also being held in various cities, and members in Philadelphia and Houston secured proclamations from their cities declaring October 23 the Day of Action to End Violence Against Women Living with HIV.
- Repeal and reform of laws criminalizing HIV exposure, non-disclosure and transmission
- An end to law enforcement practices that target communities disproportionately impacted by HIV, including people of trans and gender nonconforming experience (TGNC), sex workers, people who use drugs, immigrants, people who are unstably housed, people with mental illness, and communities of color
- An end to stigmatizing and discriminatory interactions, methods of surveillance and brutalization of PLHIV and communities impacted by HIV at the hands of law enforcement
- Elimination of barriers to safe, stable, and meaningful reintegration into the community for those returning home from jail and prison, those with criminal convictions, and the loved ones who support them.
Months of planning and preparation from PWN-USA’s Summit Planning Committee, Board, staff and presenters paid off last month, as 250 women living with HIV from 29 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Canada came together in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, for SPEAK UP! 2016 National Leadership Summit for Women Living with HIV.
The theme of this year’s Summit was Organizing for Power. With 6 plenaries and 7 breakout session blocks, the schedule was chock full of information and opportunities for learning, discussion and hands-on practice. Workshops and affinity sessions, the vast majority of which were presented or facilitated by women living with HIV, fell into the following five tracks: Policy & Advocacy; Effective Leadership Skills; Advancing HIV Research, Care & Prevention Agenda; Rights, Power & Justice; and Media & Strategic Communications. Sessions received overwhelmingly positive evaluations from participants. Plenary sessions, all with powerhouse speakers, tackled urgent topics ranging from federal HIV policy to trans-centered reproductive health care to intergenerational leadership. (Check out the full program here!)
But the busy schedule did not stop participants (and presenters) from making new friends and/or catching up with old ones, finding some inner peace and just letting loose and having fun. From yoga and meditation sessions on the beach in the mornings, to film screenings to crafting to karaoke at night, the Summit offered something for everyone. (Check out photos on Facebook!)
Don’t just take it from us. Here is what just a few of our participants have said about SPEAK UP! 2016:
“After much time spent learning with my sisters, I have to say being a princess is nothing without true solidarity in sisterhood. I had a wonderful time at the Summit 2016 with PWN and ALL my sisters…I am using my call to action challenge to use the information to reach others, and be the change I wish to see. Standing up and using my voice not only helps me; it helps those not fully ready or unaware of just how powerful our voice can be. When we speak up for ourselves, we empower others to do the same. I am now fully aware of what I need to do to move forward. I am prepared to speak up and ask those tough questions. I will not back down; instead, I will call on the power of my sisters. Together, we will make the difference and we will be heard…I am so touched with love, I forgot I had any problems. I only feel love, refreshed, joy, inner peace and hope for a restoration from those who tried to take me down. I am just where I need to be right now…I will see you all on the conference calls , webinars and in person at the next event.” – Angel S., Florida
“I am so glad I came! This is my first time coming and I love it. I met a lot of women and heard their stories. I can’t wait for the next one. When I get back to New York, I will pass on the information to other women.” – M. Hunt, New York
“I am so proud to be a part of the Summit. I have met some strong, powerful women, and I’m learning a lot to take back to Houston.” – Tana Pradia, PWN-USA Greater Houston Area
“They told us we will not live past 10 years. But here we are. PWN Summit. We are still here. Speak Up: gathering of powerful women. We are the experts.” – Tammy Kinney, PWN-USA Georgia
“This year the Summit was amazing! Louisiana ladies came out in force. In 2014 we had 8 women; this year we brought 12, and we are planning on 20 for the next Summit.” – Meta Smith-Davis, PWN-USA Louisiana
Were you at SPEAK UP! 2016? Would you like to share your experience with others? Submit a blog post for our #PWNspeaks blog! Click here to get started!
Thank you so much to our Summit Planning Committee, our Board of Directors, our sponsors, our fabulous presenters and moderators, and everyone who participated in SPEAK UP! 2016 for your crucial contributions in making the Summit a success.
If you haven’t seen it yet, check out this beautiful, powerful video produced by Pozitively Dee of Colorado during and after the Summit:
September 28, 2016: After many months and countless hours of planning, organizing and collaborating on a common vision by our Summit Planning Committee of over 20 women living with HIV, SPEAK UP! 2016–the only national leadership summit for women living with HIV–is finally here!
The Summit kicked off Tuesday with three special Institutes: one for leaders of PWN-USA’s eleven official affiliated regional chapters; one for women of trans* experience, led by Positively Trans; and one for young women living with HIV. The full-day institutes gave participants an opportunity to connect, prioritize issues and strategize around how to elevate those issues and reach their goals.
Tuesday evening, the full Summit opened with the plenary State of the Movement featuring 5 fierce panelists: Khafre Abif, Cecilia Chung, Grissel Granados, Vanessa Johnson and Andy Spieldenner, who discussed what the HIV movement is today, what is working, what is not, what needs to change and how intersectional issues affect people living with and vulnerable to HIV. The plenary was followed by a special screening of the documentary co-directed by and featuring Grissel Granados, We’re Still Here, following young people who were born with HIV and the unique challenges they face.
Wednesday morning started with an all-star panel discussing federal policy around HIV, women’s health, health care access and reproductive rights, featuring Dr. Amy Lansky, Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy; Marty Bond, Senior Public Health Advisor for the Office on Women’s Health; Bill McColl, Esq., Director of Health Policy for AIDS United; and Monica Simpson, Executive Director of SisterSong. And much, much more is still in store as SPEAK UP! 2016 continues!
September 19, 2016 – It’s hard to believe, but we’re only about a week away from SPEAK UP! 2016 National Leadership Summit for Women Living with HIV. We’d like to thank our dedicated Summit Planning Committee for their many hours of time and energy spent planning this Summit to be the best yet!
We look forward to welcoming over 250 women living with HIV to Fort Walton Beach next week. Some are seasoned advocates who have long been involved with PWN-USA and who attended SPEAK UP! 2014; for others, this may be the first conference ever, and an introduction to advocacy. We welcome both and everyone in between, regardless of your experience with advocacy.
To help orient participants to the Summit, we have scheduled two special orientation webinars for registered participants for this week! Click on a day/time below to register for that webinar. If you cannot participate in either webinar, a recording will be available on our website by the end of the week.
We also have the complete program available right here on our website now! Check it out here.
We have put together some travel tips for you as well! Questions about what you should bring? What your registration fee does and doesn’t cover? Find answers here.
We would love to hear your thoughts, feelings and expectations as you get ready for the Summit and throughout the Summit! Write a blog for us! Get started here.
We look forward to seeing you next week!
September 8, 2016 – We are seeking experienced facilitators and trainers in the San Francisco Bay Area who want to become certified on Butterfly Rising, a trauma-informed peer leadership development curriculum for women living with HIV, including women of trans experience. This curriculum was created with the understanding that being able to understand the impact of and heal from past trauma (including child and adult physical, sexual, and emotional abuse; neglect; loss; community violence; structural violence; etc.) is empowering and key to developing one’s leadership potential. This is a paid opportunity. See complete packet for more information on compensation and requirements.
By the end of the training, participants will:
- Increase knowledge and understanding of trauma and its impact on individuals, families, and health-related behaviors.
- Learn to competently deliver the first two days (six modules) of a trauma-informed leadership intervention course to trauma- experienced women living with HIV affiliated with UCSF’s Women’s HIV Program.
Submit the following three items:
- A 1-2 page cover letter telling us about yourself, why you are interested in working with women living with HIV, what your experience is with facilitation and training, and why you are a good fit for this position.
- A resume or curriculum vitae
- TOT Application form on page 4 of packet
All parts of the application should be submitted via email to email@example.com with the subject line TOT Application no later than October 1, 2016.
Incomplete applications will not be considered. Applicants who submit complete applications and meet all requirements will be contacted for interviews.
No phone calls please.
August 2: Are YOU ready to speak up? SPEAK UP! 2016, the ONLY national leadership summit created by and for women living with HIV, is happening next month in Fort Walton Beach, Florida–and everyone is talking about it!
Registration is now closed, as we have reached capacity. If you would like to be added to our waitlist, please email your contact info (name, location, phone number and email) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about the Summit, click here.
Registered for the Summit but have not submitted our questionnaire with important participant information yet? Click here.
Attending the Summit and have questions? We have answers. Check here.
Want to support the leadership of women living with HIV by sponsoring the Summit? We are still working to meet our fundraising goal! Learn more here.
