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Reaching Out!

ANIZ Offers Support

May/June 2003

Sheryl Johnson

May is the time of year we celebrate all mothers and this month I want to talk about some issus surrounding HIV/AIDS that have particular relevance for mothers. Recently, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced a new strategy urging HIV testing for all pregnant women. Dr. Julie Gerberding has said in a recent interview that "with the number of new HIV cases hovering around 40,000 annually ... it is time for physicians to screen for HIV in the same way they do for other [chronic] conditions such as diabetes or hypertension." Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases notes, "the guidelines represent a much more aggressive approach toward HIV prevention, nationally. We know that the majority of people, when they know they're infected will become much more careful with their sexual partners. Testing is the gateway to a realization of the problem" (New York Times, April 17, 2003).

These guidelines represent a current trend toward focusing on women and their particular treatment issues. Perinatal transmission is not the only issue that concerns women and especially those infected with HIV/AIDS. Other topics that are currently under investigation include: transmission of HIV through breastfeeding, Co-infection of HIV and Herpes Virus 8 (HHV-8), immune responses to an HIV vaccine in infants born to infected mothers, inflammation in the female genital tract and vaginal HIV viral shedding, and bone mineral density in HIV-infected women. In addition, there is a growing campaign to bring attention to the potential development of microbicides for use in vaginal protection against HIV infection.

Investigation of this subject alone is turning the contraceptive world on its ear as women see the opportunity to have a greater say in protecting themselves from getting infected.

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With statistics regarding infection rates from heterosexual contact steadily on the rise, researchers are paying more attention to factors such as; viral load level of the male partner, the presence of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and genital ulcers in either partner, trauma during intercourse, cervical ectopy and circumcision status of the male partner. The question of whether or not oral contraceptives increase the risk for infection is also being examined. How HIV is affected by the aging process, including the onset of menopause is yet another question for which there are no set answers.

With all this to consider, there is a woman here in Atlanta, who has taken on as her mission the task of educating people, especially those of African descent, with the goal of decreasing HIV statistics and promoting healthy life choices. I am speaking of Zina Age and her nonprofit company, ANIZ, Inc. (that's Zina spelled backwards). Zina established her organization as a 501c3 entity that would empower children and adults, providing professional support and therapeutic intervention. A primary goal of ANIZ is to be a resource to African-Americans as well as other underserved populations and to those organizations dedicated to meeting their needs. ANIZ maintains that "as African-American mental health professionals, we know the needs, we understand the barriers and we know how to affect change within our community."

ANIZ's programs include ROSHA: Reaching Out to Sisters with HIV/AIDS; AFLASH: Adolescent Females Learning About Healthy Living; MOHSS: Men of Hope Social Service Program; Mental Health Services; Substance Abuse Supportive Services; Screening and Assessment; groups for HIV infected/affected youth; children's education, risk reduction and therapeutic intervention; case management services; respite care for children; health education information; grief and loss services and program development. They have also recently started a support group initiative for members of the transgendered community and their supporters.

Although I would like to highlight them all, I must adhere to space considerations. However I would like provide detailed information about a few of ANIZ's programs.

AFLASH is a gender-specific HIV/AIDS prevention/risk reduction program for females at risk for HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. AFLASH touches the lives of young women through intensive risk reduction education and intervention. The program encompasses individual counseling, focused small group sessions, risk assessment and HIV testing to provide the support young women need to identify and alter behavior that puts them at risk of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

ROSHA is an innovative program created by Aniz to support HIV positive African American women dealing with substance abuse and mental health issues. ROSHA's no cost, integrative substance abuse and mental health program is offered three days a week. Free childcare for minor children is provided when necessary.

"We Want to Know" is a six-week prevention education program designed to increase HIV/AIDS knowledge and awareness among youth ages 5-16. "We Want to Know" operates on the premise that young people have a right to know the truth about this devastating disease and it's potential to rob them of their health and their youthful innocence.

Groups for HIV Infected/Affected Youth -- these are support groups specifically designed to provide a safe haven for HIV infected/affected youth. Children (ages 5-12) and teenagers (ages 13-17) gather to discuss the challenges presented by HIV, receive critical HIV/AIDS education and offer support to one another. Professional staff facilitate emotional support and guidance to youth seeking a safe and supportive environment in which to grow and heal.

Finally, as an organization focused on HIV/AIDS, ANIZ fully understands the importance of facing grief and loss. Their grief and loss program includes supportive therapy for individuals and their families. Therapy and pre-planning support helps individuals and families cope with a terminal illness and with death. Family, individual and group therapy is also effective for working with and through the grief that comes after the death of a loved one. ANIZ's grief and loss services address the additional stress that loss places on individuals living with HIV/AIDS and substance abuse.



  
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This article was provided by AIDS Survival Project. It is a part of the publication Survival News.
 
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