Advocating at AIDSWatch Georgia 2017
What motivated me to attend AIDSWatch in Georgia was my preparedness and passion to educate representatives about the important issues at stake for people living with HIV/AIDS in Georgia and in the United States, related to policy and funding priorities. I have accumulated a huge fortune of data from PWN-USA, Georgia Equality, The Georgia HIV Advocacy Network, NHeLP and a host of other organizations that raised my ability to advocate in an effective and successful way.
AIDSWatch in Georgia is an Annual HIV Advocacy Day at the Georgia State Capital organized and hosted by Georgia Equality and The Georgia HIV Advocacy Network. At 9am we convened for breakfast, coffee, info sharing and mini-training at The Paul D. Coverdell Legislative Office Building. Then walked across the street to the Georgia State Capital and gathered in the capitol rotunda at 10:30 a.m. before heading to the 4th floor House and Senate Galleries to advocate about HIV related issues and legislation.
My goal was to engage at least 10 state house representatives, starting with my very own. On hand I had Positive Women's Network-USA (PWN-USA) palm cards and 10 copies of the National Health Law Program (NHeLP) publication -- about the importance of protecting Medicaid funding, in which a short synopsis of my experience as a woman living with HIV who has Medicaid coverage was featured to illustrate the importance of Medicaid for women with HIV. In addition to me sharing NHeLP publication at AIDSWatch in Georgia, My story is available on NHeLP public website, but mainly distributed to members of Congress and the new administration to educate them about the importance of Medicaid for people like me.
When I talked with my representative and senator about preserving Medicaid funding for people living with HIV, healthcare access, women centered care-body autonomy, violence against women, HIV criminalization, HIV education/prevention and economic justice the conversation went well. They appeared willing to consider and accept suggestions.
I spoke with a representative outside of my district who agreed on the need to address the outdated HIV criminalization law and made a commitment to apply to join the bipartisan group of Georgia state legislators in a resolution creating a joint study committee on reforming HIV-related criminal laws. Another representative outside of my district related to the intentional "boogeyman (woman)" scenario to justify his reasoning for defending the HIV criminalization law. Although other scenarios were given, the representative continuously found comfort in reiterating a one-size-fits-all theory.
I plan to follow up with all whom I spoke with via email to share study finding, publications and to inquire on specific commitments they are willing to make or refuse to make.
For more information about AIDSWatch in Georgia contact Emily Halden Brown at emily@GeorgiaEquality.org.
Shyronn Jones is PWN-USA's Georgia communications representative.