July 15, 2016: Members and staff of Positive Women’s Network – USA are representing US women living with HIV at the International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa all week! Whether you are in Durban or back home, you can follow us on Twitter and add your two cents by using the hashtags #PWNspeaks and #AIDS2016!
THROUGHOUT AIDS 2016
Stop by the Common Threads exhibit booth in the Global Village – booth 418 to purchase handmade jewelry by US women living with HIV.
The amazing Venita Ray, PWN-USA Board member is serving as a rapporteur for AIDS2016. Don’t miss her on Friday’s closing plenary!
Follow us at #pwnspeaks #AIDS2016, WhatsApp us, or tweet us: @uspwn for real-time updates.
Here is where you will find us in Durban
SUNDAY JULY 17
Beyond Blame pre-conference
9 AM – 5:30 PM
Blue Waters Hotel, 175 Snell Parade, Marine Parade, Durban
Beyond Blame @AIDS2016: Challenging HIV Criminalisation is a one day pre-conference for activists, advocates, healthcare professionals, lawyers, policymakers, and anyone else interested in working to end HIV criminalization. The meeting is being convened by HIV JUSTICE WORLDWIDE – comprising ARASA, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, GNP+, HIV Justice Network, ICW, Sero and PWN-USA – with local partner AIDS Legal Network, and in collaboration with UNAIDS and.UNDP. Keynote speaker: Justice Edwin Cameron of the South African Constitutional Court.
Attendance at the event is free of charge but will require pre-registration.
Pre-Conference Plenary: No More Lip Service: Trans Access, Equity and Rights, Now! Sunday July 17,8:30-6:00pm ICC Session Room 7
Ford Foundation event: Challenging HIV Criminalisation Globally
Sunday July 17, 8:30-2:00pm, ICC Durban. PWN-USA HIV-Reproductive Justice Legal Fellow Arneta Rogers will speak at this invitation-only event
Nothing Without Us: The Women Who Will End AIDS Film Screening
Sunday, July 17, 6:30 PM
Freedom Cafe, 43 St. Mary’s Ave., Durban
From New York to Nigeria, from Burundi to the American South, women on two continents have been at the forefront of the global AIDS movement for over 30 years. Unflinching in their fight for a place at the table, women have shaped grassroots groups like ACT UP in the US and played a vital role in HIV prevention and the treatment access movement throughout sub-Saharan Africa.
Harriet Hirshorn’s documentary, Nothing Without Us: The Women Who Will End AIDS, tells the story of these unsung heroes through archival footage and interviews with activists, scientists, and scholars in the US and Africa. The film explores the unaddressed dynamics that keep women around the world at risk for HIV, while giving voice to the remarkable women who have solutions for ending this decades-old pandemic. The film also features PWN-USA member leaders! We hope you’ll join us for a screening of this inspiring film, followed by a discussion with director Harriet Hirshorn and guests.
TUESDAY JULY 19
Beyond Blame: A Feminist Dialogue on Criminalisation of HIV Transmission, Exposure and Non-disclosure Leadership Workshop
Session Room 9
Tuesday, July 19, 2:30 – 5:00 PM
The law is a critical tool for creating an enabling environment for effective responses to HIV and to provide access to justice for those affected by HIV. This workshop examines the range of laws criminalizing exposure, transmission and/or non-disclosure, using feminist analysis to explore the role of power and inequality in their application.
Moderator: Michaela Clayton, Namibia
Co-Facilitator: Naina Khanna, United States
Co-Facilitator: Jacinta Nyachae, Kenya
Co-Facilitator: Cécile Kazatchkine, Canada
WEDNESDAY JULY 20
Poster session: Securing the Future of Women-Centered Care, a report by Positive Women’s Network – USA
Wednesday, July 20, 12:30-2:30 PM
Poster Exhibition Area
THURSDAY JULY 21
We’re Still Here Film Screening
Global Village Film Screening Room
Thursday, July 21, 2:10-3:05 PM
Since the beginning of the epidemic, the unique experiences of people born with HIV have been siloed in the world of pediatric HIV care. Their stories often told by the people who watched them grow up. As this generation enters adulthood, it is more important than ever for those born with HIV to speak for themselves and to insert their stories into the history of HIV/AIDS. Furthermore, it is important for people born with HIV in different parts of the world to share their stories with each other and connect across borders. The film follows director and PWN-USA board member Grissel Granados as she embarks on her own journey to seek out other people who were born with HIV and create community where it had out existed before.
We are heartbroken by the recent tragedy at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida which killed 49 people, the majority of whom were Latinx and other LGBTQ people of color.
As women living with and affected by HIV, many of us have been supported, mentored, and loved by the LGBTQ community when nobody else understood what we were going through. Our members include queer people, people of trans experience, lesbian and bisexual people, people of color, Latinx people, Black people, people of Muslim faith, people of immigrant experience, and people who are living with mental illness. The sense of shock, loss and despair is visceral and reverberates through our hearts and spirits.
We mourn for those who lost their lives seeking safety to celebrate their truths. We stand in solidarity with their loved ones and with all our community members who are experiencing the collateral harm of a lost sense of safety, held space and integrity in the wake of this unfathomable act of violence. We recognize that state-sanctioned violence against black and brown bodies as well as queer bodies takes many forms, including a spate of recent legislation criminalizing LGBTQ communities, and that discrimination, stigma, homophobia, transphobia and misogyny are not just uncomfortable experiences – they are literally killing people.
June marks Pride month throughout the country— a hard-won celebration of the diversity, vibrancy and resilience of the LGTBQ community. In this historically jubilant time to seek comfort in living out the full expression of our identities, we grieve. Yet, while we mourn and search for ways to heal, we also practice resistance.
We call for an increased commitment to actively fight against racism, homophobia and transphobia and the perpetual targeting of black and brown queer bodies by state-sanctioned and interpersonal attacks of violence. We disavow rhetorical responses to this tragedy that seek to divide us and that attempt to perpetuate further injustice and harm. Suggestions that entire religious communities, people with mental illness, people of color, or immigrants should be increasingly targeted, surveilled, policed or banned from this country – which was built on the backs of people of color — are unacceptable.
We must stand up and speak up for the right of every person to live openly as who they are without sacrificing safety, security, or dignity, challenging those who would rather demonize entire groups of human beings than address the deeper systemic problems that breed hate and violence. And even as we do that, we must thrive, celebrate our own courageous lives and the lives of those lost, and continue to love and support one another as we heal.
Activists with Senator Steadman, Rep. Daneya Esgar and Governor Hickenlooper at the bill signing Monday, June 6, 2016. Photo credit: Thomas Bogdan
** FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE **
Contact: Barb Cardell, CO Mod Squad Co-Chair, Barb@barbcardell.com 303-946-2529
June 8, 2016 – Colorado brought decades-old criminal laws including sentence enhancement for knowledge of HIV–used disproportionately to target youth, people of color, transgender women and sex workers–into line with current science, when Governor John Hickenlooper signed SB 146 into law Monday, June 6. The effort to change the old criminal statutes– relics of ‘80s and ‘90s “AIDS panic” before HIV transmission was well-understood and before antiretroviral treatment dramatically improved the lives of people living with HIV, offering breakthrough advances in prevention–was led by a coalition of advocates who call themselves the “Colorado Mod Squad.” SB 146 was sponsored by Senator Pat Steadman (D-Denver) and Representative Daneya Esgar (D-Pueblo).
Before the change in law, sex work or solicitation of a sex worker with knowledge of HIV diagnosis was a felony—even if condoms were used and the defendant had an undetectable viral load (HIV cannot be transmitted when medication fully suppresses the virus). Penetrative sexual assault with knowledge of HIV diagnosis could mean that the sentence for the assault could be tripled—even in cases with no risk of HIV transmission. SB 146 eliminated felony offenses involving sex work and modernized much of the statutory language concerning sexually transmitted infections in the health code. While the sentencing enhancement for sexual assault by a person living with HIV remains in the criminal code, the new law reduces the enhancement to the maximum sentence and requires the prosecution to prove transmission first.
Colorado laws reflected a fear-based use of the criminal justice system to punish people for knowing their HIV status, a direct contradiction to CDC efforts to reduce HIV transmission by encouraging testing and treatment. Colorado was not unique: similar laws exist in over 30 states in the country, commonly known as HIV criminalization laws. “HIV criminalization affects all of us by shifting the burden of proof only onto the person living with HIV,” declared Lisa Cohen, chair of Colorado Organizations Responding to AIDS (CORA). “The only real protection is not to know your HIV status. This contradicts HIV prevention efforts and offers a terrible public health policy solution.”
