Category Archives: people with AIDS in leadership

Prison Health News: Spring 2013 Issue! (Plus, other recent issues)

You can download it as a pdf for reading by clicking here, or the printable version by clicking here. See the end of this post for helpful printing instructions.

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Plus: Winter 2013 was one of my favorite issues of Prison Health News, with an article by Khalfani Malik Khaldun on how folks in solitary confinement in Indiana survive medical neglect, an interview with Joshua Glenn of the Youth Art and Self-Empowerment Project, a tribute to our mentor John Bell who recently passed away, and several articles on navigating mental health. Download it here. And don’t miss Summer 2012!

Prison Health News is a print newsletter read by about 5,000 people who are locked up in prisons and jails across the United States. It is produced by a Philadelphia-based collective of writers and editors and includes the work of imprisoned artists and writers. Our readers are living inside a system that denies them prevention tools and treatment information about HIV, hepatitis, and other health issues. They are dealing with medical neglect, daily humiliations driven by intense stigma, and the destruction of their communities by mass imprisonment.

Prison Health News is a project of the HIV/AIDS services organization Philadelphia FIGHT. Volunteers answer the many letters to us from people in prisons and jails asking for resources and health information.

To help distribute Prison Health News, contact:

Institute for Community Justice, Philadelphia FIGHT
21 S. 12th Street, 7th Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Office: 215.525.0460
Fax: 215.525.0461

Instructions for printing Prison Health News on your home printer:

1. Download the printable version here.

2. Use Letter size (8 1/2 x 11) paper. Make sure that the printer is not set to reduce, or “scale” the document. On my Mac in Preview, I go under “File” and click on “Page Setup,” then make sure “Scale” is set to 100%. I don’t think it’s much different for other computers and programs.

3. In the printing options, select “Odd pages only.” Press print.

4. Half of the pamphlet will print. After it finishes printing, take the whole pile, flip it over, and insert it back into the printer. It usually has to be flipped over lengthwise, but you might want to make sure by using a test page.

5. In the printing options, select “Even pages only” and press print.

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Filed under African Americans, arts and culture, criminalization of HIV, people with AIDS in leadership, Philadelphia, prison, revolutionary strategies, Southern United States, stigma, Uncategorized

Waheedah Shabazz-El at John Bell’s memorial service, 10/5/12

At the memorial service for AIDS activist and teacher John Bell, Waheedah Shabazz-El speaks about his passionate dedication to ACT UP Philadelphia; fighting for HIV prevention and medications for people around the planet; sharing principles for building a better world; and his work teaching and reaching out to incarcerated people living with HIV.

She also speaks about her own journey, made smoother and enriched by his mentorship: “He gave me hope that day…. He gave me the bridge I needed… to come out of that troubled water. And when I came to the other side, there you all were—this loving community. “

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by | October 6, 2012 · 4:49 pm

We Can End AIDS! Five marches converge for creative action at the White House, July 24, 2012

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by | July 25, 2012 · 8:42 pm

Don’t miss this massive protest July 24th during the Global AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C.

You knew it was coming. It’s been almost 30 years since the International AIDS Conference was in the U.S. — and this year, it will be in the nation’s capital just a few months shy of an election that many see as a referendum on access to healthcare. The worldwide media will be there. AIDS policymakers from all over will be there. And AIDS activists will gather to make as big a splash as we can.

The thing I love about this protest is not just how big and gorgeous it’s going to be — with 5 branches representing unique struggles that make up the AIDS movement — but that it unashamedly tackles the real problems, the complicated mess of profiteering and stigmatizing and controlling human beings that has caused and perpetuated the AIDS crisis. Please go to www.wecanendaids.org immediately to find out how you can get on the bus, meet up with the convergence in D.C., and get more involved. Read the captivating platform here and find contact info for transportation from your city here. For more information about the 5 branches of the protest, click here.

