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.

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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SPEAK UP! 2016 Unites, Energizes & Mobilizes New & Seasoned Advocates

group-shot-wlhiv-only

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:

 

250 Women from 29 States, DC, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico & Canada SPEAK UP!

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Regional Organizing Institute, Tuesday, September 27

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!

To keep up with the latest, follow the hashtag #pwnspeaks on Twitter (and follow us @uspwn), and check our Facebook page for updates–and of course our Facebook photo album!

ywlhiv-institute-group-shot
Young Women’s Institute, Tuesday, September 27
t-institute-group-shot
Institute for Women of Trans Experience, Tuesday, September 27

PWN-USA Seeks Experienced Facilitators for Butterfly Rising Program

 

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:

  1. Increase knowledge and understanding of trauma and its impact on individuals, families, and health-related behaviors.
  2. 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.

 APPLICATION PROCESS

 Submit the following three items:

  1. 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.
  2. A resume or curriculum vitae
  3. TOT Application form on page 4 of packet

All parts of the application should be submitted via email to naina.khanna.work@gmail.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.

Download the application packet here.

Catch PWN-USA at AIDS 2016!

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


bb2016textlogo400pxSUNDAY JULY 17

Beyond Blame pre-conference

9 AM – 5:30 PM
Blue Waters Hotel, 175 Snell Parade, Marine Parade, Durban

Register at Eventbrite

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 ARASACanadian HIV/AIDS Legal NetworkGNP+HIV Justice NetworkICWSero 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.

Learn more here

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

unnamedNothing 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.

RSVP here.

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

Learn more here.

WEDNESDAY JULY 20

RWP poster IAC eposterPoster session: Securing the Future of Women-Centered Care, a report by Positive Women’s Network – USA

Wednesday, July 2012:30-2:30 PM
Poster Exhibition Area

Check out the findings of a community-based participatory research project, led by 14 women living with HIV on what services WLHIV need to stay engaged in care–on an  8-foot poster!

THURSDAY JULY 21

were still hereWe’re Still Here Film Screening

Global Village Film Screening Room
Thursday, July 212:10-3:05 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.

 

Grieving Orlando

orlandopulse

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.