“It’s unconscionable that we have permitted fear and bad science to dominate our laws covering sexual health,” remarked Senator Steadman, “and it’s past time that we had informed and respectful legislation in this area. Criminal law is an ineffective tool in our public health response.”
The legislation—supported by the Colorado Department of Public Health–took four years of organizing, soliciting input from stakeholders and strategic negotiations. “We had education sessions for ourselves and the broader community,” said John Tenorio, a Canyon City-based HIV activist and Mod Squad member, of the input-gathering process. “We’d listen to people’s concerns. Really listen. Because that’s what community is about – building consensus and addressing everyone’s concerns at the table.”
Advocates of the Mod Squad made sure existing protections for people living with HIV, unique to Colorado, including access to anonymous HIV testing, confidentiality of public health records and protections during the public health order process, were retained in the bill, and expanded many of them to all mandated reporting for sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
“When we were asked to give up protecting sex workers in our modernizing language n, we refused,” Kari Hartel, Denver-based HIV activist and co-chair of Positive Women’s Network-USA (PWN-USA) Colorado, explained. “We knew this bill could be rendered useless if we let it die that way. We would be sacrificing our integrity if we let people say that sex workers and those accused of sex work didn’t deserve the same protection, or that modernizing our current statutes was just too challenging to pass right now.” Sex workers are particularly vulnerable under HIV criminalization laws, which are often used to enhance sentencing for lesser charges.
The Colorado Mod Squad, led by PWN-USA Colorado, will continue to organize to ensure the new law is implemented correctly and fairly throughout the state. “Getting this bill signed into law is a major achievement, but the real work for community groups starts now –in identifying other areas that need to be worked on,” Jeff Thormodsgaard of Public Policy Group , a key strategist for SB 146, pointed out.
May 27, 2016–Sacramento: California Governor Jerry Brown today signed a bill that allows organ transplants between HIV-positive donors and HIV-positive recipients. Senate Bill (SB) 1408 was authored by Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) and co-sponsored by Equality California, AIDS Project Los Angeles, the Los Angeles LGBT Center, and Positive Women’s Network-USA. The four organizations are part of the coalition Californians for HIV Criminalization Reform (CHCR), itself a supporter of the bill. SB 1408 brings state law in line with federal law and passed both the Assembly and Senate unanimously earlier in the day.
“These lifesaving surgeries have been proven safe and are now allowable under federal law,” said Allen. “There is no reason for state law to maintain an antiquated prohibition on organ donation by HIV-positive persons. By expanding the pool of organ donors, we will have shortened the time for all persons on the organ donor waiting lists, and saved lives in the process.”
The number of individuals in need of organ transplants far exceeds the availability of healthy organs. Yet California law criminalizes transplantation of organs and tissue from an HIV-positive donor to an HIV-positive recipient. Allowing the donation HIV-positive organs and tissue will save the lives of hundreds of HIV-positive patients each year, and shorten the waiting list for individuals awaiting transplants.
**MEDIA ADVISORY FOR TUESDAY, MAY 17**
Contact: Jennie Smith-Camejo, email@example.com, 347-553-5174
Even as a bill repealing Colorado’s HIV criminalization laws awaits the governor’s pen, much work remains to be done to bring laws up to date with current science in at least 33 states.
Eleven states have laws on the books that can send people living with HIV to prison for behaviors (such as biting and spitting) that carry virtually no risk of transmitting HIV. Forty-four states have prosecuted people living with HIV for perceived exposure or transmission; most states permit prosecution even when no transmission has occurred, and actual risk is negligible.
In Texas, a man living with HIV is currently serving a 35-year sentence for spitting. In Idaho, Kerry Thomas is serving 30 years for allegedly not disclosing his HIV status to a partner – despite the fact that he took measures to prevent transmission, including using a condom and taking medications to maintain an undetectable viral load. Kerry Thomas’ accuser never acquired HIV. Yet his appeal was recently denied, demonstrating that current science continues not to matter to the courts.
“These laws make disclosure harder. Because we so fear the punishment, we just keep things bottled up inside,” says Monique Howell-Moree, who was prosecuted under a US military non-disclosure law and would have faced 8-12 years if convicted. “I didn’t know the best way to disclose … Had I had the support and knowledge that I have now back then, I would most definitely have done things differently.”
In her HIV/AIDS platform and in a recent meeting with activists, U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called for “reform[ing] outdated and stigmatizing HIV criminalization laws.” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign has said the candidate is also “absolutely opposed” to these laws, according to the Washington Blade. The confluence of outdated laws, unjust prosecutions and profound disparities is bringing advocates and activists from 34 states and 4 countries together for the second national convening dedicated exclusively to strategizing to fight back in the name of human rights and public health.
WHAT: HIV Is Not a Crime II National Training Academy
WHERE: University of Alabama, Huntsville
WHEN: May 17-20, 2016
The Training Academy is co-organized by SERO Project and Positive Women’s Network-USA, two national networks of people living with HIV. It comes on the heels of a major victory in Colorado, where through the dedicated efforts of a group known as the “CO Mod Squad” (“mod” refers to “modernization” of the law), led by Positive Women’s Network-USA (PWN-USA) Colorado, a bill was passed last week that updates laws to take account of current science and eliminates HIV criminalization language.
“With people living with HIV leading the way and our allies supporting us, we were able to do something many thought we couldn’t,” said Barb Cardell, co-chair of PWN-USA Colorado and one of the leaders of the successful efforts. “The law now focuses on proven methods of protecting public health — like education and counseling — while discarding the language of criminalization, which actually discourages testing, treatment and disclosure.”
“This law represents real progress for Coloradans, regardless of their HIV status,” she added. At the Training Academy this week, Cardell will share some highlights and lessons learned from the CO Mod Squad’s experience.
Keynote speakers at the Training Academy include Mary Fisher, who stunned the audience at the 1992 Republican National Convention with a speech about her experience as a woman living with HIV; Joel Goldman, longtime advocate and managing director of the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation; and Colorado state senator Pat Steadman, the senate sponsor of the bill just passed repealing HIV criminalization in his state. Session topics will explore best practices for changing policy, and will consider the intersections of HIV criminalization with issues ranging from institutional racism to transphobia, criminalization of sex work, mental illness and substance use, and overpolicing of marginalized communities.
“The goals of the Training Academy go beyond giving advocates the tools and know-how they need to change policy, to deepening our collective understanding of the impact of these laws and why they are enforced the way they are,” said Naina Khanna, executive director of PWN-USA. “We hope participants will leave better prepared to effect change by thinking differently, forging new partnerships and ensuring communities most heavily impacted by criminalization are in leadership in this movement.”
Several spokespeople will be available to address questions from media. You may contact the individuals below directly or through Jennie Smith-Camejo (contact information above):
Sean Strub, Director for SERO Project. (646) 642-4915; firstname.lastname@example.org
Naina Khanna, Executive Director for Positive Women’s Network – USA. (510) 681-1169; email@example.com
Arianna Lint, founder and CEO of Translatin@ Services and Ariann@ Center, transgender rights and HIV activist. (786) 600-1915; firstname.lastname@example.org
Barb Cardell, PWN-USA Board Member, leader of CO Mod Squad coalition behind successful Colorado bill. (303) 946-2529; email@example.com
Check the training academy’s website and social media for the latest developments on the event:
Follow the hashtag #HIVIsNotACrime
May 13, 2016: A Colorado team known as the “CO Mod Squad,” led by PWN-USA Colorado, in partnership with the Colorado Organizations Responding to AIDS (CORA) and the Colorado Department of Public Health, saw over four years of hard work and persistent advocacy pay off Wednesday, May 11, when Senate Bill 16-146, repealing two HIV criminalization statutes and significantly reforming the third, passed both the senate and the house. It now only awaits the governor’s signature to become law.
“Today we changed the world,” said Barb Cardell, PWN-USA Board Chair, co-chair of PWN-USA Colorado and a presenter at the HIV Is Not a Crime II Training Academy. “With people living with HIV leading the way and our allies supporting us, we were able to do something many thought we couldn’t and we had only dreamed of until now.”
The bill, introduced into the state senate in March by Sen. Pat Steadman (one of the keynote speakers at HIV Is Not a Crime II) and into the house by Rep. Daneya Esgar, updates statutes related to HIV to include all STIs, in accordance with current science and medical advances, and removes the HIV criminalization language in the statute.
“In 2014, at the first HIV Is Not a Crime conference in Grinnell, someone asked which state was going to be the next to reform their HIV criminalization laws,” added Kari Hartel, co-chair of PWN-USA Colorado. “I answered with confidence that it was going to be Colorado! It has been a long road, and this bill isn’t perfect. But if this process has taught us anything, it’s that our advocacy efforts CAN and DO make a difference!”
