Marsha Jones lives in Dallas, TX is co-founder and Executive Director of The Afiya Center HIV Prevention & Sexual Reproductive Justice. Marsha is a professional speaker and she's most proficient in topics around engendering empowerment, self sufficiency, and self-values among women specifically women of color. She's trained in various group and individual level behavioral modification interventions. She's a graduate of the Black AIDS Institute's African American HIV University, Tynsdale Theology School and currently working to obtain her Bachelor's Degree in Psychology. Marsha is very active within the community currently serving as National Secretary Campaign to End AIDS, member of the Dallas Ryan White Planning Council and various committees within council. Drawing on more than 10 years experience in HIV/AIDS arena she organizes and mobilizes communities to advocate to improve address homelessness, poverty and people living with HIV specifically women of color. Marsha's available to aide organizations in increasing their capacity in the following areas cultural diversity, HIV 101, HIV Workplace, Curriculum Development, Behavioral Change, Peer Educator Developing, and group facilitating.
HIV has not been kind to black people in America and for black gay men the story is startling. HIV has been cruel to black gay men and the black community should be enraged about. How can it be that while black gay men represent such a small portion of people in America (1 in 500) but yet one in four new HIV infections will be a black man. By age of 25 one in four black gay men will become HIV infected and by the time a black gay men is at the prime of his life, age 40, he will be HIV positive this is amazing, I am not comfortable with these statistics and there is a need for me to know, as a community, how did we let this happen. Clearly this phenomenon did not happen overnight. The black community should be outraged over this. Every mother, father, sister, aunt, brother, cousin, church body, and or friend should be knocking down the doors of our policy leaders demanding that this must change and we are not going to accept this. For us to openly shout out that this must end would mean acknowledging that black gay men exist. It would mean validating them and not demonizing them and it would mean no more judging and shaming. We are faced with a deciding moment…do we allow are ignorance to prevail while our love ones are dying. We must take a collective stance because this issue is too important to walk away from. This problem is not just going to go away we are going to have to act upon it and act now; I will not stand idoly by and allow this atrocity to continue. HIV will not be what young black men will be looking forward to at a time when they should be celebrating all that they have accomplished. I have decided that it is far more productive for me to celebrate and validate young black gay men in all of their accomplishments not mourn their life to soon cut down.
As this 19th International AIDS Conference draws to an end I ask the question “What will it take to make the world an AIDS free generation?”. We have the tools that is for sure but do we have the will to make it a reality. This week several resounding messages have been very present Pre-Exposure Prophylactics (PREP), Test and Treat, Prioritizing women (for real), and addressing the crisis that MSM especially young black MSM are being faced with. Snuggled in between all the phenomenal research being presented has been the resounding messages of these very important issues. There was a huge amount of presence among black Americans attending and leading this conference. Phill Wilson’s Monday’s opening plenary set the stage for high expectations unapologetically addressing the disparities that continue to exist among black people in the US and other people. There were rallies and marches with thousands of people taking to the streets of DC demanding policy leaders to exert the political will to end this epidemic. Linda Scruggs spoke in mid-week of the conference and she boldly proclaimed that women are not asking or waiting for a seat at the table in any longer…women will be sitting and actively participating at the table. It’s been a great meeting and just the fact that it was held in America again even made it more phenomenal. I want to really visit the idea around and AIDS free generation and what that means to the community that we have been charged to take this information back to. Those of us that were given opportunity to attend this conference have a tremendous responsibility in hand. The real success of this meeting will be shown in how effectively we share this information. I remember twenty-six years ago when I experienced what would lead to my first AIDS related illness and for the next 9 years I witnessed death after death of too many dear friends. All I could do was ask God why…why God why did they have to die such awful deaths. Then 1995 happened and later I would find myself thinking about all my friends and saying “I wish you guys could have just held on a little longer. We didn’t know what was going to happen with HIV and we didn’t know what would be the game changer we only knew if we held on things would change. We have game changers in HIV now and I refuse to look back years from now and say “I wish we could have waited”. I am going to take this information back and disseminate it in a community friendly way based upon facts and data so that we can truly see an end to AIDS.
