Bridge HIV Commemorates Black History Month and Hosts a Conversation on HIV and Women of Color

 

Throughout February 2014, Bridge HIV joined forces with Bay Area partners on several events in San Francisco to commemorate Black History Month and to share the importance of African American and women of color community engagement in HIV/AIDS prevention and prevention research work.

We joined a candlelight vigil on February 7th from City Hall to the Quaker Meeting House, which was spearheaded by staff from various agencies, including the Population Health Division of San Francisco’s Department of Public Health, San Francisco AIDS Foundation, Alliance Health Project, the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF), and San Francisco State University (SFSU).

The vigil, held annually for National Black HV/AIDS Awareness Day, concluded with a community event at which Bridge HIV staff shared reflections on the 2014 theme “I Am My Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper”. Additional commentary on HIV/AIDS awareness and challenges touched on various nationally and locally relevant topics, most notably stigma, institutional discrimination, lack of political will and health care access. Regarding the latter, some raised concerns about the roll out and implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the risks of it being unequally implemented in certain states, particularly in geographic areas with high concentrations of people of color, such as the South. Towards the end, one participant reminded the audience that everyone was there for an awareness day and not a celebration—and that lack of awareness about the continued magnitude of the epidemic leads to real consequences and shorter lifespans.

A couple weeks later, Bridge HIV participated in Generations 2014: Black LGBT History Experiences on February 21st. Approximately 30 organizations descended upon the stunning, African American Art and Culture Complex (AAACC) to share diverse expressions of performing and visual art, provide HIV/STI testing and HIV prevention information, and honor generations of living legends and historic visionaries in the Black LGBT community. Click here for more information about the annual event.

Finally, at the end of the month, Bridge HIV hosted a revealing, “Brown Bag” conversation on February 27th on HIV and women of color. In the United States, HIV education and prevention for women of color is crucial as the conversion rates are rising at an alarming rate. And, with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s 2012 approval of PrEP (Truvada) as a “once a day pill that reduces HIV transmission risk,” a biomedical intervention is now part of the equation—one that may or may not offer solutions to the myriad of vulnerabilities transgender and non-trans women of color face in the context of their sexual health.

The Brown Bag was designed as a safe space-oriented conversation for community members, service providers, and researchers on the impact of biomedical advances, access and barriers to accessing PrEP, and structural and interpersonal drivers to HIV acquisition. We framed the dialogue around both cisgender and transgender women’s experiences of risk assessment, perceived risks, and the invisibility of women of color in discussions involving PrEP.

Our two keynote speakers, Dr. Judith Auerbach and Dr. Jae Sevelius of UCSF Center for AIDS Prevention Studies (CAPS), were joined by a diverse panel of women who were able to both personally and professionally share their PrEP related perspectives and experiences as well as insights into parallel experiences that transgender and cisgendered women face in the HIV epidemic. Panelists included Jasmine McKay (Public Health Institute), Vanessa Warri (LYRIC), Shannon Weber (UCSF), and Deawodi Ladzepko (Bridge HIV).

Dr. Auerbach addressed HIV risk environments and ecological drivers as social detriments in understanding and conceptualizing cofactors that place women “in-risk” versus “at-risk” for HIV transmission. Dr. Sevelius addressed the need for stronger PrEP efficacy trials that feature a larger representation of transgender women (or specifically for transgender women), in addition to addressing the disadvantages of the inclusion of trans women under the Behavioral Risk Population “MSM-TRANS” umbrella. The panel of women also addressed condom negotiation, sexual network sharing and the importance of culturally competent and appealing messaging from providers.

Click here to listen to audio from the event.

As we experience new frontiers in HIV prevention, Bridge HIV remains committed to continuing to create spaces for researchers and community to exchange knowledge and participate in transformative conversations that bridge differences and empower traditionally excluded communities.

To learn more about the work we do visit us at BridgeHIV.org, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.