May 6, 2016: In just a little over a week, the HIV Is Not a Crime II National Training Academy will convene at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. There is still time to register to train alongside committed advocates building an intersectional movement to end HIV criminalization! The Training Academy will take place from May 17 – 20, 2016.
Positive Women’s Network – USA (PWN-USA) and the SERO Project — two networks of people living with HIV — have joined forces to organize the Training Academy. We are thrilled to announce three exciting keynote speakers at the event:
- HIV community icon Mary Fisher, who spoke about her experiences living with HIV at the Republican National Convention (RNC), back in 1992;
- Longtime advocate Joel Goldman of the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation; and
- Colorado State Senator Pat Steadman, who in March introduced a bill into the state senate that would effectively repeal or significantly amend the three HIV-specific criminal codes, remove sentence enhancements for knowledge of HIV status, and modernize STI statutes to include HIV.
See below for biographical information for our speakers, in addition to highlights from the event’s dynamic program!
The Training Academy will convene in the Deep South — the region most heavily affected by not only HIV, but many other symptoms of a history steeped in injustice and trauma.
Plenary session topics include:
- What’s Working? Where Are We Struggling? Focus on State Strategies: Successes & Challenges
- AntiBlackness & HIV Criminalization: Grounding Ourselves in Racial Justice
Breakout workshop titles include:
- Activists, Advocates and Lawyers: Collaborating to a Common Goal
- Joining Forces: Mobilizing Feminists to Challenge Unjust Prosecutions
- Building Youth Capacity to Effect Policy Change Through an Intergenerational Model
Evening events include:
- Consent: HIV NonDisclosure and Sexual Assault Law, Last Men Standing, and more (film screenings)
- Advocacy, Action and Community Building Through Art
- TIME IS NOT A LINE: (re)Considering our HIV Herstory for Collective Freedom
View the full program of exciting, thought-provoking, movement-building sessions here.
HIV is a human rights issue; criminalization of people living with HIV is a social justice issue. The Training Academy will unite and train advocates living with HIV and allies from across the country on strategies and best practices for repealing laws criminalizing people living with and vulnerable to HIV. The Training Academy will also center the voices of survivors of HIV-related criminal cases and prosecutions.
Keynote Speaker Bios
Author, artist, advocate, and social entrepreneur Mary Fisher is a global leader in the arena of social change through positive thought and action. A renaissance woman, Mary landed on every front page with her stunning keynote address speaking truth to power at the 1992 RNC, a speech since ranked among “the best 100 American speeches of the 20th Century” (Oxford University Press). Diagnosed with HIV in 1991 and with breast cancer in 2012, she retains an exuberant, eclectic style in her life, her words and her design. She has trained women worldwide to use her original concepts to find pride and dignity in work. Ms. Fisher will also offer a special workshop for women living with HIV at the Training Academy.
Joel Goldman is the Managing Director of the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation (ETAF). In 1991, his career path was interrupted when he was diagnosed with HIV. Told that he only had three years to live, he decided to make his infection a meaningful force in the lives of young people by raising their awareness of the reality of HIV/AIDS. Joel spent the next 14 years speaking to over a million students on more than 2,000 campuses, high schools, and faith-based youth programs. He sees his role at ETAF as helping reinvigorate the public’s conversation about HIV/AIDS and building on Elizabeth Taylor’s legacy as a leader and crusader in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
State Senator Pat Steadman (SD 31)
Senator Pat Steadman was selected to Colorado’s Legislature in 2009 to fill a senate vacancy, then elected to finish his term and re-elected in 2012 — all to serve his home District 31. He has used his passion and knowledge of the legislative system to advocate for civil rights — as he did during his active role in opposing Amendment 2 in 1992, which aimed to dismiss all legal protections for lesbians and gay men in Colorado. The citizen-initiated constitutional amendment was ultimately overturned by the Supreme Court.
Questions? Please contact Tami Haught, SERO Organizer and Training Coordinator, at: tami.haught@SEROproject.com.
Stay tuned to the training academy’s website and social media for more information as the event approaches.
April 11, 2016: The HIV is Not a Crime II Training Academy will be held at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, May 17 – 20, 2016 – you can still register to be part of this transformative advocacy training experience!
Join co-organizers PositiveWomen’s Network – USA (PWN-USA) and the SEROProject — two networks of people living with HIV – and help build a diverse, intersectional movement against HIV criminalization in the South and across the United States.
Plenary and session topics will include:
- · Intersections of race, gender and sexuality in HIV criminalization
- · Centering the rights of sex workers and other over-criminalized groups
- · Updates and tips from active state-based campaigns against HIV criminalization
- · Supporting leadership of people living with HIV in the movement to end HIV criminalization
HIV is a human rights issue; criminalization of people living with HIV is a social justice issue. The Training Academy will unite and train advocates living with HIV and allies from across the country on strategies and best practices for repealing laws criminalizing people living with and vulnerable to HIV.
Heinous violations of the rights of people living with HIV like the recent, active case of Corey Rangel in Michigan are made possible by a landscape in which laws are on the books making it a crime to live with a health condition. Come to Huntsville and learnstrategies from advocates opposing these unjust laws!
The training academy will convene in the Deep South — the region most heavily affected by not only HIV, but many other symptoms of a history steeped in injustice and trauma.
There’s also still time for your organization to become a sponsor of the training academy, and/or send a participant to this important event. For more information, please contact Sean Strub, SERO Project, at sean.strub@SEROproject.com; or Naina Khanna, PWN-USA, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Questions? Please contact Tami Haught, SERO Organizer and Training Coordinator, at: tami.haught@SEROproject.com.
Stay tuned to the training academy’s website and social media for more information as the event approaches.
PWN-USA Statement for National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
APRIL 8, 2016: Young women living with HIV have unique needs that often go unaddressed. HIV stigma, discrimination, ageism, complexities of treatment regimens, and economic challenges present a unique set of barriers to care and service delivery that can result in isolation, depression, and poor health outcomes. Navigating disclosure, dating, sex, employment, education, and parenting may be entirely different for young people living with HIV than for older adults. For those born with HIV, the realities of being a long-term survivor at age 20, 30, or 35 may have particular physical and psychological implications. In the United States, mass incarceration, community violence, and growing economic inequality may be affecting young generations impacted by HIV in unprecedented ways.
“When we talk about the needs of women, social support is critically important to our overall wellbeing,” says Grissel Granados, a young woman born with HIV who currently works as an HIV and STI testing coordinator in Los Angeles, and who released a documentary last year, We’re Still Here, exploring the complexities and challenges of growing up with an HIV diagnosis. “Even as we have seen funding cut for women’s support groups, communities of women have found ways to come together anyway. However, for young women living with HIV, it is much harder for them to create community with other young women–being that they are so few in numbers in any given city, young women don’t even know each other. There are not enough young women participating in larger HIV spaces because their needs are not being addressed and because they are not seeing themselves. As a larger community of HIV advocates, we need to make sure that we are intentional about including young women and supporting spaces that can bring young women together, even if it’s just to build a network for social support.”
In honor of this year’s National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NYHAAD), Positive Women’s Network – USA (PWN-USA) calls for a national commitment to addressing the needs and upholding the rights of young people living with and vulnerable to HIV. Advocates for Youth has just released a NYHAAD Bill of Rights, proclaiming:
1. The right to live free from oppression,
2. The right to education,
3. The right to prevention,
4. The right to care and treatment, and
5. The right to live free from criminalization, discrimination and stigma.
“It’s an aspiration of mine to see something like this NYHAAD Bill of Rights in full motion because our young people are worthy to walk in this world with all provided tools, absolute support and love,” says Tranisha Arzah, a PWN-USA Board Member born with HIV who works as a peer advocate in Seattle. “If we demand these rights, with the full support of the larger community, young people can not only thrive but lead the way toward a future where barriers to prevention, treatment and care like stigma and discrimination no longer exist.”
PWN-USA wholeheartedly endorses this bill of rights. As we move well into the fourth decade of the HIV epidemic, we further call on the HIV community to endorse and actively promote leadership by young people living with HIV. We believe that if this epidemic ever sees its end, it will be because of effective, supportive and strategic intergenerational leadership building on the lessons of the past while looking toward a radical and visionary future.
PWN-USA is fully committed to empowering and supporting young women living with HIV to organize and strategize; to demanding and upholding their rights to healthcare, including sexual and reproductive care, that works for them and meets their unique needs; and to ensuring their meaningful participation in decision-making spaces.
