What PrEP means for me?

I remember how much I had to adjust myself in order to succeed in a tough city such as New York when I came to the US three years ago. It wasn’t easy. But after so much hard work, sacrifices, and sadness over being so far away from my family and people I love, I must say that it was really worth it!!!

I have always believed that everything happens for a reason. I spent five years studying very hard to get my Bachelor Degree in Human Resources and then four years working in the field; both in my home country Venezuela. The first months I spent in New York, I was constantly fighting a lack of motivation because I felt I was never going to get a job in my field.
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A year and a half later, I got the wonderful opportunity to start working at the Latino Commission on AIDS in the Research and Evaluation department. I must confess that I was so scared because this was a brand new thing for me. I never imagined using statistical analysis software, interpreting data, or networking with important people in the health field and also learning so much about behavioral interventions, capacity-building assistance, advocacy, and HIV testing.

Last year, I heard the word “PrEP” and terms such as “are you PrEPared?” and “#TruvadaWhore” for the first time.   As a person working in the health field, specifically data and research, I had to learn about all of this in order to be updated in my new field. But I didn’t consider the chance of using PrEP myself, because I was scared of possible side effects and also giving a bad impression to the people I would potentially date.
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A haiku for the end of AIDS

In honor of our upcoming Congressional briefing to commemorate National Latino AIDS Awareness Day, here is a haiku (or really a tanka) to visualize that end of AIDS.
A world without AIDS
Hopeful we are for that day
Can not rest , just yet
Activism and science, both
Interconnected they are
Miriam Y. Vega, PhD

 

We are still in the midst of an HIV epidemic and we must not forget this: bring the ice bucket on

We are still in the midst of an HIV epidemic and we must not forget this: bring the ice bucket on

Growing up in the South Bronx I saw many individuals impacted by HIV/AIDS, although I was a bit young to understand that. However, it stayed in my consciousness and in my social justice vein. In college, HIV  was not a major concern for the overall population. However, it was still forefront on my personal advocacy front.

There was a time of increased HIV activism by the public at large and then that grand spotlight on HIV was a bit dimmed. Nowadays we are talking about reaching a worked without AIDS. However, by most scientist and politician accounts this can be achieved by 2030. Thus, lately while there is an urgency to get to zero new infections, we are still in the midst of an HIV epidemic. We must not forget this.

In the beginning of the epidemic, as a country, we were trying to grapple with the disease. In trying to grapple with the emerging epidemic back then we knew we needed more research and a stronger response. We have gotten there in terms of scaling up interventions and resources. However, while  the number of cases are evening there is also a change in the number of new infections and the key populations being impacted. One may argue more and more that HIV does discriminate. Those at social margins, who lack ready access to care are indeed being impacted. We must not forget about the marginalized.

Do we need an ice bucket challenge to give us a cold wake up call that HIV is still with us?  Who wants to take a cold splash to reach a world without AIDS?

Post by Miriam Y. Vega, PhD;  @miriamyvega

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Taking it to the streets and virtual highways: For we cannot be contained

 

Taking it to the streets and virtual highways

 

Professor Kirby from Australia loudly noted several times during a session at the International AIDS Conference that it was “time to get real.”   It is time to press forward and hold politicians, legislative bodies and fellow community members accountable to the tenets of human rights and health equity.

 

Today I presented on our Twitter research showcasing the double-edged sword of the twitterverse. It may very well decrease overt acts of stigmatization but it also allows a substantial space (that is used) to be angry at those very vulnerable populations that need our support if we are to reach a world without AIDS. Twitter can damp down stigmatization and it can also heighten stigma’s reach.   Hashtag activism is huge and can have real-world consequences such as Arab Spring yet it can lead to a lot of noise about a subject with no substantial real-world impact such as the #bringbackourgirls twitter campaign.   Just this very morning a new twitter campaign was begun called #bringthemhome to urge that the bodies of those that died on the downed Malaysian flight be brought back home.   This is the equivalent to “taking it to the virtual highway”. Continue reading

The meaning of community and saying “No More to Exclusion”

The meaning of community and saying “No More to Exclusion”

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No more to exclusion, bigotry and AIDS; a phrase running through the city streets and consciousness of Melbourne. Today in Melbourne the Global MSM Forum Summit was held as part of the precursor activities of the International AIDS Conference. It was held at the beautiful and majestic Town Hall giving an extra weight of solemnity to the proceedings.  For it was a packed house that sadly had a few slated speakers that died on Malaysian plane brought down over Ukraine.  The sessions thus began with a heavy heart and a minute of silence.

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