March 31, 2011
Here is a quick look at a few HIV/AIDS stories recently reported in the media:
The NAACP Issues an HIV/AIDS Call to Action for Black Churches (From Medline News)
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) issued a call to action to the faith community to champion the importance of HIV testing and prevention in their respective congregations and communities. "Dialogue with the Black Church" is part of the NAACP's ongoing two-year national initiative to address the disparate impact of HIV/AIDS in the African-American community.
In a press release, Benjamin Todd Jealous, the president and CEO of the NAACP, said:
"We need to acknowledge that, in America, health is a true civil right. It is essential that we enlist leaders from every corner of society to fight back against a disease that is devastating our community. Normalizing the conversation about HIV/AIDS in our churches is critical to reducing the stigma, making testing a routine part of health care visits and ensuring those who test positive receive medical care earlier -- all of which can curb the spread of this disease."
Historically, black churches have been the most powerful social institution in the African-American community, but given their silence around the epidemic, their homophobia and their tendency to view HIV as a moral issue, the question still remains: Are churches the best entry point to do HIV outreach? And if not, what is?
ACLU Sues Alabama for Discriminating Against HIV-Positive Inmates (From the News Courier)
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a class action lawsuit against the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC), charging that its policy of segregating prisoners living with HIV into separate housing and forcing them to disclose their status is discriminatory.
According to the press release, prisoners with HIV in Alabama are excluded from: residential pre-release units, where prisoners near the end of their sentence participate in programming aimed at ensuring they successfully transition from prison back into the community; faith-based honor dorms that work to reduce the chances of recidivism; and jobs in the kitchen and elsewhere that enable prisoners to gain marketable work skills and experience. Prisoners with HIV in Alabama are also categorically excluded from the community corrections program, which affords qualified prisoners the opportunity to work in the community during the day.
"The policy of segregating prisoners with HIV not only is discriminatory, but it undermines what should be a goal shared by all Alabamians to save valuable taxpayer dollars by reducing the number of people in prison across the state," said Olivia Turner, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama. "We should be doing everything we can to provide the best possible rehabilitation opportunities to all prisoners in an effort to ensure that they lead healthy and productive lives upon release and don't end up being reincarcerated."
Alabama and South Carolina are the only two states in the U.S. that have HIV segregation policies in their prisons.
A new report conducted by the Institute of Medicine found that doctors in the U.S. know very little about the health of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans. Funded by the National Institutes of Health, the report found some serious gaps in access to health care and called for researchers to include more LGBT people in future health studies.
Judith Bradford, Ph.D., a member of the committee who penned the report, wrote:
"Based on the limited data we do have, we find that LGBT people have health disparities in several areas and these are access to health care, and lack of access to health care. Many health care providers do not understand who LGBT people are and may not be aware of our specific differences and our specific needs. This is particularly the case with transgender people and bisexual populations. Most of the research we have is about gay men and lesbians."
This isn't the first study this year to focus on the health disparities of LGBT Americans. In February, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality released findings from the first large-scale national study on transgender people in the U.S. The study focused on the impact that discrimination has on transgender men and women, including health disparities such as HIV/AIDS and access to health care.
Kellee Terrell is the former news editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.
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