We urge young women to present at and/or attend 2016 SPEAK UP! A National Leadership Summit for Women Living with HIV, where they will be welcomed, embraced, and where they can educate other women on their needs, concerns and vision.
Please join us on Twitter today at 4 PM ET/1 PM PT for a dynamic Twitter chat with Advocates for Youth about Article 5 of the NYHAAD Bill of Rights: The Right to Live Free from Criminalization, Discrimination and Stigma. Follow the hashtag #NYHAADChat and join the conversation. See you online!
March 31, 2016: Positive Women’s Network – USA (PWN-USA) is thrilled to announce our call for session proposals for SPEAK UP! A National Leadership Summit for Women Living with HIV 2016.
We invite proposals for various types of sessions (affinity groups, discussion group, or workshop) for SPEAK UP! Positive Women’s Network – USA’s 2016 National Leadership Summit.
SPEAK UP! A National Leadership Summit for Women Living with HIV will be held September 27-30, 2016, in Fort Walton Beach, FL. This Summit is open only to women with HIV, including transgender women with HIV.
In September 2014, PWN-USA held our first-ever National Leadership Summit to build advocacy skills and leadership capacity among over 200 women living with HIV from 26 states, the US Virgin Islands, Canada and Mexico. Participants from the 2014 Summit have gone on to do amazing work in their communities, fighting stigma, advocating for fair policies and supporting people living with HIV in their regions. The 2016 Summit will be designed for both first time participants and 2014 alumni as emerging and seasoned advocates to deepen advocacy and collective organizing strategies during a key election cycle.
You can read about the magic that happened at our 2014 Summit here.
The theme for SPEAK UP! 2016 is: Organizing for Collective Power.
We’re serious about building power. In this critical election year, we remain committed to our vision: a world where all people with HIV live free of stigma and discrimination. We work to achieve this by preparing and involving women living with HIV, in all our diversity, including gender identity and sexual expression, to be meaningfully involved at the tables where decisions are made about our lives, our communities, and our rights. We actively work at the intersections of race, class, gender, immigrant status, sexual orientation and more.
If you are interested in contributing to this growing and vibrant community, we encourage you to submit an abstract to conduct a session (workshop or other activity at the Summit). As a session leader you will ensure that information and skill-building activities are provided in line with PWN-USA values, priorities, and goals for the Summit.
There will be 5 core tracks at the Summit:
1) Rights, Power and Justice
2) Building Leadership Skills
3) Policy and Advocacy
4) Media & Strategic Communications and
5) Advancing the HIV Research, Care, and Prevention Agenda
Final decisions on session proposals will be made with an eye towards meaningful involvement of women with HIV and communities of color as presenters. In particular, we seek strong representation of women living with HIV, people of color, trans and gender non-conforming individuals, and young people as presenters. We welcome abstract submissions from well-intentioned allies and encourage allies to submit in collaboration with women living with HIV.
The deadline for proposal submissions is 11 PM EDT, Friday, April 29, 2016.
For more information about submitting your proposal, click here.
To submit your proposal, click here or download the Word version of the proposal submission form.
March 22, 2016: PWN-USA Colorado, in partnership with allies including the CO Mod Squad, the Colorado Organizations Responding to AIDS (CORA) and the Colorado Department of Public Health, has made enormous strides toward ending HIV criminalization in their state. Described by PWN CO Co-Chair and PWN-USA Board Chair Barb Cardell as a “community labor of love,” the process that began four years ago and included stakeholder meetings with over 100 participants, is finally starting to pay off.
A bill that would effectively repeal or significantly amend the three HIV-specific criminal codes, remove sentence enhancements for knowledge of HIV status and modernize STI statutes to include HIV was introduced into the state senate by state Senate Minority Leader Pat Steadman on March 4, and is co-sponsored in the Colorado House of Representatives by Represenative Daneya Esgar.
“Changing state law is never easy, but we hope that our Colorado lawmakers will support this legislation,” says PWN CO Co-Chair Kari Hartel. “We believe that common sense and compassion will win the day over fear and stigma.”
From coast to coast and across the World Wide Web, Positive Women’s Network – USA members took advantage of National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NWGHAAD), March 10, and the days before and after to raise awareness: both to the fact that women are still vulnerable to HIV and about the unique challenges facing them.
From hosting or co-hosting special events, like PWN-USA Philadelphia and PWN-USA Ohio did, to speaking at existing events, like PWN-USA Colorado and PWN-USA Georgia did, to writing wonderful blogs like PWN-USA Bay Area did, our members went above and beyond to make sure that the women who needed to hear the message heard it.
PWN-USA also released our community-based participatory research report on March 10, detailing the barriers to care so many women living with HIV face, in a webinar, and continued the conversation on Twitter with our partners at Greater Than AIDS and The Well Project.
The PWN-USA Ohio event inspired this lovely poem by Princess:
We are family and Sisters.
Give Love to one another, know matter what the issue my be; we all have the same thing in common, called the Virus, that continues to spread. It’s been around over 30 years.
We, as Sisters, understand one another’s feeling and love each other for who we are. We don’t expect anything from one another.
We will show our Love to each other, and say, “I understand, and together, we will overcome this Virus.”
Think positive, encourage one another, when one feels down, pick her up and give her a loving Sister hug and say, “It’s OK, you’re going to be all right.”
Stand by each other, whether you are black or white, or in-between, in showing one another the Sister hugs. Just because we have the Virus, we are not going to let it get us down, but instead pick us up, and encourage us to pick each other up.
With our Faith, we travel through the New Beginning of a New Day as we walk day by day, encouraging our Sisters and ourselves in saying, “We are someone and will always be somebody,” to encourage other Sisters in fighting this Virus called HIV & AIDS.
From Sister with HIV
March 17, 2016
PWN-USA is excited to announce our launch of two new web-based training series this month: a 4-part communications training series and a 3-part policy training series, open to all women living with HIV and HIV advocates.
Click below to read more about each series and register for upcoming trainings!
**FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE**
Contact: Jennie Smith-Camejo, email@example.com, 347-553-5174
March 10, 2016 – “What would improve your ability to stay in care?” That is the fundamental question 14 researchers, all women living with HIV, asked 180 participants from seven different geographic areas in a community-based participatory research project spearheaded by Positive Women’s Network – USA (PWN-USA), a national membership body of women with HIV. Participants were then asked about which specific services they needed, which services they currently had access to, and how well those services were meeting their needs. Among the key findings:
- Women living with HIV are living in extreme poverty. 89.7% of the women surveyed were below 138% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), with 73.8% below 100% FPL.
- Poverty affected more than just their ability to pay for drugs and medical services. 50% of respondents who had missed a medical appointment in the past year cited transportation as the reason.
- 17% of respondents had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and9% with depression. Cost, lack of coverage, lack of available services or waitlists for services presented significant barriers for many women in accessing these services.
- While most respondents had been screened for cervical cancer according to current guidelines, only 40% of women of reproductive age had been asked if they needed birth control; just 39.4% had been asked if they wanted to get pregnant. And shockingly, 38.1% of participants had not been told by a provider that achieving viral suppression would dramatically reduce risk of transmission.
The Ryan White CARE Act, first passed by Congress in 1990, has been a life-saving safety net program for hundreds of thousands of women living with HIV, serving as a payer of last resort for medical care and the supportive services that so many people living with HIV—particularly women, who are so often heads of household and responsible for multiple generations living under one roof—need in order to stay engaged in care. The Ryan White Program is due to be reauthorized and remains desperately needed, particularly in states that have refused to expand Medicaid.
The Ryan White Program is working well, but the needs of people with HIV have changed and some women are still simply not able to access the services they need to stay in continuous care. “One thing that struck me is how many women need counseling and mental health assistance, but don’t know how to go about getting it,” said Pat Kelly of Orangeburg, South Carolina, one of the community-based researchers on the project.
For others, stigma or inadequate knowledge among medical providers means women living with HIV are not receiving comprehensive sexual and reproductive care that affirms their rights and desires to have families post-diagnosis. “I believe if more providers discussed the option of treatment as prevention with their patients, especially female patients, it would open up more opportunities for the patients to consider starting a family safely. For a lot of women living with HIV in their childbearing years, having a family is important. Many of them still think it’s not possible to do safely. But if this conversation starts happening with their providers, it will give them a choice and hope. All women should have that choice,” explained Evany Turk, research team member from Chicago, IL.