1. Fight Pharma’s Corporate Greed: People over Profits, Health Care and Treatment Access for All.
2. Tax Wall Street: Use a Robin Hood Tax to Fund AIDS Treatment, Prevention and Health Care, Provide Jobs, and Fight Climate Change at Home and Around the World.
3. Promote Sound Policies: Public Policy Based on Science and Human Needs; Lift the Federal Ban on and Fully Fund Syringe Exchange Programs.
4. End the War on Women: Reproductive Justice and End Gender-Based Violence
5. Respect our Human Rights and Promote Harm Reduction: End the War on Drugs and Drug Users; Confront HIV Criminalization, Stigma, Mass Imprisonment and Anti-LGBTQ Violence and Discrimination.

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Filed under African Americans, criminalization of HIV, Drug users' rights, economic justice, gender, harm reduction, people with AIDS in leadership, prison, sexual violence, stigma, treatment access, Uncategorized, Washington, DC, women

Who’s Missing from the Global AIDS Conference?

Every other year, AIDS activists everywhere travel far and wide to attend the International AIDS Conference, pushing for access to HIV prevention and treatment for all. The conference hasn’t been in the U.S. for eons, because back in the 80s, a widely reviled individual named Senator Jesse Helms made sure that anyone living with HIV could not enter the country. Two years ago, the HIV travel ban was lifted, and this year, the conference will be in the U.S — in Washington, DC from July 22 to 27.

But this country is still excluding countless people living with HIV.

When people from other countries apply to enter the U.S., even just to attend a conference, they must answer these 2 questions:

  1. Are you or have you ever been a drug abuser or drug addict?
  2. Are you coming to the United States to engage in prostitution or unlawful commercialized vice or have you been engaged in prostitution or procuring prostitutes within the past 10 years?

If you know how it is that we humans get HIV, you know that drug use and sex work are among the ways. Why talk about fighting a disease without the people who are dealing with it? This policy cuts out a massive number of people around the world who are living with HIV or at risk for HIV, including those working in the field and organizing for an end to this disease, from going to the International AIDS Conference. In response, drug users and sex workers and their allies around the world have set up hivhumanrightsnow.org to educate the world one blog entry at a time. Drug users and people living with HIV in Eastern Europe will have their own conference in Kiev to strategize the fight against AIDS. Sex workers and their allies will meet in Kolkata.

Tune in to @HIVhumanRIGHTS for tweets from sex workers, drug users and their allies about what the world needs to do to fight AIDS, and keep checking the blog at hivhumanrightsnow.org for inspiring updates.

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Filed under criminalization of HIV, Drug users' rights, Europe, harm reduction, immigration/migration, India, people with AIDS in leadership, Russia, sex workers' rights, stigma

Prison Health News: Spring 2011 Issue Available for Download!

The spring issue of Prison Health News has been out for a few months — but it is such a good one, I hate to see it go!

You can download it as a pdf for reading by clicking here, or the printable version by clicking here. See the end of this post for helpful printing instructions.

This issue’s got

  • “Recovery from Injustice”: An Interview with Ronnie Stephens by Suzy Subways
  • Nutrition Behind the Walls: If You Are Stressed, Get Sick, or Have Diabetes by Teresa Sullivan, Laura McTighe, and Kimberly Rogers
  • NO JUSTICE!: When Sex Work Brands You as a “Sex Offender” in New Orleans by Deon Haywood and Laura McTighe
  • Surviving Solitary Confinement by Bro. Tee (Terrance E. White)
  • How HIV Meds Work, Part 1 by AIDS InfoNet

plus, addresses for Advocacy and Support Resources and Informational Resources!

Continue reading

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Filed under African Americans, economic justice, gay and bisexual men, gender, New Orleans, people with AIDS in leadership, prison, sex workers' rights, Southern United States, Uncategorized, women

Why Ideology Matters, and what the AIDS Movement Can Teach the Left about Organizing

Every day I read another depressing news article about how the lame duck Democrats are going to cut off unemployment checks for millions of people right before the holidays and keep Dubya’s tax cuts for the super-rich intact. And sometimes I start to think, OK, maybe this does mean that we should drop our organizing for justice against mass imprisonment and AIDS, and all get together to fight back against this corporate class warfare, something almost everyone in the country could get behind if we all stood together.

