16 July 2009

Ms. Foundation and National Women and AIDS Collective Submit Recommendations to Office of National AIDS Policy

This month, fourteen U.S. organizations working on issues related to human rights, women and HIV/AIDS, including the Ms. Foundation for Women and the National Women and AIDS Collective (NWAC), a project housed at the Ms. Foundation, submitted a series of policy recommendations to guide the Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) and related agencies in their efforts to achieve better outcomes for women living with and affected by HIV.

Since 1996, the Ms. Foundation has been supporting HIV positive women at the grassroots level to advocate for policies that address their unique and often unment needs. Desiree Flores, Ms. Foundation Program Officer, says, "These advocates have done crucial work in their communities, and we're especially proud of the role they are now playing in bringing these local experiences to bear on policy advocacy at the national level. As they often say, 'If you want to end AIDS now, ask a woman how.'"

Let's hope this administration is all ears.

The policy recommendations are part of a newly released report, Critical Issues for Women and HIV: Health Policy and the Development of a National AIDS Strategy [pdf], which calls attention to the factors contributing to disproportionate rates of HIV among low-income women and women of color, as well as poor health outcomes for women living with HIV, and proposes concrete solutions that integrate prevention and delivery of care. The group identified six key areas of focus for better policy and practices:

  • Meaningful involvement by HIV-positive women in development of policy and monitoring and evaluation of programs;

  • Greater consideration of HIV-positive people’s civil and human rights;

  • Health disparities in the U.S. South and rural areas;

  • Health care access;

  • Integration of sexual and reproductive health services with HIV testing, prevention and care; and

  • HIV prevention.

“Involving the expertise of HIV-positive people and those working on the frontlines of service delivery is critical to improve prevention and care outcomes for communities impacted by HIV. We must use a human rights framework as we reform health policy and develop a National AIDS Strategy that will truly reduce HIV incidence and increase access to care for women,” said Naina Khanna, a member of the NWAC leadership team and recipient of a 2009 Ms. Foundation Woman of Vision Award. Naina Khanna is Coordinator of the U.S. Positive Women's Network and Director of Policy and Community Organizing at Women Organized to Respond to Life-threatening Disease (WORLD), a Ms. Foundation grantee.

In addition to the Ms. Foundation and NWAC, the report signers include several current and former Ms. Foundation grantees: African Services Committee, New York, NY; HIV Law Project, New York, NY; Sisterhood Mobilized for AIDS/HIV Research and Treatment (SMART), New York, NY; the U.S. Positive Women's Network, a project of WORLD, Oakland, CA; and The Women's Collective, Washington, DC.

Representatives from the fourteen organizations plan to meet with Jeff Crowley, Director of ONAP, and other key White House officials in the upcoming months to discuss their recommendations and the development of a national AIDS strategy. In fact, NWAC representatives have already had initial meetings with Mr. Crowley to provide him with concrete, tangible recommendations for including women as a priority population for outreach.

Download Critical Issues for Women and HIV: Health Policy and the Development of a National AIDS Strategy [pdf]

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