As one of several Indian Health Service activities supported by the Minority HIV/AIDS Fund (MHAF) in Fiscal Year 2020, the Urban Indian Health Institute (UIHI) is currently leading a project focused on creating culturally attuned HIV education materials—including print, digital, and video formats—for both American Indian and Alaska Native patients and the healthcare providers who serve them.
UIHI, located in Seattle, Washington, works to provide information to and assist urban Indian-serving organizations to better the urban Indian community’s health nationwide. Seven out of 10 American Indians and Alaska Natives currently live in urban settings away from federally defined tribal lands. Since 2016, UIHI has led several projects that promote culturally attuned HIV prevention and treatment.
Among the new materials being developed under this project, in March 2020, UIHI released a short film, Positively Native, in which long-time HIV survivors Bill Hall (Tlingit), Shana Cozad (Kiowa), and Hamen Ides (Lummi) discuss their lived experiences with HIV stigma, discrimination, and advocacy. Along with the film, UIHI released an accompanying toolkit that includes a facilitator’s guide, discussion questions, and a presentation on the basics of HIV. The organization presented Positively Native to an audience of 38 people at the International Indigenous Pre-Conference on HIV/AIDS in July 2020.
This was a time when people weren’t even touching patients with HIV,” says Priyanka Chopra, a prominent supporter of the film on behalf of the AIDS charity RED, which will receive 30 percent of all box office proceeds. “They would lay in their soiled bedsheets for days where nobody would come and even enter their room to feed them. At that time, these nurses chose to not think about whether they would live or die and actually the nobility of the profession is what you see in this movie.”
The film, which received a four-minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival last month, features the nurses of ward 5B at San Francisco General Hospital who didn’t allow societal ignorance, prejudice and fear curtail their drive to administer compassionate health care to patients who had otherwise been cast aside. These were patients who most health care professionals wouldn’t touch without wearing gloves, even a hazmat suit.
Last fall, the MacArthur Foundation announced their annual “genius awards.” One name in particular stood out: Gregg Gonsalves, 55, an assistant professor of microbial diseases at the Yale School of Public Health.
In the 1980s, Dr. Gonsalves was a leading member of the AIDS advocacy group Act Up; he went on to found or support a number of domestic and international AIDS organizations.
The foundation cited his contributions in “training a new generation of researchers who, like himself, work across public health and human rights sectors, scholarly research, and activism to correct disparities in global public health.”
Writer and activist George M. Johnson instructs us, on National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, on the role we all play in the
The late activist and writer Joseph Beam once deemed the act of a Black man loving another Black man a “revolutionary act.” I imagine that doing so, while also living unapologetically with HIV, is doubly insurgent. But that’s perhaps the only way to describe the life and work of George M. Johnson. A writer, activist, and soon-to-be author, he’s committed to the work of toppling the patriarchy, challenging anti-Blackness, and confronting homophobia, transphobia, and HIV stigma wherever he sees it.
With over 40,000 Twitter followers and a much larger community that reads his words at Teen Vogue,Entertainment Tonight, The Root, Ebony, and countless others, Johnson is outspoken and defiantly visible as a Black gay man living with HIV, with which he was diagnosed at 25. Now, he’s set on being the resource he wishes he had when he was younger for other folks who are or might become HIV positive.
On National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, Out spoke to Johnson about his activism, the state of HIV advocacy, and what those living with the virus and those not can do to combat stigma.
As part of the HIV Prevention and Care Plan, our goals include reducing new HIV infections, increasing access to care, improving health outcomes for people living with HIV, and reducing HIV-related disparities and health inequalities.
As a community member effected by HIV, your feedback regarding the plan will help provide a road map in meeting the goals set out by the State Department of Health and the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. Volunteering can involve reading a short paragraph and providing feedback or just completing a brief survey.
“We have the science to solve the AIDS epidemic,” Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the CDC, himself a longtime HIV researcher and clinician, told STAT in a recent interview. “We’ve invested in it. Let’s put it into action.‘’
Other leaders in the HIV field have been musing about the idea, buoyed by the astonishing impact effective HIV medications have wrought, both on the lives of people infected with or at risk of contracting the virus, and on the trajectory of the epidemic.
“It’s certainly doable in the United States,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a researcher whose study focused on HIV from the earliest days of the AIDS epidemic.
Fauci and other health experts are quick to point out that the goal of stopping transmission entirely is largely theoretical. There will always be some new cases, and the barriers to providing treatment to existing cases remain significant. There are still just under 40,000 people in the U.S. each year contracting HIV. As Fauci put it: “We live in a real world, we don’t live in a theoretical world.”
