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2013 New York City Mayoral Forum sponsored by GMHC
Tuesday, 03 September 2013 00:13

The Gay Men’s Health Crisis Center (GMHC) is the longest standing AIDS organization in New York.  The GMHC hosted a 2013 New York City Mayoral Forum on HIV/AIDS that proved to be lively, interesting, and very informative on HIV/AIDS issues in New York City but also on the views of the mayoral candidates.  Some of the facts read in the introduction were just staggering: 78% of new HIV cases are among the African-American and Latino populations. HIV services and education funding has been cut by 4.2 million so far and there are proposed cuts of over 10 million for the fiscal year of 2013.  During the forum, the candidates discusses key issues such as the Ryan White Act and funding, opportunity costs, statutes passed by the NYC HIV Services Administration, and issues of rent cap.  The growing problem of HIV/AIDS in the adolescent population and the older generations were also discussed. The GMHC provided these results in the following document: http://www.gmhc.org/files/editor/file/2013_MayoralCandidateSurveyResults_full.pdf

 

Check it out! HIV/AIDS is definitely a hot topic among the mayoral candidates.

 
Collaborations and Condom Distributions!
Friday, 23 August 2013 15:53

 

One of the first things that I wanted to do was to really target adolescents to help me volunteer as a part of my team. The reason for this is that young people in the age of 13-24 are disproportionately being diagnosed with HIV. Young African-Americans accounted for 65% of these new HIV diagnoses in the age ranges of 13-24 and young men who have sex with men (MSM) accounted for 27% of the new cases (CDC 2011). I collaborated with the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health (AAIUH) to recruit two rising high school junior students to join my volunteer team. Kenyetta Smith and Joshua Germain were two Health Science Academy interns who were participating in the Brooklyn Health Disparities(BHDC) Summer Internship Program  in collaboration with AAIUH. These interns would be working on a research project to address a health issue and also collaborate with a community-based organization (CBO). Kenyetta and Joshua’s research question was: Are communities of color aware of HIV transmission methods? As a part of their internship, I supervised the students and introduced them to AACAA.  As a team, we participated in street outreach in Brooklyn to distribute condoms ., distribute surveys, and to educate communities of color about HIV/AIDS. We learned a lot from doing this (Please read Kenyetta and Joshua’s blogs to hear from them and also see their research poster).

 

Personally, I learned about the power of collaborations and engaging in direct outreach. What better way to learn about a problem than to actively hit the streets and talk to communities which may be affected? The AAIUH and BHDC engage in great community engagement efforts to raise awareness to various public issues. Their goals are very much similar to the goals of the AACAA.  There is power in numbers.  From our street outreach efforts, I understood the power of gender when relaying important information; particularly when talking about HIV transmission methods through unprotected sex.  Men were more apt to talk to me and Kenyetta about sex and HIV transmission methods. Joshua had a harder time, but we saw that women were more apt to speak to him. This was something I did not put much thought into before our street outreach, but I immediately noticed the impact once we started condom distributions.  Also, there was a common myth that the NYC brand of condoms (in comparison to the Trojan/Magnum brands) were inferior and simply “not as good” according to many people. We also heard that the condoms “easily break” and “will get you pregnant”.  This led me to see firsthand the power of word of mouth and how a rumor could spread and easily influence many communities about something. People would refuse to take the NYC condoms and want to take other brands. This led my team to really discuss ways we could be more effective in educating people about the condoms. Truth be told: they are all made by the same manufacturer and are essentially the same condom but just with different sizing and brands! We sought to do more research on this and also make recommendations to the local and state governments about this, as it directly impacts people’s willingness to engage in safe sex practices.

 
Joshua Germain: High School AACAA Intern's Perspective
Friday, 23 August 2013 14:23

I learned many things while participating in the Health Disparities Program in SUNY Downstate Hospital and interning for the African American Coalition Against AIDS.  I learned about different health disparities in NYC and across the country.  I learned about different community based organizations (such as the AACAA) that promote public health and awareness throughout New York City. These organizations are able to use what they have and spring into action to be successful in helping different communities to be safe and healthy.  In addition, I learned more about cultural competence and necessary skills to complete an in-depth research on an important public health issue, which is HIV/AIDS.

Moreover, I learned different things in the field while asking people to complete our surveys for a research project.  I learned to always be polite and have a positive attitude when talking and asking people to complete a survey and also to never get mad or discouraged when someone refuses to complete a survey.  In the field, I learned more about how a team works and how each person on the team works together to reach a common goal.  On one occasion, I felt discouraged when a lot of people I asked refused to complete our survey but when I sought help from my partner, Kenyetta, and my supervisor, Ms. Ese, I was able to receive the motivation and confidence in myself that I needed to help me keep moving and asking people to complete our surveys.  Fortunately, in the end, my team collected 46 surveys on the first trip in the field.