But then I think, Wait a minute. How did we get in this situation? How did so many Americans get so screwed up in their thinking that we could allow the government to start dismantling social security and endlessly wage two wars (or three, if you count Pakistan) funded by devastating cuts to our libraries, hospitals, schools, everything that’s left of the New Deal? For us to roll over and take this, we had to be persuaded to blame ourselves for everything bad that happens to us. They started with blaming drug users and people with criminal records, and they really started winning when they blamed “welfare mothers.” Now they can blame the young people for all the violence in our communities, and if the parents don’t want to accept that, the parents can blame themselves and each other. If we can’t find a job, it’s our own fault. Failure and shame.

Blaming the Victim

My dear friend and study group comrade Dana Barnett turned me on to an amazing book called Blaming the Victim by  William Ryan. He wrote it in 1970, but I think it’s even more infuriatingly accurate for our own times. Here’s a bit from page 5: “The miserable health care of the poor is explained away on the grounds that the victim has poor motivation and lacks health information…. The ‘multiproblem’ poor, it is claimed, suffer the psychological effects of impoverishment, the ‘culture of poverty,’ and the deviant value system of the lower classes; consequently, though unwittingly, they cause their own troubles. From such a viewpoint, the obvious fact that poverty is primarily an absence of money is easily overlooked or set aside.”

The rich, the Right, and the liberals started off by blaming the people who can most easily be marginalized, and then they came for the rest of us. This means our best hope to take apart this incredibly successful victim-blaming ideology is to learn from the movements built by the most stigmatized, the people most abandoned and hated and feared by the majority.

Re-Building Ourselves, Building Our Movements

People with AIDS deal with stigma most of us can’t imagine, the kind where your family refuses to share plates or toilet seats, where telling others your health status in prison can get you killed. How do HIV positive people get past the self-blame, too, the sense that you failed because you didn’t insist on a condom, you shared needles, or you were raped? The only way to do this is by building a movement and community based on supporting and believing in each other, encouraging each other to take on new challenges and skills and make changes we never thought possible. In the AIDS movement, a person living under a cardboard box can make a speech in front of City Hall at a rally. In the AIDS community’s support groups, domestic abusers and survivors can find themselves hugging in celebration of their newfound power to overcome and become someone new.

Any strategy to build popular refusal to pay for the corporate elite’s economic crisis has to be rooted in taking apart the ideology of blaming the victim. People cannot believe in themselves and become leaders if they are blaming themselves for their own oppression. And we can’t let ourselves take the short-cut and accept the myth of the “deserving poor,” the people who used to be middle-class and have had the rug pulled out from under them. We have to fight this thing on all fronts – for our rights to housing, education, health care, the return of our loved ones from prison, meaningful jobs, everything – but wherever we do, we have to consciously attack the ideology of blaming the victim, and not let anyone get marginalized out of the movements we are building. Those are the folks we can learn from the most.

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Filed under disaster capitalism, economic justice, people with AIDS in leadership, prison, revolutionary strategies, stigma, Uncategorized

Che Gossett on AIDS activist Kiyoshi Kuromiya’s legacy and the intersections between all movements for liberation

At Movements For Change, an event in honor of Kiyoshi Kuromiya on June 10th in Philadelphia, student activist Che Gossett incited a room of sleep-deprived AIDS activists to shouts and tears, reminding us why we are doing this work and inspiring us toward new ways of doing it. The event was hosted by longtime activist Chris Bartlett at the Church of St. Luke and The Epiphany, where ACT UP Philadelphia meets each Monday night at 6pm, and strategized for the future while remembering Kiyoshi, a beloved member of ACT UP who died 10 years ago.

“Kiyoshi believed in intersectionality long before that was a term people used,” Chris said in his opening remarks. “He brought what he learned from the Civil Rights, Gay Liberation and other movements to all of the work he did, and wherever people struggled for human rights and dignity, he was there.”

