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N Street Village dives deep into HIV

“Statistics are less compelling than human lives.” 
Lisa Biagotti, Director of deepsou+h

The global epidemic of HIV overshadows the prevalence of the virus in America, particularly in the South. As much as we like to think HIV is “under control” in the United States that is far from the truth. Instead, we hide it, deny it, shame it, and ignore it. AIDS activism is historic, but the movement did not reach all the marginalized and vulnerable populations. The South has a unique culture, bares the imprint of slavery, and is poverty-stricken. HIV and AIDS in the South are not new problems. The difference is the recent media attention on the South’s epidemic.

deepsou+h is an unparalleled documentary about the rural American South that includes four mini-stories: an animated map that correlates slavery to poverty to HIV, the sermon of a Baptist pastor, the long drive of a rural social worker, and the sex education lesson of a health teacher. The film is not about black people with HIV or the “new face” of HIV/AIDS. Instead, it looks past the numbers and tells stories about the experience of what it is like to be affected by HIV.

deepsou+h is a lesson in human rights, and how we confine people in our communities. Unless we reduce the stigma and the shame associated with sex and sexuality, HIV will proliferate. Working directly with marginalized populations has taught me that HIV is not really about HIV. HIV is more about social inequity than the virus.

Join us, the N Street Village community, as we attend deepsou+h at the West End Cinema on Wednesday, March 5 at 7 pm. The screening will be followed by a question and answer with the director. We hope you will join us. It is guaranteed to be a powerful and thought-provoking evening.

[vimeo 31893050 w=500 h=281]

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SARAH THAPPABy Sarah Thappa – Sarah is a member of AIDS United’s AmeriCorps National team with the Washington AIDS Partnership and serves as the HIV Health Promotion Specialist at N Street Village. She does HIV education, counseling, outreach, and testing in addition to health promotion classes on various topics. Sarah hails from Northern Illinois and graduated from Carleton College ‘13 with a B.A. in Biology.

Marla Michelle Dreams Big

Marla Michelle YE BannerMarla Michelle was dying from AIDS.

Her T-cell count was down to two. A healthy T-cell count is over 700. A person is considered to have full-blown AIDS with a count of 200.

The HIV virus had weakened her to the point where she had to re-learn how to walk, swallow, and talk. She was in the hospital for over a year. When she was released from the hospital, she had no place to go.  A caseworker referred her to Miriam’s House, a program of N Street Village for women living with HIV. She moved in during July of 2011.

When Marla Michelle first came to N Street Village, all she had was hope. Hope that things could be different. Hope that she could live a healthy life with HIV. Hope that she could get a job and regain her independence. So much in Marla Michelle’s life has changed since she first came to N Street Village. She lives with a community of women who share her experience of living with HIV. She is a community leader, serving as a mentor to women  new to the program. And most recently, she completed an intensive course in cooking and safe food handling, going on to land a coveted internship.

Today, Marla Michelle dreams big because of YOU.

You have been there with her every step of the way – from the first day that she came through our doors to today, as she leaves each morning for her internship.

When you make a year-end gift to N Street Village, you will offer new hope and new life for women like Marla Michelle. Women who are without a home, without a job…for women living with HIV…for women coping with trauma or with mental illness…for women without a safety net. These women are counting on you.

DOUBLE YOUR IMPACT! Make your tax-deductible gift by December 31 and your gift will be matched up to $10,000.

Be Positive You’re Negative: World AIDS Day and Every Day

SARAH THAPPABy Sarah Thappa – Sarah is a member of AIDS United’s AmeriCorps National team with the Washington AIDS Partnership and serves as the HIV Health Promotion Specialist at N Street Village. She does HIV education, counseling, outreach, and testing in addition to health promotion classes on various topics. Sarah hails from Northern Illinois and graduated from Carleton College ‘13 with a B.A. in Biology.

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Let’s kick off this post with a pre-reading quiz… 

Which city has the highest rate of HIV?
a.
Accra, Ghana
b. Dakar, Senegal
c. Washington, D.C.
d. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

The answer is c. Washington, D.C. The highest concentration of HIV in the world is in Sub-Saharan Africa; however, if Washington, D.C. were a country in Africa, it would rank 24/54 for highest HIV prevalence rates. Ten states account for 2/3 of the HIV diagnoses in 2011, and the South accounted for 48% of those diagnoses.

