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HIV/AIDS and Latinas: What Does Gender Have to Do With It? Part 2

September 20, 2011

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Susan Rodriguez: I see this like a form of punishment.

Maria Mejia: Absolutely.

Susan Rodriguez: Not only do they do it to people who are not able to get health care insurance, they also do it to people who are incarcerated and and released. We're going to take away your Medicaid, because you've been incarcerated, at a time when you probably need it most.


Maria Mejia: Right.

Susan Rodriguez: You have prisoners exiting the prison system, where maybe this is the first time that they are finding out that they are HIV positive, and then their Medicaid is taken away from them. It's just disgusting. I am so disgusted with our health care system -- this should not be happening.

Zayda Rivera: On one hand, it makes me feel good to hear that New York is in good standing, yet there are so many other states, such as Florida, that aren't getting the right attention and funding that they need to fight HIV/AIDS in their regions. And there are millions being spent for other countries and their epidemic. I do not want to come off as someone who doesn't care about other countries, because I do. But how can we put so much money into other countries, when there are people right in Florida that are without medication?

Maria Mejia: That's exactly what I told them. Of course we have to help others, I mean, we're all human beings, but we have to take care of home too.

Susan Rodriguez: Yes, we haven't aced it here at home, that's for sure. In my early years, I was involved with activism around global treatment, and somebody said to me, "Susan, not for nothing, I think you need to focus on your own backyard here. We have enough problems here."

That person had a great point: How can we really make an impact in other places, when we can't get care right here. We really have to get it right here first.

Maria Mejia: The other problem is with pharma. The problem with these pharmaceutical companies here is the patent laws. The U.S. is strict with these laws while in other countries, such as Brazil, they broke the laws and started making their own meds to make sure everyone has them for free.

Susan Rodriguez: I doubt it ever will happen here.

Bianca Lopez: I also want to jump in and mention that President Obama put out the National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the U.S. He is the first president in the 30 years of the AIDS epidemic that has put out a strategy for it. Part of that discussion is about access to medication, but it's important to note that the discussion should be more than just access to health insurance. What about the actual discussion? It's missing.

Maria Mejia: Of course.

Zayda Rivera: This discussion alone could be a whole hour. [Laughs.]

Susan Rodriguez: With the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, women aren't even included in it. There is a lot mentioned about MSM [men who have sex with men], but not so much on women. Why was gender overlooked in the strategy? This has to change, but in order for that to happen we need to advocate for women, period.

We need to be like, this is just not acceptable anymore. I think that's the meat of it. It's related to the question that you asked at the beginning: What does gender have to do with it? It has everything to do with it.

If we're going to get a grip on this epidemic that affects Latinas and African-American women, then we need to really start having a mobilization of women. And it's not to exclude men, because we need to include them. There are issues that affect women that men need to be a part of the dialogue for.

It's also time to get away from this, "We don't want to talk about sex" or "We don't want to talk about drugs." Well, you know what? No one's going to get any money if we don't talk about these things -- the things that fuel the epidemic.

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This article was provided by TheBody.
See Also
HIV & Me: A Guide to Living With HIV for Hispanics
The Body en Español
More on HIV/AIDS in the U.S. Latino Community

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