My PrEP Plea!

It is exciting that we are on the brink of a new era – the advent of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to reduce the risk of getting HIV. At the moment, PrEP is on the uptake in certain communities, and there are many efforts to make it widely available. But I have a concern.

Youth under the age of 18 need parental consent/consent of legal guardian to access PrEP in New York State. This is problematic and presents a barrier. Youth under the age of 18 may be the ones MOST at risk and that could benefit most from PrEP in their toolbox for making informed sexual and reproductive health (SRH) choices for themselves, as they may have limited to no access to relationships with adult guardians for a variety of complicated and often traumatic reasons.

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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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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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Who we are, how people see us?

The 4th of July weekend was a great time to disconnect from the routine, spend time with myself and hang out with good friends. What a better way than having brunch in the morning and drinks at night. For a foreign person who is living by himself in another country and away from his family, friends become family. This means they know all the good and bad in my life.

While we were having drinks, we started talking about deeper topics such as personal experiences in life. One of my friends talked about a terrible experience he had on a date where he felt emotionally attacked by a guy who had bad overall impression of him, based on personal characteristics; what were those characteristics? Living in Chelsea, being in shape and caring about fashion. Based on these three elements, the guy told him (in a funny way) that he was a “Chelsea Boy”. My friends immediately asked him what that was. The guy defined this as a shallow, cocky and promiscuous person. But that wasn’t the first time that he had to hear that from people on dates. Continue reading

Where are We Headed? IAC 2014 theme of the day.

As the International AIDS Conference wraps up in Melbourne, Australia we are asked to ponder “Where are we headed?” Our CBA Specialists shine some light on where they believe the HIV field is moving henceforth… Use the comments section below to let us know where YOU think the HIV/AIDS field is going to!

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