What percentage of a population infected qualifies as an epidemic?
a.
0.5%
b. 1.0%
c. 2.0%
d. 5.0%

The answer is b. 1.0% of a population infected with a disease defines as an epidemic. The District of Columbia has a reported 2.7% HIV infection rate, according to the Department of Health.

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ProcessThis past Sunday, December 1st, 2013 was the 25th celebration of World AIDS Day. N Street Village has marked the day by discussing HIV and AIDS with its staff and clients and by looking at how the disease directly affects our community.  We honored the many friends and family we have lost to the disease over the past decades and celebrated the lives of those living with HIV in our community.

There are currently an estimated 34 million people living with HIV throughout the world and an estimated 1.1 million living with HIV in the United States. Racial and ethnic minorities have been disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS from the very beginning of the epidemic. In Washington, D.C., the population with the greatest prevalence rate is African-American heterosexual women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, African-American women accounted for 64% of new infections among women in 2010.

Homeless women are particularly at risk of contracting HIV disease. They are frequently victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse, which have been linked to increased likelihood of infection.  Homeless women who struggle with addiction may exchange sex for drugs or money, which increases their risk of exposure.

At N Street Village, 11% of the women served report being HIV positive.  The disease continues to push the limits of health care resources available to low-income women in the District. N Street Village is committed to connecting its clients to appropriate medical care by offering primary medical and psychiatric care on-site through Unity Health Care and through partnerships with nearby providers. Additionally, N Street Village combines stable housing with on-site support services, including a day center providing for basic needs, a wellness center with holistic programming, and mental health and addiction services, all of which empower its clients to make healthy life choices.

Today, more people are living with HIV than ever before. HIV is preventable. HIV does not discriminate. I challenge you to join me in looking at how this virus manifests in your life. Who do you know who is living with HIV? Do you know or love someone who has died of an AIDS related illness? What do you do to reduce the stigma and discrimination for those living with HIV?

And most importantly, be positive you’re negative—get tested

Sources for this post include:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Kaiser Family Foundation
Department of Health and Human Services

From N Street Village to Morocco

Skype1

On Saturday, March 23, 2013, two Miriam’s House residents, Michelle Tate and Charlene Kelly, participated in a Skype interview with nearly 60 high school girls in southern Morocco to teach the girls about what life can be like living with HIV.  Emily Zido, current Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco and former N Street Village Residential Program Assistant, and Kristyn Carrillo, Associate Director for Residential Programs at N Street Village, arranged the opportunity.

Ms. Zido wanted to teach the teen girls about women living with HIV because the HIV rate is growing in Morocco due to stigma and lack of awareness. Ms. Zido shared with the residents that a lot of people in Morocco do not get tested for HIV and that there isn’t the same patient treatment there. Sometimes doctors or families will share a woman’s HIV status with the whole community.

Skype2

The girls were able to ask questions in Arabic that were then translated to English. The questions included “How did you discover you had HIV?” “What symptoms do you have of HIV?” “What’s your medical treatment like?” “How did you feel when you first found out?” and “What advice do you have for us since you have had experience as women?”

Both Miriam’s House residents shared feeling devastated after finding out their HIV diagnoses but through medication, support and good things in their lives; they are now proud and happy.

Skype3

Ms. Tate shared that some of her friends are comfortable with her HIV status and others are not but she encourages people to accept all of her or let her be. She encouraged the girls to practice safe sex, because “your life depends on it.”

Ms. Kelly said that the girls should treat people that they find out have HIV the same way they would if they didn’t know their status. She said, “If they’re your friend now, they’ll still be your friend,” and Ms. Tate added, “and give them support.”

The girls gave the Miriam’s House residents a round of applause and thanks for sharing their experience and advice.
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By Kristyn Carrillo – Kristyn is the Associate Director for Residential Programs and is responsible for overseeing all N Street Village residential programs.  She started her N Street Village career in 2005 as the Manager of Luther Place Night Shelter.  She earned her MSW from University of Maryland-Baltimore, with a specialization in mental health and substance abuse. When not at N Street Village, Kristyn can generally be found trying out new recipes with her family or running.

Photo of the Week

On Wednesday, June 20, Mayor Gray and Department of Health (DOH) officials released the District of Columbia HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD and TB Epidemiology Report 2011 to a full house in N Street Village’s multipurpose room.