PWN-USA will be presenting more detailed information about these and other important findings of the project today on a webinar, “Securing the Future of Women-Centered Care,” at 1 PM EST/10 AM PST, and will host a Twitter Chat with special guests Greater Than AIDS and The Well Project at 3 PM EST to continue the conversation using the hashtags #NWGHAAD and #PWNspeaks.
March 3, 2016
by Teresa Sullivan, Senior Member of PWN-USA Philadelphia, Board Member of PWN-USA
In June of 1987, a small group of strangers gathered in a San Francisco storefront to document the lives they feared history would neglect. Their goal was to create a memorial for those who had died of AIDS related illnesses, and to thereby help people understand the devastating impact of the disease.
This meeting of devoted friends and lovers served as the foundation of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt.
Today there are NAMES Project chapters across the United States and independent Quilt affiliates around the world. Since 1987, over 14 million people have visited the Quilt at thousands of displays worldwide. Through such displays, the NAMES Project Foundation has raised over $3 million for AIDS service organizations throughout North America.
AIDS Fund has partnered with the Names Project Foundation to present panels of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. On March 5, 2016, PWN-USA Philly Regional Chapter and the AIDS Fund will display one of the panels in honor of those who are gone but not forgotten at our Annual National Women and Girls HIV Awareness Day event at The Rotunda, 4014 Walnut St., Philadelphia PA 19104. Below is the panel display:
As women activists, we must always remember our Herstory in order to change the future for women living with HIV or AIDS!
February 11, 2016
Dear Entertainment Industry Leaders:
The undersigned organizations committed to addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic are writing to call upon you, as entertainment industry leaders, to continue to defend and support the rights and dignity of entertainment industry workers living with HIV and to help promote greater public education on HIV. Read the full letter here.
by Tiommi Jenae Luckett
Going to the White House was truly something I never had on my radar to do for personal reasons. However, that was years ago when I felt that way. So fast forward and I was invited to participate in a roundtable discussion with members of the Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP), the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and representatives from other agencies, alongside several phenomenal trans women and trans men who are recognized as experts.
The discussion started off with a synopsis of the things these lead organizations need to improve on when servicing the trans population. We who are of trans experience are already privy to this information and we voiced our frustrations about the inconclusive and nonexistent data of the trans community living with HIV.
We had to let these agencies know that the trans community is not being counted because trans women are seen as men who have sex with men (MSM) and trans men are counted as women. That is problematic, because these ASOs and CBOs that claim to provide services for transgender people seldom do. We also had to let them know that the trans women in attendance were more than beautiful women; we are also hardworking, dedicated, fierce, intelligent and persistent advocates who demand a place at the table. In essence, nothing about us without us. We made it blatantly clear that funds intended to bridge the gap in disparities suffered by the trans community living with HIV are not being used in that manner, but more for the leadership building of Black MSMs.
I know that we got our points across and were heard. As I told Douglas Brooks, Director of ONAP, that I thought my meeting with members of HRSA last year in Arkansas was a step in rectifying the situation, yet as a trans woman living with HIV in Arkansas, whatever surveillance measures are being used are not counting me. That is a huge problem for me. What we members of Positively Trans who were in attendance actually did was to share the preliminary results of our survey of trans* and gender-non-conforming people living with HIV in the South, since the southern region is often neglected from funding opportunities.
FEBRUARY 12, 2016: President Obama released the final budget of his presidency this week. While several components of his proposed budget offer good news for women living with and vulnerable to HIV, Positive Women’s Network – USA (PWN-USA) remains concerned by the renewed proposal to eliminate Part D of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, the only federal funding stream that prioritizes services for women, youth and families living with and affected by HIV.
President Obama’s budget maintains level funding of the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) program at $335 million. This program is critical for many low-income, unstably housed people living with HIV, and we are relieved that, under the President’s budget, it would remain in place and funded. Legislative language changes also modernize the program to ensure better distribution of funding to geographic areas where it is currently most needed.
PWN-USA commends President Obama for eliminating funding for abstinence only until marriage (AOTM) sex education, a policy that has proven completely ineffective and unrealistic. Studies show that states teaching AOTM have higher rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, a waste of taxpayer dollars which could be used to fund comprehensive and non-stigmatizing sex education that affirms people of all gender identities and sexual orientations.
Further, we applaud the addition of $9 million through a Special Projects of National Significance (SPNS) initiative in dedicated funding for Hepatitis C testing and treatment through the Ryan White Program. About a quarter of people living with HIV also have HCV; this new initiative will assist in identifying those individuals and making sure they have access to medications that can cure HCV.
We are pleased by the President’s ongoing commitment to the Ryan White Program, a crucial safety net for women living with HIV, a majority of whom are low-income–particularly in states which have refused to expand Medicaid.
As in years past, our primary concern with this budget is the proposed elimination of Part D of the Ryan White Program. Part D-funded programs provide coordinated care and support services to women living with HIV who may be juggling caregiving responsibilities to family members and children. They also ensure support and services for youth who acquired HIV perinatally or at a young age as they transition to adult care. These programs often function as crucial and culturally relevant entry points into care for underinsured women living with HIV — and for youth, the fastest growing population living with HIV in the U.S. For young people and women living with HIV, their ability to stay engaged in care and deal with the psychological aspects of living with HIV may depend on the availability of services which educate and support family members. Part D is the only Ryan White program which has historically had some flexibility for including affected family members in service delivery.
“We are pleased to see the President’s continued commitment to the Minority AIDS Initiative (MAI) and new efforts to address Hepatitis C co-infection, as well as eliminating outdated abstinence-only policies. However, in light of the failure of National HIV/AIDS Strategy 2020 to address sexual and reproductive health of people living with HIV, it is urgently important to ensure that high-quality sexual and reproductive health care is maintained in the Ryan White program and expanded to people with HIV of all ages and genders. In addition, the Part D program has historically provided services that facilitate access to care for women and youth. Independently of the mechanisms to fund such services, they must be maintained,” says Naina Khanna, Executive Director of PWN-USA.
“Part D services are vital to meeting the needs of women, children and young adults,” adds Kari Hartel, co-chair of PWN-USA Colorado and a Client Advocate and Retention Specialist in a Part D program. “The reason we’ve seen a decrease in vertical transmission is because of the extraordinary efforts of these programs. Part D is uniquely equipped to focus on the needs of women living with HIV and provides a level of support to young people that cannot be matched in other parts of the program. As we continue to see increases in the number of young adults being diagnosed with HIV, cutting Part D would be catastrophic, especially at a moment when, for the first time ever, we have the tools in care and prevention to turn the tide.”
For more details on the President’s budget proposal, click here.
PWN-USA Statement for National Black HIV Awareness Day
by Vanessa Johnson and Waheedah Shabazz-El
Black Americans have endured an exceptionally brutal history which complicates our present and challenges our future. Torn from our native land–the continent that gave birth to humankind–we have been systematically dehumanized to serve as chattel in a foreign land. Even now, the United States offers Black Americans citizenship only at a substandard quality of life and without an opportunity for reparations and healing. Given this history, and our understanding of HIV as an epidemic that thrives on inequality and injustice, an HIV epidemic among Black Americans should hardly come as an unexpected surprise.
National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD) is anything but a celebration. It is a grim reminder of how far we still have to go, and how hard we still have to fight. Black lives will matter when our nation confronts and conquers the hypocrisy of those who claim to cherish all life yet place greater value on fetuses than on living, breathing Black children and adults.
Throughout this epidemic, HIV has shined a bright spotlight on the wide range of injustices confronting Black Americans: intergenerational poverty, mass incarceration, institutionalized racism, inadequate access to health care, inferior educational opportunities, disproportionate targeting by police, a racist criminal justice system, and more. If there is anything that the HIV community has universally accepted, it is the understanding that HIV is more than just a medical condition. The federal response to this epidemic serves as a very window into the soul of one of the richest nations on earth — a nation which continually leaves Black Americans in its wake, drowning in the torrents of a largely preventable disease. Merely half a century after the end of segregation, in a nation whose economic basis is founded on Jim Crow laws and which turns a blind eye to the systemic injustices facing people of color, we cannot feign surprise that there continues to be an epidemic of HIV among Black Americans and that Black people living with HIV face worse health outcomes on average.
Although some progress has been made, Black Americans are still fighting for access to the most fundamental human rights – including water, food, employment, education, and the right to vote. We continue to be locked out of meaningful civic participation, fair representation and decision-making from the local level to the highest halls of federal government.