Che generously shared the text of their talk with us here. Enjoy!


“The white middle-class outlook of the earlier [homophile] groups, which thought that everything in America would be fine if people only treated homosexuals better, wasn’t what we were all about…We wanted to stand with the poor, with women, with people of color, with the antiwar people, to bring the whole corrupt thing down.”[1] Kiyoshi Kuromiya

This quote, especially the call to stand with the poor, women, people of color, anti-war people and for a radical alternative is what, in my understanding, animated Kiyoshi’s life. To me, it represents the core of his legacy and stands as an imperative for discussions of the future.

My talk is supposed to be about the future of gay rights, but how do we talk about a future that, as defined by homo-normative groups and political formations like the HRC [Human Rights Campaign], neither centers nor sometimes even includes those categories Kiyoshi mentions — women (trans and non trans), the poor and people of color?   How can we hold a mirror up to a future in which we are not reflected?   How is it that we, as queer and transgender people of color are evacuated and disappeared from a future we helped to create?

The Lawrence v. Texas legal decision that struck down sodomy laws has been heralded by gay rights groups, yet it is haunted by the racial violence of its past — the legal basis for the police invasion of Lawrence’s apartment was not “consensual sodomy,” but a false report of a weapons disturbance — the Harris County police dispatcher was called and told, “There’s a nigger going crazy with a gun.”[2] How is it that this racialized past now exists as a sign of a post-racial queer future? In which gay rights are the new civil rights, and the civil rights battles of the 60s have been won?   How did we move from gay and trans liberation to queer neoliberalism?  From gay anti-capitalism to the depoliticized neoliberal gay market niche?  How did we get from the gay anti-imperialism of the Gay Liberation Front, the Philadelphia chapter of which Kiyoshi and Basil O’Brien created in May of 1970[3], to homonationalism — the marriage and military rhetoric — of today?  Why, instead of fighting US imperialism, and standing in solidarity with anti-occupation struggles and against political repression, such as the recent Israeli military attack on the Gaza aid flotillas — are queers rushing to join wars rather than protest police and state violence? Continue reading

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Filed under African Americans, criminalization of HIV, economic justice, gay and bisexual men, harm reduction, housing, imperialism/colonialism, New York City, people with AIDS in leadership, Philadelphia, police repression, prison, revolutionary strategies, Southern United States, stigma, trans and gender non-conforming, Uncategorized, war, women

Prison Health News is up and running again!

Prison Health News is a print newsletter read by thousands of people who are locked up in prisons and jails across the United States. It is produced by a Philadelphia-based collective of writers and editors, most of whom have been in prison and are living with HIV, and includes the work of imprisoned artists and writers. Our readers are living inside a system that denies them prevention tools and treatment information about HIV, hepatitis, and other health issues. They are dealing with medical neglect, daily humiliations driven by intense stigma, and the destruction of their communities by mass imprisonment.

Who We Are…

We are on the outside, but many of us were inside before… and survived it. We are formerly incarcerated people and allies talking about health issues and trying to bring about a positive change for all people who are in prison now or ever have been in the past. This newsletter is about all of us.

We will be talking about health issues. For example, what is good nutrition? Where can you get services and information on the outside? We want to take your health questions seriously and break down complicated health information so that it is understandable.

We’re also here to help you learn how to get better health care within your facility and how to get answers to your health questions. Don’t get frustrated. Be persistent. In prison, it’s often hard to get what you want, but with health information, it doesn’t have to be impossible. Join us in our fight for our right to health care and health information.

Prison Health News is a project of Reaching Out: A Support Group with Action and the Institute for Community Justice, which are based at the HIV/AIDS services organization Philadelphia FIGHT. Volunteers at the AIDS Library (also at FIGHT) answer the many letters to us from people in prisons and jails asking for resources and health information.

Writing/editing collective: Benjamin Green, Che Gossett, Cliff Wms, Hannah Zellman, James, Jeanette Moody, Laura McTighe, Loretta Miles-Melendez, LuQman Abdullah, Najee Gibson, Roy Hayes, Sara Alvarez, Samuel Withers III, Suzy Subways, Teresa Sullivan, and Waheedah Shabazz-El.

