Dr. Miriam Vega Posdcast Interview with anthropologist Aaron Dabbah

Interviewer:  Welcome to our January podcast.  My name is Aaron Dabbah, anthropologist and blogger, and I’m here with Dr. Miriam Vega of the Latino Commission on AIDS, discussing a publication released this week entitled “The State of Latinos in the Deep South: Being Visible by Piercing the Stigma Veil”.  We all know that Latinos are now the nation’s largest and fastest growing minority group, with a population increasing from 9.5 million in 1970 to over 53 million in 2012, projected to reach 129 million by 2060.  Just as it is a mistake to assume all Latinos are the same, it is a mistake to assume that the lived experience of Latinos is the same across the country.  Dr. Vega has recently conducted an ethnographic assessment of the State of Latinos in the Deep South, highlighting a region that has not often been closely associated with Latinos.  Welcome, Dr. Vega, and please tell us what led to your latest report.

Dr. Vega:  Thank you and greetings to the listeners.  Our last report on Latinos in the Deep South was released in December 2008.  At that time, Latinos were considered an “emerging” population in the South.  Now fast forward five few years later and we’ve had several large events that have put a spotlight on Latinos in the South that we felt necessitated a follow up assessment. Continue reading

The State of Latinos in the Deep South: Trying to Pierce the Stigma Veil

By Miriam Y Vega @miriamyvega

Our news cycle is short, and consequently our attention spans are shorter, thus stories about Latinos in America come and go with the political winds, primarily focusing on immigration or sensationalized crimes that make the dubious discovery that are “White-Hispanics” or debating the relative merits of Hispanic-Americans singing the National Anthem at sporting events.  Occasionally, usually in the month of October (the tail-end of Hispanic Heritage Month), all three story lines intersect.

In 2015, we started January off with a news item that may not get much traction in the press about the House Republicans taking on the dismantling of hard-won “protections” for undocumented immigrants.  Many argue that “illegals” are taking jobs or are here to live off the public system.  Still others, capitalizing on fears of terrorism, actually propose that Latinos pose a security hazard. Continue reading

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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The 49th Anniversary of Medicaid and Medicare

This week marks the 49th Anniversary of Medicaid and Medicare. On July 30th, 1965 President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Medicare Bill into Law at the Harry S. Truman Library in order to improve the state of health care in the United States. Forty-five years later the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, but the hopes for Americans have not changed much since 1965.  Back  then, President Johnson noted,

“No longer will older Americans be denied the healing miracle of modern medicine. No longer will illness crush and destroy the savings that they have so carefully put away over a lifetime so that they might enjoy dignity in their later years. No longer will young families see their own incomes, and their own hopes, eaten away simply because they are carrying out their deep moral obligations to their parents, and to their uncles, and their aunts.”[1]

 Today, after four years of the signage of the Affordable Care Act, we still have American families that are not accessing the medical care they need because of lack of health insurance and the means to do so. The Deep South States are especially impacted as health outcomes continue to worsen and health disparities and poverty continue to increase.  In part this problem continues to exist because there are still states that have not expanded Medicaid.

Increase in Number of People with Insurance if Deep South States Expands Medicaid[2]
States that have not Expanded Medicaid (July 2014) People with Insurance Coverage in 2016
Alabama 235,000
Florida 848,000
Georgia 478,000
Louisiana 265,000
Mississippi 165,000
North Carolina 377,000
South Carolina 198,000
Tennessee 234,000
Texas 1,208,000

 

We must set a goal in order to reach Johnson’s original vision.  It would be so grand for our health system and overall well-being if we were to have Medicaid expanded in the 24 remaining states.  It would be to our collective benefit to cover all 5.7 million Americans who would be eligible for Medicaid but are currently deprived of health care.  I hope that for the 50th Anniversary, we will be celebrating the expansion of Medicaid in our home states in the South.

[1] Lyndon B. Johnson: “Remarks With President Truman at the Signing in Independence of the Medicare Bill.,” July 30, 1965. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=27123.

[2] Excerpts taken from Buettgens M. Kenney GM, and Recht H. “Eligibility for Assistance and Projected Changes in Coverage Under the ACA: Variation Across States.” Washington, DC. Urban Institute, 2014, http://www.urban.org/uploadedpdf/413129-Eligibility-for-Assistance-and-Projected-Changes-in-Coverage-Under-the-ACA-Variation-Across-States.pdf

Written By: Judith Montenegro.