This rings particularly true for Black American women, whose plight and leadership in this epidemic continue to be minimized. Despite the advances made to reduce new infections, Black American women still acquire HIV at an alarming rate–representing 60% of new infections among women–and remain the majority of women living with HIV in this country. Although Black women comprise nearly two-third of the domestic HIV epidemic among women, Black women living with HIV are still not a priority in the newly-released National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS 2020).
As an advocacy organization, Positive Women’s Network-USA (PWN-USA), the premier voice for women living with HIV in the United States, will not stand idly by in silence while women of African descent continue to bear the brunt of this disease and policymakers’ indifference to its effects on our community. We demand that our government invest in effective HIV prevention for Black women, as well as in women-centered, whole-person, universal health care that addresses the barriers to engagement and retention in care for women with HIV. Medicalization of HIV will continue to fail in addressing the needs of women living with and vulnerable to HIV when they do not have adequate access to basic resources to stay healthy.
The HIV epidemic in this country will end when America commits to the underlying conditions which enable HIV to thrive, such as racism and poverty. We demand a laser focus on upholding the full health, rights, and dignity of Black women living with HIV over the next five years of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy’s implementation.
Want to get a sense of what to expect or a chance to review policy priorities before you arrive in DC?
Join the US People Living with HIV Caucus, a national coalition of PLHIV networks and individuals, for an orientation webinar to AIDSWatch 2016! The HIV Caucus will provide an overview of the agenda and program, share some opportunities for networking, and discuss the AIDSWatch 2016 policy platform.
• When: Friday, February 19th at 11am PT/ 12pm MT/ 1pm CT/ 2pm ET
• Who: Anyone attending AIDSWatch 2016
• How: Register for the webinar here.
Don’t Forget: Hotel reservations must be made by Friday, February 5th to get our discounted rate! Space is limited! Make Your Reservation Today!
Additionally, the AIDS United website has helpful information about the AIDSWatch hotel, local airports, public transportation, and more.
There’s still time to register! AIDSWatch 2016 registration is still open! Encourage your friends to register today and help end the HIV epidemic!
Findings of a Community-Based Research Project
“What would improve your ability to stay in care?” That is the fundamental question women with HIV sought to answer in a community-based participatory research project. 14 women living with HIV (WLHIV) from across the US surveyed other WLHIV in their communities to assess what is and is not working well for women in the context of Affordable Care Act implementation, changes to Ryan White service delivery and the updated National HIV/AIDS Strategy.
“One thing that struck me is how many women need counseling and mental health assistance, but don’t know how to go about getting it,” said Pat Kelly, PWN-USA Board Co-Parliamentarian and one of the community-based researchers on the project.
In honor of National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, we invite you to join Positive Women’s Network – USA for a webinar presenting the key findings of this research project: Securing the Future of Women-Centered Care. Discussion will focus on implications for the future of the Ryan White program.
Please join us Thursday, March 10, 2016, from 1-2:30 PM ET/10-11:30 AM PT. Register for the webinar today!
Then, head to Twitter at 3 PM ET to continue the conversation with our partners The Well Project and Greater Than AIDS using the hashtags #NWGHAAD and #PWNspeaks!
**FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE**
Contact: Tami Haught, firstname.lastname@example.org
January 20, 2016: Registration for the much-anticipated HIV is Not a Crime II Training Academy, to be held May 17 – 20, 2016, at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, is open!
HIV is a human rights issue; criminalization of people living with HIV is a social justice issue. The Training Academy will unite and train advocates living with HIV and allies from across the country on laws criminalizing people living with and vulnerable to HIV, and on strategies and best practices for repealing such laws. “It’s time for us to advance the discourse around intersections between HIV criminalization, racist policing, drug policy reform, and sex worker criminalization,” says Naina Khanna, Executive Director of Positive Women’s Network-USA, which is co-organizing the Training Academy with Sero Project. “We can best do this by building a grassroots movement for policy change, led by the communities most impacted by these issues.”
Have an idea for a workshop? We are now accepting abstracts!
There will be three tracks, focusing on:
1) Effective and Accountable Leadership,
2) Rights, Policy and Justice
3) Campaign Planning, Strategy and Messaging
Workshops will help advance informed and effective grassroots organizing and coalition-building, providing participants with concrete tools and resources to enact local, state, and federal strategies in their communities.
The deadline for abstract submissions is Friday, February 26, 2016 by 5:00 pm CST (6:00 pm EST, 3:00 PST). You will receive notice of acceptance on Friday, April 1, 2016.
Registration is open! For more information, please visit our website: www.hivisnotacrime.com.
As a reminder, scholarship applications are due Feb. 5 and can be found here.
Are you interested in providing financial support for this important event? Please contact Sean Strub, SERO Project at email@example.com or Naina Khanna at Positive Women’s Network – USA at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Questions? Please contact Tami Haught, SERO Organizer and Training Coordinator, at: email@example.com.
**FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE**
Contact: Tami Haught, firstname.lastname@example.org
January 4, 2016: After a very successful inaugural HIV Is Not a Crime National Conference last year, the SERO Project and Positive Women’s Network – USA are pleased to announce that the HIV is Not a Crime II National Training Academy will be held May 17 – 20, 2016, at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. The second national conference is designed to support repeal and modernization of laws criminalizing HIV non-disclosure, perceived or potential exposure and transmission.
HIV is Not a Crime II will unite and train advocates living with HIV and allies from across the country on laws criminalizing people living with HIV and on strategies and best practices for repealing such laws. Skills-building training, with an emphasis on grassroots organizing, advocacy, coalition-building and campaign planning, will leave participants with concrete tools and resources to work on state-level strategies when they return home.
Scholarship applications are available here and must be submitted with a letter of support by February 5, 2016. Please note that only complete applications will be reviewed. Your application will be evaluated and scored by volunteer reviewers on the Scholarship Committee, and you will receive an email response to your application by March 11, 2016.
Please stay tuned for more details in the coming weeks and months.
Questions? Please contact Tami Haught, SERO Organizer and Training Coordinator, at: email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 thebody.com.)
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!
Both documents represent missed opportunities to fully address the HIV epidemic in the U.S.
As researchers, government officials, policy experts and advocates gather for the National HIV Prevention Conference, a diverse coalition of networks of people living with HIV (PLHIV), and our key partners and allies, from all over the U.S. have joined together to express our deep dissatisfaction and disappointment regarding the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS): Updated for 2020 and the accompanying Federal Action Plan.
We have repeatedly attempted to engage in dialogue with and share our recommendations for the NHAS, but have been met with little interest from the Administration. The development and implementation of a National HIV/AIDS Strategy that included greater and more meaningful involvement of PLHIV and community partners would hasten progress in the effort to end HIV as well as be a powerful legacy for President Obama and subsequent administrations.
The Federal Action Plan is an underwhelming update and trumpets what has already been accomplished rather than providing specifics about what must be done. For example, citing the July 2014 issuance from the Department of Justice’s Best Practices Guidance informing state Attorney General’s about HIV criminalization concerns, while important, is not new.
In other cases, we see that mandates are not met. President Obama’s Executive Order, issued in July 2015, required the development of recommendations for increasing employment opportunities for PLHIV. Yet such recommendations are not evident in the Federal Action Plan. There also are no assigned roles for key federal agencies (including those responsible for HIV care and prevention) to identify and address employment needs, nor capacity building to support community-based efforts to do so.
We are disappointed to note that once again, as was the case throughout the Bush presidency, key stakeholder groups that are disproportionately impacted by the epidemic have been entirely omitted or miscategorized, including sex workers, immigrants and people of trans experience.
The Federal Action Plan also fails to set forth any mechanisms for involvement by people living with HIV, including PLHIV networks, in achieving critical goals, including universal viral suppression.
We are tired of having our vital concerns and expertise ignored or dismissed and being invited to participate at tables already set for us, with an entire menu already planned, and usually at the last minute. Since the first NHAS was released in 2010, we know our involvement, usually uninvited — perhaps sometimes unwelcome — has constructively helped to shape improvements in HIV prevention, care and treatment.
NHAS 2020 calls for “greater and more meaningful involvement of people living with HIV”. It is time to back up that rhetoric with specific steps to more proactively engage and more efficiently utilize the expertise of networks of people living with HIV.
We call for PLHIV to be seen as the subject matter experts on our lives—not merely as “patients,” “clients” or “consumers”—and to be included in meaningful and specific ways in the ongoing implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy.
If we as a nation truly seek to end the epidemic, it will require more than biomedical interventions. It will require leadership by and partnership with the networks of PLHIV and every key population of people living with or at risk of acquiring HIV. Among our most pressing priorities are the following:
- We must include sex workers in every conversation, acknowledging that criminalization of sex work and the related policing of transgender people are directly linked to consistently worse health outcomes for communities affected by this criminalization.