The Summer 2010 issue will be available online in a few days (early June!) on the Institute for Community Justice website, where you can also read back issues, subscribe, and find out how to submit articles. There is also a contact list of organizations around the country that work with us on distribution and to support and advocate for people incarcerated in their cities and states. If you are in Philadelphia and would like to participate in the writing/editing collective, you can contact me at mizsubways (at) gmail.com.

To help distribute Prison Health News, contact:

Institute for Community Justice
21 S. 12th Street, 7th Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Office: 215.525.0460
Fax: 215.525.0461

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Filed under African Americans, people with AIDS in leadership, Philadelphia, prison, stigma, trans and gender non-conforming, treatment access, Uncategorized, women

New York City’s HASA For ALL Campaign: Advocating for Homeless People With and At Risk for HIV

A Model Campaign for Activists Around the Country

—Suzy Subways

Twenty years ago, when 30,000 people with AIDS were at risk of dying homeless on the streets of New York City, AIDS housing activism was born. “In 1988, activists took over the Human Resources Administration Commissioner’s office [in New York City] to demand they honor an injunction to take a plaintiff living with AIDS out of a shelter and put them into single-room occupancy housing,” Charles King, cofounder and CEO of Housing Works, explains. In 1990, Housing Works grew out of ACT UP/New York to provide housing, job training and other services while organizing homeless people with AIDS to fight for their rights and survival.

The Campaign

Now, a coalition of activist groups led by the New York City AIDS Housing Network (NYCAHN), Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), and Housing Works – the HASA For ALL campaign – is fighting to expand the city’s unique guarantee of rental assistance, a nutritional allowance, and transportation for people living with AIDS to all low-income New Yorkers living with HIV.

The HASA For ALL battle began in 2006, when activists successfully pressured the city’s health department to release data on the health of homeless adults. AIDS was the primary cause of death for women in the shelters and the second leading cause of death for men, accounting for 11 percent of all shelter deaths. But people with AIDS weren’t supposed to be in the shelters. A 1998 lawsuit brought by activists guaranteed medically appropriate, same-day emergency housing assistance to homeless people with an AIDS diagnosis through the city’s HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA).

About 700 AIDS activists demonstrate in support of HASA For ALL at New York’s City Hall, September 25, 2007 (photo courtesy of Housing Works).

According to Sean Barry, co-director of NYCAHN, the problem is that “people who didn’t have an AIDS diagnosis and didn’t qualify for HASA because of that are dying because the bad conditions in the shelters worsen their health so quickly – before they can go through the bureaucratic process to get HASA benefits once they do get sick.” Housing Works estimates that 7,000 low-income people living with HIV would benefit from HASA For ALL, including an estimated 800 individuals in the shelter system.

“It took me two years to get on HASA,” Alan Perez, coordinator of the Legislative Action Group at GMHC, says. “I had to stop taking my meds just to get on it. A lot of people are doing something to get sick, especially people who are in the shelter system. They should be in permanent housing.”

The irony that people with HIV who are doing relatively well are making themselves sick just to get needed help is not lost on activists. They developed a cost-benefit analysis revealing that, despite an estimated $68 million per year price tag, HASA For ALL would save the city money in shelter and hospital costs, keeping people with HIV healthy – and preventing as many as 66 new infections each month.

Assisting People With and Without HIV

The idea is a sort of “prevention for positives” approach, but activists appreciate that HIV negative community members need permanent housing as well to protect themselves from HIV and the many other hazards of being homeless. Young trans and gender non-conforming people, as well as men who have sex with men (MSMs), are especially vulnerable, explains Johnny Guaylupo, intake outreach coordinator at Housing Works. Continue reading

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Filed under African Americans, displacement and gentrification, economic justice, housing, Latina/o communities in the United States, New York City, people with AIDS in leadership, Solidarity Project, trans and gender non-conforming, youth