While still participating in the Health Disparities Program, not only did I learn different skills in research that will benefit me in the future, but I also learned different things about myself and how I could make myself a better person than I am today.  I learned  how to be culturally competent and how to show respect for one’s culture.   In my opinion, with all that I learned so far in the Health Disparities Program and interning with the AACAA,  I  feel more confident in myself to go out in the world and teach people what I learned so I can make a difference.

 
Kenyetta Smith: High School AACAA Intern's Perspective
Friday, 23 August 2013 14:19

I must say that you find out that the world has more characteristics to it when you actually venture out into it than what you hear from your parents. Interacting with people and watching different actions is much  more interesting than what you hear.For the first time, my partner and I went out to administer surveys in areas surrounding SUNY Downstate Medical Center and Kings County Hospital. For the majority of the time, we observed older men and women, kids with their mothers, and a few young adults. I discovered that gender is very important. In the beginning, Joshua had some trouble administering the surveys,but as soon as I got out onto the streets I was able to collect 2-3 surveys at a time.  I found out that people don’t want to stop because they think  you are trying to sell them anything, and some people just don’t want to listen to what you have to say.  Some people were very interested in the cause. A challenge in trying to administer the survey was the input of other people on the streets. When Ms.Ese, Joshua, and I were standing in front of Downstate, there were almost about 10 black older men who were cab drivers, and they were making it hard to give out the NYC condoms. They were screaming out NYC condoms weren’t good and they break easily. This affected our distribution of the condoms because no one wanted to take the condoms, and I realized that the cab drivers opinions are one way that the rumors of certain brand of condoms are spread.  This could lead to other rumors. I also noticed that some people were actually willing to tell me that they had either HIV or AIDS.

I noticed that a few men didn’t want to take the survey just because they were married and they didn’t want to listen to my explanation. They would just keep telling me that “we are men married for 35 years and don’t need condoms and things like that.” What we can do better the next time we go out to administer surveys and distribute condoms is find a better strategy for getting rid of the NYC condoms. We will  try to ensure that we have a great rebuttal to possible negative responses. My overall experience giving out the surveys and condoms was exciting because I’ve never done anything like this before.  It was enjoyable. The hardest thing overall is trying to promote AACAA to adolescents because some listen and some don’t.  Over the past few days, I learned that everything is a process. It takes hard work, and in our case we have no time to waste.


 
Educating and Empowering Communities on HIV/AIDS
Friday, 23 August 2013 13:52

My name is Ese Oghenejobo, and I am the NY Summer 2013 AACAA Fellow. Currently, I am a doctoral student at the University at Albany (SUNY) in the department of public health with a concentration in Health Policy and Management. It was an honor and privilege to work with the African American Coalition Against AIDS (AACAA) to actively address HIV and simultaneously empower communities to be proactive in addressing a very important public health concern, which is HIV/AIDS. Before my fellowship, I was both nervous and excited. From previous experiences, I have seen first hand the misconceptions, fears, stigma, and overall curiosity about HIV. I have found that people have many questions and are scared to ask them for different reasons. I also have seen different fears from different population groups such as adolescents and older adults. I set out to address some of the issues in different ways in order to reach various communities of color and also to really see what work has to be done in order for all community-based organizations interested in fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic. It is one thing to work behind the scenes to address policy issues related to HIV, but it is also another experience to actively be in the field to really see what are the problems when trying to promote awareness around this issue. My targeted proposal goals were threefold: to conduct informative and interactive HIV/AIDS education sessions in communities, to distribute condoms and promote safe sex practices, and to create partnerships who are empowered to aid in the fight against HIV/AIDS.  There is a great need to address HIV/AIDS in New York. I, along with volunteers, used the grassroots approach by the AACAA to actively get involved in educating and empowering communities on HIV/AIDS.  I had no idea what I would face in the field, but in the field, I learned about the great knowledge that is already in our communities and the many questions that still remain. I spoke with numerous organizations who also share the same common goals as the AACAA which is to slow the rising rates of HIV infection and ultimately eliminate them. I also saw the many myths surrounding HIV and various forms of condoms. I laughed a lot with the people and have many great stories to share from our various events. It has been an insightful, rewarding, and challenging experience. I will share some of these stories with you along the way. Overall, this experience emphasized the importance of the work that this organization does. It also let me know that I have chosen the right career, which is public health. I am committed to serving my community and society at large in more ways than ever.

 
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