What does it mean to live in world or live at a time when there has always been HIV/AIDS, and always been prevention messages? Born at a time when talking about using condoms is as common place as dancing or singing. Born during a time when HIV/AIDS social networks and media campaigns are designed with messages speaking just to youth and at a time when HIV/AIDS can even be found in the dictionary. Born at a time that you experience what should be a history that your parents and very close relatives helped to shape. Born doing a time where information is accessible and can travel at the speed of a finger touch. Being born also at a time that by virtue of your race there is a greater likelihood of acquiring an HIV diagnosis than that of any of your other youth counterparts. If you are a black youth and also gay, bi-sexual or a MSM your chances of infection increases exponentially. My question would be how did we; families, communities, and governmental bodies allow this to happen. Just as there should be no more babies born with HIV there should also be no more young people contracting HIV. There has been a systemic failure in policy targeting young people and the failure to include comprehensive sexual education into school curriculums has, in my opinion, been the greatest. While attending the IAC I plan to attend some the sessions addressing new strategies for the development and implementation of interventions specifically targeting youth. With a goal of taking the information back home and sharing it with the communities that I serve and the communities that service youth. It is not acceptable for me to see young people acquiring and possibly dying of a disease that’s totally preventable and that they should only be reading about. There is no reason for this society to see a whole new group of people acquiring HIV/AIDS this can be the last generation of AIDS.
I’m here at the 19th International AIDS Conference 2012 and it is the close of Day 2, but for me and many others as much as Day 4 or 5. Today I will give my blog on HIV/AIDS on HIV and Black Women and there is not a better way to open than by paraphrasing words from Phill Wilson, President and Chairman of The Black AIDS Institute and today’s opening plenary speaker. We are living in some of the best of times for HIV prevention possibly even seeing a cure in our life time but HIV still remains a tale of two cities for women, especially for black women. Many innovative and game changing things are on the arising but are we really prioritizing black women in this game changing world. I sat in on a press conference “From the Shadow – Women, Sex, and Violence: A Report on How Trauma Drives the HIV Epidemic” and the findings were amazing, but something that’s been known for a long time. This is especially true with black women but what seems to not be included in the conversations and findings are the uniquely different scenarios that can attribute to trauma for black women. I’m discovering more and more that while there may be more research and studies involving women there’s still not nearly enough, especially involving American Black Women. In my interactions I am not feeling neither am I seeing the urgency that should be addressed for all communities in ending HIV with women being prioritized if this to be a reality. I must remind you that this is just Day 1 of the conference and I am excitedly anticipating great finding to come from the abstracts and I am expecting that women, especially black women will be greatly represented amongst these findings. The world for women living with HIV/AIDS doesn’t always sound as promising as the world and HIV, especially for black women. There’s still an additional four long days left this writer will reserve some of her perspectives and see what new and innovating things will be presented that’s women centered prevention initiatives.
This week July 22-27, 2012 in Washington, DC the 22nd Annual International AIDS Conference (IAC) will convene and this years theme will be “Turning the Tide Together”. This will be the 19th IAC in the 31 year history of HIV/AIDS but there are several contributing factors that will cause this one to stand out above the rest. This is the first time that the IAC will make an appearance in the United States for the first time in more than 20 years. Not only that but from my view based upon information received this conference will also give opportunity to more American black lead participation in the history of this, the largest, national conference addressing HIV/AIDS. The first two day I along with the Black AIDS Institute’s BTAN and AAHU delegation were priviledged to attend the pre science conference a phenomenal experience. The information received at the conference lead to great excitement and anticipation over what is to be expected in this up and coming week. Sunday July 22, 2012 will be the official opening of this 19th Annual IAC and we will be pleasured with the opportunity to hear Phill Wilson, Founder and CEO of the Black AIDS as the opening speaker. With Phill Wilson and his long, extensive, productive, and game changing contributions to the world of HIV/AIDS, serving as opening speaker the tone has already been set for this conference being one that will go down in history. The opportunity to see history in the making is one that this writer will always cherish but to be apart of history being made is life changing. Stay tuned in as we bring you dates on all the happenings at the 2012 International AIDS Conference the findings from phenomenal research that has been done, that is not without some contriversary, could actually show us the path to ending this epidemic in our life time.