November 15, 2010
How are people thinking and talking about the role that HIV plays in their lives and in their communities. Below is a diverse compilation of first-person perspectives about the epidemic ranging from Word on the Street, to blogs and guest columns, to statements made by AIDS organizations around the world.
Columns and Blog Entries
For our World AIDS Day 2010 section, we wanted to capture the diversity of the AIDS community. So, we reached out to people across the world -- mostly those who have never written for us before -- and asked them to guest blog. These columns are written by people who are living with HIV, have been affected by HIV, or work in the field.
Women and HIV in the U.S.: A Focus on A&PI Women
Women and HIV.
Let us first start there. While men who have sex with men (MSM) are still disproportionately affected, the number of women at risk and living with HIV has sky-rocketed at a dangerous and alarming rate. The CDC's 2007 surveillance report reveals that 31 percent of new HIV diagnoses are women -- 10 to 15 years ago, this number was under 10 percent. Overall, women account for an estimated one third of national HIV/AIDS cases. Approximately 80 percent of new infections are attributed to high-risk heterosexual contact, meaning heterosexual contact with a person known to have, or to be at high risk for, HIV infection.
Gratitude on World AIDS Day
When I was offered the opportunity to blog about World AIDS Day, I began to think of the actual wording, "World AIDS Day." I was immediately filled with a sense of gratitude. A sense of gratitude for the medications I have, the support systems I have in place, and of course my own good health. This is not to say that people here in the United States don't face their own set of challenges when it comes to living with HIV.
For instance, as of October 7 there are 3,586 people in eight states who are on waiting lists for AIDS Drug Assistance Program coverage. One hopes that they are finding medication through other programs while waiting for a spot on ADAP. In other parts of the world, people are not so lucky. What is the first (and only) line treatment in some parts of the world is third or fourth line here. Of course in many places (especially in Africa), medications are not even available.
It's Time to Remove the Veil
In my 14 years as Founder/CEO of Aniz, Inc., it has not been uncommon to see a grandmother, mother and daughter, all HIV positive, in one or another of the multiple treatment programs offered by Aniz, Inc. In some cases, each of the women believed she was the only HIV-positive member of the family.
I have witnessed this experience everywhere from the small rural towns of Mississippi to our headquarters in metropolitan Atlanta. And each time the question is: "Why haven't these Women of Color disclosed their status?" Well often the answer is:
"You don't put your business all out in the streets."
To read all of our World AIDS Day 2010 columns and blog entries, click here.
World AIDS Day Statements
Word On The Street
We hit the pavement to get readers to weigh in on a range of topics for World AIDS Day 2010.
People living with and working in HIV/AIDS worldwide are also front-line witnesses to the prevalence of HIV/AIDS myths -- even now, after decades of information and education around HIV/AIDS. We asked dozens of these individuals to share some of the craziest myths they've heard. Take a look at what they had to say -- and add some HIV/AIDS myths of your own in the comment section below their responses.
Sarah, Pennsylvania; Diagnosed in 1994, at age 10
Outrageous myths: Oh, there are so many! I'd probably say the most outrageous thing I've ever heard is HIV being compared to leprosy.
For example, there was a preacher who said, "Leprosy, back in that day, is kind of like AIDS."
I guess back then, the era he was talking about, they would yell out "Leprosy! Leprosy!" and leave the community. So he compared it to that, like saying you'd have to say "AIDS! AIDS!" and leave the community.
Rosita Libre de Marulanda, Educator and Past Participant in the "SAGE Is" Ad Campaign, Brooklyn, N.Y.
The craziest myth I used to hear many, many years ago was that women were liars, and that we didn't tell our prospective mates our whole sexual history. I am glad that HIV professionals eventually stopped advising people to get the story of a prospective partner because I kept on saying to them that some sexual experiences were maybe too embarrassing or too painful, and you may not want to tell someone you just met. So it was not about lying. It's about you got a right to your own story.
Professionals used to advise, "Get to know your person. Ask them where they've been, etc. " Today the advice is "Protect yourself, no matter what!" No matter what, protect yourself.
Stigma: It comes in many forms and can have a profound effect on people's relationships, their careers, their health, their lives. In fact, because of the ways it creeps into and clouds judgment on other aspects of the epidemic, many who are living with HIV/AIDS and/or working in the field believe that stigma is the greatest barrier to fighting HIV/AIDS. So how do we to eliminate it -- within ourselves, in our communities and on a global level? We asked members of the worldwide HIV/AIDS community to offer their ideas.
Patricia Shelton, Peer Educator and Consultant, Bronx, N.Y.; Diagnosed in 1991
Number one: education. Families need to be educated. The schools need to have education, and also churches. Our community needs to educate each other, like we did when I was growing up in the '60s and '70s. But it starts from home first, school second, and church third.
Christopher Ervin, Aniz, Inc., Atlanta, Ga.
There are a few ways to fight HIV stigma -- one directly related to HIV stigma is to stop emphasizing the different populations, i.e., all HIV and MSMs, or men having sex with men; or HIV and drug users; or HIV and poor black women. Let's just say, "HIV and people." And so that would help people understand that anyone can get HIV.
And also, let's eliminate the stigmas related to being a person of color, being a person of different gender identification. Eliminate the stigmas of being an addict. Eliminate the stigmas of having mental health diagnoses. Eliminate stigmas surrounding people's sexual practices. All this will help end the stigma around HIV.
Even though every day may be World AIDS Day, in a sense, for people living with HIV/AIDS or working in this field, this day is an introduction to HIV/AIDS information for many people. We asked HIV-positive people and advocates from all over the world to tell us the message they'd send about HIV/AIDS if they had the world's attention.
Joe Hammoud, Youth Coalition, Beirut, Lebanon
The message that I want to get across is that HIV can be stopped. And it's just a shame that power and money are the obstacles for universal access, and for treatment, and for even awareness. It's just a shame that we're putting money and selfishness in front of human rights, and basically dealing with humans. That shouldn't just pass like that; these are lives that we're dealing with. It's sad to see that some people are really so selfish when it comes to this. They want to stop the funding on this epidemic because they're moving their interests somewhere else. It's a matter of interest, apparently; it's not a matter of the epidemic we're facing.
Nikki Mawanda, Transgenders, Intersex and Transsexual Uganda, Kampala, Uganda
I would say that, as a transman, I have not been catered to in my country. And I know many trans people are not catered to by the HIV and AIDS prevention policies in the world. I would say that, as trans people all over the world, we are dying of HIV and AIDS. We are dying every day of different illnesses related to HIV and AIDS. But the right way, if we want to fight this disease, is we try as much as we can to fill the gaps. Let people not assume that trans people may be half-sex this way, half-sex the other way. If we are saying MSM, we are not catering to everybody. If we are saying WSW, we are not catering to everybody. So let's fill those gaps. That's the right thing. We should come up with programs and policies that really cater to the gaps within communities. Because even under the transgender umbrella, we have intersections. I'm a trans-man. It doesn't mean that I'm a WSW. You won't find me there. I'm a man who sleeps with women. I love women. So let's fill the gaps.