HIV-related philanthropy to Canada in 2021:
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
HIV-related philanthropy to the United States in 2021:
As a complement to Philanthropic Support to Address HIV and AIDS in 2021, this regional profile provides a new level of data to help inform the advocacy of funders and communities active in the region. Due to the size and complexities of the epidemic in this region, FCAA invited perspectives from both FreeState Justice and the Afiya Center.
At least 32,149 people aged 13+ are living with diagnosed HIV in the state of Maryland, 65% of whom are virally suppressed. The HIV epidemic in the state disproportionately impacts Black communities, as 75% of the diagnosed people living with HIV (PLWH) in Maryland are Black. These numbers do not represent the true scale of the epidemic—at least 11% of all PLWH in Maryland are unaware of their status, and nearly 35% of youth living with HIV (ages 13-24) remain undiagnosed as of 2020. The lack of diagnoses (and therefore lack of viral suppression) among the state’s population of PLWH is exacerbated by the state’s discriminatory criminal penalties for people who transmit HIV.
Maryland Code section 18–601.1 singles out HIV as the only infectious disease specifically named virus in Maryland’s criminal code and imposes a penalty that is five times more expensive and three times as long as the penalties imposed by the general disease transmission statute. This law encourages unscientific and discriminatory enforcement practices. It frustrates public health goals related to HIV because it severely discourages testing, since the legal standard for enforcement requires that an individual “knowingly” transmit the virus. Baltimore City’s Ending the HIV Epidemic plan explicitly states that “removing this law would be a significant positive step for destigmatization of people living with HIV and would go a long way in helping improve prevention and treatment recommendations.”
FreeState Justice (FSJ) is a social justice organization that works to make Maryland a place where everyone, no matter sexual or gender identity, can thrive. Through direct legal services, legislative and policy advocacy, and community engagement, we enable locals across the spectrum of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer identities to be free to live authentically in all communities throughout the state. FSJ is Maryland’s leading advocate for HIV decriminalization. Through FSJ’s advocacy in 2023, HB287 passed out of the Maryland House of Representatives with a 97 to 37 vote, which is the first time a bill decriminalizing HIV has passed either chamber. FSJ leads an HIV coalition comprised of PLWH and advocates, many of whom provided written and oral testimony in Maryland’s capital, Annapolis.
— Fran Hutchins, Executive Director, Equality Federation
The Afiya Center, located in Texas, was founded in response to the absence of programs that would assist the needs of marginalized womxn living in poverty and at risk of high-incidence rates of HIV and AIDS. The term womxn is central to the Afiya Center’s mission, and is an alternative term for the English language word women, meant to explicitly include transgender women and women of color.
While traditional outreach focused on using a condom during sex, the Center’s unique connection with community helped discover that was not a priority for the population of womxn we serve that are most vulnerable for HIV acquisition. It was not that they didn’t care about their general health and well-being; it was more about not focusing on the potential of what might happen in the face of what was actually happening.
The Afiya Center’s work reaches Black womxn, girls, femmes, and transgender and gender-nonconforming people in ways that are organic and traditional to us but innovative in the HIV, public health, and reproductive justice, health, and rights spaces. The Center’s programming uniquely centers the way Black womxn communicate around sensitive issues and creates safe spaces to unite around vital traditional intergenerational American/African American and Black cultural rituals such as crafting, storytelling, music, dance, doing hair, beauty/wellness, self-care, and other modes of self-edification. Through this programming, participants conduct critical self-, peer, and policy advocacy, as well as resource navigation, life coaching, mentoring, research dissemination, and community-centered education.
As one example, Living Out Loud: With a Purpose is a peer-driven, trauma-informed program designed to support Black cisgender and transgender womxn living with HIV. Black womxn deserve to feel safe, seen, and celebrated in our communities, regardless of HIV status. Program participants are community leaders who use storytelling and relational organizing to create a safe environment for their peers and educate their community on HIV and its impact on Black womxn and girls.
— Marsha Jones, Executive Director, The Afiya Center