But “if we implement all the tools that we have and if we can theoretically, conceptually, get everybody who’s HIV infected on antiretroviral drug so that they will not transmit the infection to anyone else, theoretically you could end the epidemic tomorrow by doing that,” he added.
A report on the state of HIV/AIDS in the African-American community highlighted an alarming health disparity gap—while Black Americans represent 12% of the population, they now account for close to 50% of the total reported HIV/AIDS cases in the US.
Laurencin and his co-authors call for a more assertive approach to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the African-American community, noting that their call to action a decade ago has not successfully addressed the situation. In fact, some aspects have worsened: the number of African-American males diagnosed with HIV increased 29% from 2005 to 2016.
From 2005 to 2016, the number of cases of HIV/AIDS in Black women and female adolescents from heterosexual contact increased 75% from 2,392 to 4,189 and during the same time, there was a 76% increase in diagnoses of heterosexual Black men.
On September 28, 2015, Lambda Legal launched the newest section of its Know Your Rights information hub. “Know Your Rights: HIV” provides information for people living with HIV people on topics such as disclosure and discrimination in housing, healthcare and employment.
“Based on calls to our Legal Help Desk, people living with HIV still face, even in 2015, continued discrimination rooted in ignorance, unfounded fear, misconceptions and outdated science,” said Scott Schoettes, Senior Attorney and HIV Project National Director.
“When denied access to health care or fired from a job because they have HIV, people living with HIV will be able to turn to the “Know Your Rights: HIV” hub to provide much-needed information to help access and navigate the resources and protections that are available. This resource helps to further educate the public and end the stigma and discrimination that people with HIV encounter. Such stigma and discrimination hinder efforts to combat the epidemic.”
Launched the day after the 2015 National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, the “Know Your Rights: HIV” hub provides a wide range of information about the rights of all people living with HIV, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
“Though Lambda Legal is primarily an LGBT organization, our mission with respect to HIV covers all people living with HIV, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Kyle Palazzolo, HIV Project Staff Attorney. “We believe everyone living with HIV will find this information useful, and we hope that even more people will call our Legal Help Desk when seeking guidance.”
AIDSVu is an interactive online map illustrating the prevalence of HIV in the United States. The national, state and local map views on AIDSVu allow users to visually explore the HIV epidemic alongside critical resources such as HIV testing center locations, HIV treatment center locations, and NIH-Funded HIV Prevention & Vaccine Trials Sites. Themap also lets users filter HIV prevalence data by race/ethnicity, sex and age, and see how HIV prevalence is related to various social determinants of health, such as educational attainment and poverty.
The state- and county-level data on AIDSVu come from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) national HIV surveillance database, which is comprised of HIV surveillance reports from state and local health departments. ZIP code and census tract data come directly from state, county and city health departments, depending on which entity is responsible for HIV surveillance in a particular geographic area. AIDSVu is updated on an ongoing basis with HIV surveillance data released by CDC, as well as with new data and information from other sources as they become available.
More Americans than ever before have access to Internet-enabled technologies and are participating in online social networking platforms. This trend is particularly notable among women, African-Americans, and Latinos and provides hope that effective use of new social technologies could reshape how we reach, engage, and mobilize vulnerable populations such as Black gay men (BGM) and other men who have sex with men (MSM) who are disproportionately impacted by the domestic HIV epidemic. For example, recent data from the The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project indicate that while the digital divide persists as it relates to Internet access, African-Americans use mobile devices at the same rate as their peers and lead the way in participation in social media such as Twitter.
There is little data available about how BGM/MSM are using social technologies. So, last year, as part of ongoing efforts to improve the health and wellbeing of BGM/MSM, The National Black Gay Men’s Advocacy Coalition (NBGMAC) launched a national survey to learn about the online communication habits of Black gay men. The survey’s goals are to better understand how BGM/MSM use the Internet to communicate and receive national health policy and advocacy information. The data gathered from this survey will contribute to our understanding of how to effectively leverage the Internet for outreach and engagement around health information and national policy issues of importance to BGM/MSM across the nation.
Preliminary survey data highlight the importance of social networking platforms like Facebook in connecting with communities of Black gay men and sharing health policy and advocacy information. The data also reflect a notable level of interest in biomedical HIV prevention tools like Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP). Findings like these point to the growing importance of making information available about HIV prevention in a way that meets the needs of the populations most impacted the epidemic. If you are a Black gay, bisexual or same-gender loving man, please take a moment to complete the brief survey and share with your networks. If not, please also consider sharing with any colleagues, friends or loved ones who may be willing to participate and help us to shed light on the communication, health information, and policy and advocacy needs of this underserved community.
To complete the survey, click here or copy and paste the survey’s URL into your Internet browser: http://svy.mk/15KFMwc .