- We must provide culturally relevant access to testing and healthcare for immigrants without criminalization and penalties, not only through Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities, but also through the providers that serve these communities.
- We must provide strong leadership against state and military laws that target PLHIV and provide for review of previous prosecutions.
- We must collect better housing data for those under the age of 18 who are living with or at risk of acquiring HIV and we must measure housing needs by assessing housing instability and not just homelessness.
- Rather than simply address discrimination with current laws, we must research and acknowledge HIV stigma to address it systematically with federal agencies, partners and federal grantees.
- PrEP is an important prevention strategy within a limited range of communities but for many transgender people and sex workers “test and treat” and “treatment as prevention” approaches, including PrEP, divert resources away from approaches that we know work, such as comprehensive peer-led prevention programs and advocacy to remove legal barriers, criminalization and policing of condoms and medications.
- We must immediately remove transgender people from the MSM (men who have sex with men) category to truly measure and address the epidemic in this community.
- Finally, we must act quickly and comprehensively to address the social and structural factors which continue to drive the incidence of HIV and health disparities in communities of color, particularly black gay men and black women, who remain severely disproportionately impacted by HIV.
We, PLHIV and our networks, as well as those allied with us, deserve and demand a better and more inclusive National HIV/AIDS Strategy that includes meaningful engagement for PLHIV networks and key population stakeholder groups to partner with the Interagency Working Group created in the Executive Order.
We demand to have meetings with the Office of National AIDS Policy, the Federal Interagency Working Group, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to discuss NHAS 2020 and its accompanying Federal Action Plan and the Community Action Framework that was developed without adequate community input.
This statement is supported by #PersistentAdvocates living with and affected by HIV.
**MEDIA ADVISORY FOR MON. 12/7 & TUES. 12/8**
Contact: Suraj Madoori, 708-590-9806, email@example.com or Jennie Smith-Camejo, 347-553-5174, firstname.lastname@example.org
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:
**FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE**
Contact: Jennie Smith-Camejo, email@example.com / 347-553-5174
December 2, 2015 – Yesterday, on World AIDS Day 2015-a day to remember the millions who have died of HIV-related causes over the past three decades, honor long-term survivors, and to strategize the way forward toward an HIV-free generation-the White House Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) released the Federal Action Plan of the newest version of the US National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS, or Strategy), outlining key steps various federal agencies will take toward addressing the domestic HIV epidemic. President Obama is the first US President to create and implement a comprehensive plan to address the domestic HIV epidemic, and Positive Women’s Network – USA (PWN-USA), a national membership body of women living with HIV, applauds the Obama Administration’s continued commitment to address the HIV epidemic and its disparities.
“The federal action plan demonstrates some commitments to improving the health and quality of life of people living with HIV,” says Naina Khanna, Executive Director of PWN-USA. “We are particularly pleased that action steps are mentioned to address some critical needs for highly impacted populations, including the integration of behavioral health and supportive services with primary care, and activities that will support identification and healing from trauma and interpersonal violence (IPV) experienced by people living with HIV. We are also encouraged that the Department of Justice will advise states to modernize or repeal HIV-specific laws that unfairly criminalize people living with HIV. These are advances that advocates, including members of PWN-USA and allies we collaborate closely with, have been fighting for for years.”
Indeed, the plan reflects progress in several crucial areas that PWN-USA has long championed. It calls for implementation science and translational research for prevention and treatment in transgender women, and specifically promises a pilot study of IPV services in behavioral health settings for trans women. Under the plan, an inventory of federally funded trauma-informed programs as well as lessons learned from federally-funded grantee prevention and care programs for women and girls will be created; IPV screening capacity in clinics receiving grants from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will be expanded; and crucially, IPV-related services will be implemented in primary health settings, including health centers serving people living with HIV. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will do outreach and provide technical assistance to the states in addressing employment discrimination against people living with HIV. The plan also shows an expanded commitment to research and development of new prevention modalities for women and men, including treatment as prevention and a focus on connecting at-risk populations to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
PWN-USA commends ONAP for its progress on these critical issues. However, there are still shortcomings in the implementation plan that we hope to see actively addressed over the next five years. For example, while the plan calls for creating an online mapping tool to show women living with HIV where Title X and Ryan White-funded clinics are located, we firmly believe sexual and reproductive healthcare services should be fully integrated into primary care settings for all people living with HIV. Also, while NHAS 2020 discusses discrimination of many types, e.g., employment, healthcare, housing, and the provision of prevention services, the emphasis is on enforcement of federal laws rather than prevention of discrimination. A change in internal policies and practices of institutions, organizations and programs coupled with enforcement will ensure stronger protections for all people living with HIV, including trans women, who face the highest levels of discrimination in employment and housing. We remain concerned at the lack of clear mechanisms for the involvement and leadership of people living with HIV in the ongoing implementation, monitoring and evaluation of NHAS.
Equally concerning are key populations that are either left out completely–like sex workers–or for whom the plan does not do enough. Paradoxically, the plan appears to call for testing, prevention and treatment of immigrant populations only in the context of detention facilities rather than addressing systemic barriers to prevention, care, treatment for immigrants, as well as problematic policing practices that might place immigrants in detention facilities in the first place.
“This federal action plan represents real progress toward ending the disparities in health outcomes among people living with HIV and, more broadly, toward ending the epidemic,” remarks Khanna. “It clearly shows the effectiveness of–and need for–advocacy from people living with HIV. We still have a long way to go, and as people living with HIV, we must continue to hold all the concerned agencies and the next Administration accountable for keeping the promises of the NHAS–and filling in the gaps that remain.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Tami Haught, firstname.lastname@example.org
November 12, 2015: After a very successful inaugural HIV Is Not a Crime National Conference last year, the SERO Project and Positive Women’s Network-USA are pleased to announce that the planning process is underway for a second national conference to support repeal and modernization of laws criminalizing HIV non-disclosure, perceived or potential exposure and transmission, to be held in June 2016.
HIV is Not a Crime II, to be held in June 2016, will unite and train advocates living with HIV and allies from across the country on laws criminalizing people living with HIV and on strategies and best practices for repealing such laws. Skills-building training, with an emphasis on grassroots organizing, advocacy, coalition-building and campaign planning, will leave participants with concrete tools and resources to work on state-level strategies when they return home.
For this training academy, organizers will also emphasize movement building with other decriminalization and criminal justice reform groups. “It’s time to look at the whole context of mass incarceration, racist policing practices, drug policy, sex work policies, and the ways that LGBT and immigrant folks are disproportionately vulnerable in criminalization proceedings, as we consider strategies for repeal and modernization,” says Naina Khanna, executive director of Positive Women’s Network – USA.
Advocates say last year’s conference invigorated on the ground rights-based advocacy led by communities living with and impacted by HIV. “Last year’s HIV is Not a Crime Conference was great because it brought together advocates and people working on changing HIV criminalization laws to brainstorm best practices for people to take home to implement a plan for their state. This was incredibly helpful for us in Tennessee, and really gave us the boost we needed to work on our plan to change the laws here,” states Larry Frampton of Tennessee AIDS Advocacy Network.
“The HIV Prevention Justice Alliance is thrilled to be part of this process again that prioritizes PLHIV, builds power, and ultimately pushes the momentum from the first HIV is Not a Crime conference and this past year in a concerted organizing effort to end these laws across the U.S. in 2016,” says Suraj Madoori, manager of the HIV Prevention Justice Alliance.
“I thought last year’s conference was one of the best discussions in HIV in a long time. It was very powerful to participate in a conference organized by people living with HIV and to hear about their personal experiences around disclosure, prosecution and criminalization,” commented Marsha Martin, Director of the Urban Coalition for HIV/AIDS Prevention Services (UCHAPS). “We have to take on criminalization if we are going to bring about an end to the epidemic. That’s why continuing conferences like this one is so important–and necessary.”
“HIV is Not a Crime II will provide an opportunity for people living with HIV and their closest allies to define their priorities and agenda, educate and mobilize each other and their communities, and further strengthen the community of PLHIV advocates. Michael Callen, one of the authors of the Denver Principles, used to say there was a ‘special magic’ when people with HIV worked together to organize and that is as true today as it was 30 years ago,” states Sean Strub, Executive Director of SERO Project.
Get involved in making the HIV is Not a Crime National Training Academy a success!
The planning partners are currently seeking volunteers for five workgroups, as well as financial support for the conference. To read about and join a working group, click here.
Questions? Please contact Tami Haught, SERO Organizer and Training Coordinator.