This #MothersDay, Help #FreeMichaelJohnson and Bring Him Home to His Mom

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May 11, 2017: This Sunday will mark the fourth Mother’s Day that Tracy Johnson has had to spend separated from Michael, her youngest son. That’s how long he has been incarcerated under Missouri’s archaic and draconian HIV criminalization laws, following a trial marred by racism and homophobia.

But recently, Michael and his mom finally got some good news: this past December, the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, reversed his conviction based on the prosecution’s failure to turn over important evidence in a timely fashion. But Michael is not out of the woods yet. In order for Michael to have a chance to get his life back, he needs the best legal counsel available at the new trial that will take place sometime soon. This is where your help is needed Continue reading “This #MothersDay, Help #FreeMichaelJohnson and Bring Him Home to His Mom”

On #NWGHAAD, PWNers Assert and Celebrate #BodilyAutonomy

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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”

On #NWGHAAD, We 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.

NWGHAAD 17 graphic v2-01Yesterday, 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.

The Bodily Autonomy Framework is available here (Download the printer-friendly PDF version of this framework here.)

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.

I Am My Sisters’ and Brothers’ Keeper

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.

Continue reading “I Am My Sisters’ and Brothers’ Keeper”

California Lawmakers Announce Bill to Modernize Discriminatory HIV Criminalization Laws

**FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE**
February 6, 2017

CONTACT: Jason Howe, Equality California
PHONE: 323-848-9801 MOBILE: 415-595-9245 EMAIL: jason@eqca.org

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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.

Continue reading “California Lawmakers Announce Bill to Modernize Discriminatory HIV Criminalization Laws”

PWN-USA Launches Inaugural Class of Policy Fellowship!

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!”

Honoring the Legacy of the Obama Administration on HIV

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.

president_official_portrait_hiresIn 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.

obama-wad-2013President 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.

crowley_colorJeffrey Crowley

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-millettGregorio 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.

jamesalbino-e1311377540427-150x150James Albino

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.

lynnrose_0Lynn Rosenthal

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-204x300Grant 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-brooksDouglas 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-lanksyAmy 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.

Trans Resilience & Resistance in Changing Times

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

dsc_0013Being 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.

We demand:

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.

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On Third Day of Action to End Violence Against Women Living with HIV, PWN-USA Demands End to Criminalization & Other Forms of Structural Violence

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OCTOBER 21: Women with HIV simultaneously live with the effects of trauma resulting from interpersonal, community, and institutional violence. Studies have shown that the lifelong and compounding effects of these different forms of violence may have consequences far deadlier than the virus itself. October 23, Positive Women’s Network – USA (PWN-USA), along with dozens of endorsing organizations, will observe our third Day of Action to End Violence Against Women Living with HIV, releasing a factsheet highlighting the many forms of violence impacting women living with HIV and their communities, with a special focus on criminalization, discriminatory law enforcement practices and other forms of

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Teresa Sullivan, PWN-USA Philadelphia Senior Member, displays city proclamation

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.

Laws criminalizing people living with HIV (PLHIV) disproportionately affect over-policed communities, including women of color (who make up 80% of the epidemic among women) and women of trans* experience. Harassment and brutality by police and law enforcement create hostile environments that perpetuate trauma in communities of color and other communities significantly impacted by HIV. Consequently, for the 2016 National Day of Action to End Violence Against Women Living with HIV, PWN-USA demands:
  • 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.
PWN-USA called for the first Day of Action in 2014 in response to several high-profile murders of women following disclosure of their HIV status. Last year, community events were held in at least 18 cities, as well as a Twitter chat with 228 participants that reached 1.6 million people. 18 blog posts and statements were submitted by individuals and organizations in honor of the Day of Action. PWN-USA hopes this year’s day of action will continue to raise awareness, put forward solutions and mobilize advocates to push for meaningful change to end structural and institutional violence in the form of criminalization of our communities.
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SPEAK UP! 2016 Unites, Energizes & Mobilizes New & Seasoned Advocates

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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: