Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Love saves lives: Why marriage equality is an HIV issue

“Marriage equality is legal recognition that you exist. That you can assert your rights, your personhood. It’s a message not only that others respect you but that you are allowed to respect yourself.”

That’s how Quinton, our community organizer, explained what Friday’s court decision meant to him. That decision was a main topic of conversation at our staff meeting last week.

HIV has always been a civil rights issue. The communities most affected by HIV and AIDS in North Carolina face legal and medical systems rooted in classism, racism, homophobia, and sexism, from Jim Crow and the Tuskegee experiments to Amendment One and the failure to expand Medicaid.

Marriage equality is a civil rights victory. It asserts the human dignity of LGBTQ North Carolinians and the right to visibility and love.



In 2003, when Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to recognize marriage equality, that state’s Supreme Court acknowledged that dignity, love, and celebration were important aspects of legal marriage. They also said this:
For those who choose to marry, and for their children, marriage provides an abundance of legal, financial, and social benefits. It is undoubtedly for these concrete reasons, as well as for its intimately personal significance, that marriage has long been termed a civil right.
For many North Carolinians living with HIV and AIDS, their loved ones, and those at high risk, marriage equality brings many of those concrete benefits. Just a few:
  • Access to health insurance through a spouse’s employer, which helps reduce the disparity in insurance coverage between same-sex and opposite-sex couples
  • The ability to make health decisions for an incapacitated partner without needing to make special legal arrangements
  • The right to take 12 weeks of leave to care for a family member, including a spouse if needed, through the Family Medical Leave Act
Marriage equality in other states has also been shown to have non-legal medical benefits:
  • Couples with legally recognized marriages experience lower rates of depression, a mental illness that is at least two times more prevalent among people living with HIV.
  • Individuals - even unmarried LGBTQ people - living in states with marriage equality experience fewer mood disorders and less anxiety. 
And then there’s this: Marriage equality has been shown to lower the rate of new HIV infections. Emory University researchers have found that when states instituted a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, there were four additional HIV infections for every 100,000 people. To put that in perspective, the rate of new HIV diagnoses in North Carolina is 16.4 per 100,0000 people.

HIV stigma is one of the strongest factors influencing whether people get tested, get treatment, and stay in care. Because of the history of the AIDS epidemic and the continuing high rates of HIV among the LGBTQ community, homophobia and HIV stigma are closely linked. They can form a feedback loop of fear, ignorance, and hatred. That loop has a very real cost.

Friday’s marriage equality victory is a huge step forward for the right to visibility, dignity, love, and partnership for all LGBTQ North Carolinas - and it’s a step forward in the fight for the right to visibility, dignity, love, and health for the tens of thousands of North Carolinians living with HIV, their families, and their communities.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Advocate to Governor McCrory: Do the right thing!



If Governor McCrory and the North Carolina General Assembly had expanded Medicaid, Glen Cameron - and hundreds of thousands of his fellow North Carolinians - would have health insurance today. But that didn't happen. 

Our elected officials' decision not to expand Medicaid costs more than 1,000 lives in our state each year. It denies a healthy future to thousands of North Carolinians living with HIV and countless others living with the pain and uncertainty of untreated illness.

Glen, a North Carolina AIDS Action Network Speaking Postively Advocate, told his story at Moral Monday in Raleigh on June 2, 2014. Here's what he had to say:

Hello everyone, my name is Glen Cameron and I live in Newton.

I have been HIV Positive for 27 years now, and I am here speaking to you today to put a face on Governor McCrory's refusal to expand Medicaid. I can no longer remain silent.

Since I lost my health insurance three years ago, my simple life has become a complicated maze of asking for charity care and going without care in some situations.

Not having a doctor is scary enough when you have HIV, and just this week I have learned that I have a growth on one of my kidneys that very well may be cancer.

If our Governor and General Assembly had not refused Medicaid expansion I would have insurance today.

So now I stand here to call on the governor of our beloved state to put politics aside and help the people of North Carolina. I ask you, Mr. Governor, and members of the General Assembly, why have you refused Federal funds offered to help our citizens?

 Is it politics?
 Is it spite?
 Is it a lack of basic human compassion?
 What is it?

Please tell us why people of our state, in the richest country on the planet, are denied the health care, the basic dignity, of citizens of any place else in the industrialized world...

Playing politics as usual is playing fast and loose with people's lives. I say Mr. Governor, General Assembly, help your citizens.

Do the right thing!
Do the just thing!
DO THE MORAL THING!

EXPAND MEDICAID NOW!

Thank you.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Local women highlight resources for people living with HIV

PRESS RELEASE                                                    CONTACT: Claire Hermann
March 5, 2014                                                                       (919) 533-9677, claire@ncaan.org

The Greene-Pitt Women’s Empowerment Team finalists will host “Get the 411 on HIV medication,” a lunch and learn, this Thursday, March 6th, from 12 – 2 p.m. at the Ledonia Wright Cultural Center at East Carolina University.
The team welcomes all people living with HIV, advocates, health care providers, home healthcare givers, and activists to join them for a free lunch, door prizes, and a panel discussion on HIV medication and the effects of the Affordable Care Act, the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, and other changes.
This event is being held in advance of National Women and Girls HIV Awareness Day, which is Monday, March 10.
            The team comprises Esther Ross of Greenville and Debbie Maye of Snow Hill, one of six finalist teams in the statewide North Carolina AIDS Action Network’s Women’s Empowerment TEAM Project.
The Women’s Empowerment TEAM project is made possible by an Empowered Community Grant from AIDS United, a funding collaborative of Alicia Keys and Bristol-Myers Squibb. It is a part of the broader Empowered Campaign with Greater than AIDS.

###

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Carrying the Torch: Why I Volunteer

Guest post by Christina Guichard

The author with John and her son, who is named after him.
It is not often you find someone who changes the way you look at life.  Who wakes you up to life's possibilities and challenges you to be a better person.  Eight years ago I met that person and I am thankful for him every day.  His name is John and he is a Leukemia, Lymphoma, and HIV survivor, and today, he is again battling for his life.  

John is grateful survivor of four forms of cancer and has been living with HIV since 1984.  John is also an honored caregiver who has had the privilege of caring for several loved ones they struggled with their illnesses, including his sister, parents, and partner. After his HIV diagnosis, John became a full time advocate for the needs of people affected by HIV and cancer, and others who suffer from health disparities.  John has changed the lives of thousands of people through public speaking and working with policy-makers to advocate for positive change and inspiring others to become advocates.

Over the past two years, John has been battling Hodgkins Lymphoma and is preparing for a bone marrow transplant.  Since a majority of his time is focused on staying healthy and preparing for upcoming treatments, I told him I wanted to pick up his torch and carry it until he is well enough to advocate again. I know I can't even begin to make as big of impact as my friend John, but I hope to help as many people as possible through volunteerism, advocacy, and love.  

I hope you join me in spreading the love in honor of John and so many others like him.  

They fight every day, and it is time we fight for them too.  

Christina volunteers with NCAAN from her home in North Carolina.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Not Alone

Quinton Harper, NCAAN Community Organizer
When I was a sophomore in college, a good friend who left college and moved back home the previous year confided in me his HIV positive status. 
That year, Black men represented 88% of the new HIV infections among male college students in North Carolina, according to a report by UNC-Chapel Hill researchers. As a Black man reared to fight becoming simply another statistic, what hurt me the most was knowing that that my friend had become a statistic in that report. And that he had gone through this alone.  
I made two promises to him – and I’ve kept them.  I was tested for HIV, and I have worked diligently ever since to make sure that no one close to me has to deal with this alone.
He is my friend. She is my friend’s mom. He was my classmate. He was my uncle. She is an ex-girlfriend’s home girl.  He is an ex-lover.  She was a colleague’s mother. These people, nameless to you, are the reason why I began my work with HIV/AIDS.  They are why I do what I do. HIV has no name, but their reflection increasingly reflects an image similar to mine. They are me.
We are all affected by HIV and AIDS. Our strength is in our collective power; we must continue to fight together.  
After a summer of “having that conversation” with friends, and the recent passing of “a soldier” in the war, my heart is heavy. But what I told my friend as an undergraduate, what I’ve told my brothers over the past years since then, and what I would tell anyone fighting this war is this: “You are not alone.”

Thursday, June 27, 2013

National HIV Testing Day Congressional Call-In to Support Domestic HIV/AIDS Programs

image by pouwerkerk via Flickr Creative Commons
Can join people around the country for this national call-in day? Just call your Senators today, June 27, and ask them to fully support programs vital to people living with HIV/AIDS in Fiscal Year 2014.

Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee plan to vote on the federal spending bill that supports Fiscal Year 2014's domestic HIV/AIDS programs in early July. As a part of National HIV Testing Day today, June 27, we need to let Senators know that in addition to HIV testing, they should support full access to HIV prevention, care, treatment and research. Urge Congress to fully fund these programs now!

CALL YOUR SENATORS NOW: 
Dial the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask for one of your Senators. Our NC Senators are Kay Hagan and Richard Burr. If you don't live in NC, you can find out who your Senator is here.

Use this message:
Hello, my name is [you name] and I am a constituent in [your hometown]. I am calling on National HIV Testing Day to ask my Senator to fully fund and prevent additional cuts to HIV prevention, care, treatment, and research programs.

[Please add one or more of the messages below]
  • Supporting access to HIV testing means supporting access to the full continuum of HIV programs needed, including HIV prevention, care, treatment, and research.
  • Early identification through HIV testing, and reliable access to effective HIV care and treatment helps people with HIV live healthy and productive lives and is cost efficient. Investing in HIV prevention today translates into fewer new infections and less spending on care and treatment in the future.
  • In my state, such programs already have been cut and are greatly needed, because (insert local details or tell personal story).
If you have questions, please contact Donna Crews, Director of Government Affairs at AIDS United, at dcrews@aidsunited.org or (202) 595-4165. Thank you!

This alert is being sent by the AIDS Budget and Appropriations Coalition (ABAC), a working group of the Federal AIDS Policy Partnership (FAPP). ABAC is a coalition of over one hundred national and community-based HIV/AIDS and public health organizations that represent people living with HIV/AIDS, HIV medical provider and researchers, and advocates, as well as community organizations that provide critical HIV related health care and support services. ABAC advocates for increased resources for domestic HIV/AIDS programs across the federal government.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

We can't stop now: Why I'm defending ADAP

Guest post by Michelle Stinson, CNA


I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program and if it wasn’t for people who believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. Now the General Assembly might cut $8M from that program. We can’t let that happen.

I just came back from a retreat where many people were newly diagnosed with HIV, and I was struck by how much they are hurting – not because of stigma, but because of fear. Fear of their diagnosis. Fear of telling others. I have been there. I know what it was like. We were able to rally around those people. We told them “Life is going to be OK.” We told them “You will be able to go on.”

This is my fear – without enough funding for ADAP, how are we going to be able to help people who are newly diagnosed to live? We’re going to have to put them on a wait list.

When you’re dealing with an HIV diagnosis, it can be hard to get up out of the bed, put on a smile, and face life. If you have too many stressors, it makes it so you can’t put that smile on. It makes it harder to lead a healthy life. If you have to worry about where your medications are coming from – that’s big.

And if the state cuts certain kinds of medications out of the program, that’s big too. I know first-hand that when the state cut mental health medications, a lot of people got sick, got scared, hurt other people – but if the meds had just been there, those people would have been OK. It all ties together – mental, emotional, physical. If one piece is missing, it can make your whole life out of balance.

I’m living a healthy, happy life right now. I’m getting off many of my medications because my body is getting stronger. I’m getting healed from the inside out. I’ve got my CNA certification. I’ve been in the same home for seven years now. I voted for the first time last year. At one time, I didn’t think my life was that important. But now I am in the fight. I am not going back. I am here to stay. And I’m not afraid, because I’ve got too many people on my side.

This is not over. If we can get the General Assembly to put even part of that $8 million back in the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, that will be worth fighting for.

Please send a message now. Tell our Representatives and Senators that we need ADAP. 

Make sure that our legislators notice us and know that “no” is not an option.