March 30, 2017

HIV is not a crime! (except in 32 states and 72 countries)

By John Barnes, Executive Director, Funders Concerned About AIDS (FCAA)

Even many AIDS advocates and people living with HIV are surprised to learn that HIV IS a crime in 32 US states and 72 countries around the world, with new laws being enacted every year. Since these laws have begun to appear, at the beginning of the epidemic, over 600 prosecutions of people with HIV, more than half of those in the United States.  In fact, just this week the Utah House of Representatives passed HB 369, which, if enacted, will make sexual contact by an HIV+ person without disclosure of status a first-degree felony rape. Many laws attempt to criminalize HIV transmission without regard to whether transmission has occurred, or was even possible.

In the U.S., for example, decades-long prison sentences have been issued to HIV+ people for biting or spitting on police officers, although these acts bear no risk of HIV transmission.  Additionally, HIV+ people who are on treatment and have undetectable viral loads are not infectious to their partners; however, these facts are not considered mitigating circumstances in prosecuting and convicting people with HIV.  Unconfirmed accusations from spurned lovers that their partners did not disclose their HIV status have led to 30-year prison sentences for the accused parties.  Many of the laws used to convict people with HIV of crimes also come with a lifelong label of “sex offender” which adds immeasurable additional stigma.  HIV+ status also adds to the seriousness of many alleged crimes, taking misdemeanors to felonies and adding years to prison sentences. 

Ironically, the only defense against many of these laws is not knowing your HIV status, which provides a huge disincentive to the public health priority of getting people at risk tested. Unfortunately, the problem of HIV criminalization does not receive much attention.  Most people with HIV are unaware of their level of vulnerability to criminal charges, and, due to a lack of funding to address these challenges, combatting HIV criminalization is not high on many advocates agendas.  According to data from Funders Concerned About AIDS, just over $3M was spent to combat HIV criminalization globally in 2015 (down from $4.5M in 2014).  As the largest private funder of HIV de-criminalization, the Elton John AIDS Foundation takes a comprehensive approach to addressing HIV criminalization:  supporting those at increased risk of being victims of punitive policing and improper arrests with direct services, education and legal services; while also supporting advocacy to improve laws, policies, and rights-based practices to transform police and the justice system into forces for health rather than against health.

A key theme in recent HIV-related philanthropy addressing criminalization includes advocacy and capacity building for impacted populations. Efforts by such funders as EJAF, M.A.C AIDS Fund, Ford Foundation, AIDS United, and the Third Wave Fund include: leadership retreats for HIV+ black youth in the Midwest to address HIV/AIDS criminalization and stigma; new partnerships to grow regional advocacy and support for young, black gay men and transgender people of color around key issues of poverty, criminalization and access to healthcare; research and implementation funding to examine disproportionate impact of HIV in the U.S. South with a focus on criminalization and incarceration of marginalized communities.

In an article by Catherine Hanssens of the Center for HIV Law & Policy in New York City, a leading advocate on legal issues involving HIV, Hanssens asserts “Understanding these laws and what drives them requires a brief look at the history not just of HIV-specific criminal laws, but also, more broadly, of infectious disease control in the United States.”  Hanssens then goes on to put HIV criminalization in historic context by pointing out that  “over the centuries and to the present day there have been several reliable common denominators to the policies and laws adopted in response to diseases such as tuberculosis, syphilis, and more recently, HIV: oversized fear, stereotyping of those affected by the disease, and assignment of blame to already-marginalized members of society, e.g., the poor, sex workers, and new immigrants.

Funders Concerned About AIDS is committed to raising visibility around issues of HIV criminalization as well as resources and leadership to combat it. FCAA calls on all who seek to advance justice, to play a role in turning the tide against HIV criminalization. To learn more about our efforts, or to get involved in our work, check out our website at www.fcaaids.org or email me at john@fcaaids.org. 

About FCAA

Founded in 1987, FCAA is the leading voice on philanthropic resources allocated to the global AIDS epidemic. We provide funders with the data necessary to make informed decisions on HIV/AIDS funding. In addition, we galvanize the philanthropic sector to work collaboratively, transparently, and urgently to drive robust, focused, funding for: 1) evidence-based interventions in the treatment and prevention of HIV infection; 2) research, and the exploration of new methods to hasten the end of AIDS; and 3) investments that address social inequities, health disparities, and human rights abuses that fuel the spread the epidemic.

About John Barnes

John Barnes joined FCAA as executive director in November 2009. John began HIV work in 1987, by developing and implementing a statewide HIV/AIDS case management program for the Division of Public Health. He went on to run several local and national AIDS service organizations before moving on to corporate grantmaking.  John served on the board of directors of FCAA from 2005-2009. John also serves on the board of trustees of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.  

July 20, 2021

Transformative change, rooted in place: NFG's July 2021 Newsletter

Can you imagine what New York would look like if private equity funds weren’t evicting low-income renters? What about, if in the Washington, DC area, historically Black neighborhoods were not being gentrified by wealthy white people and behemoth-tech corporations like Amazon? What if, in Southern California, essential workers had the power to set policies that limit the environmental and health & safety impacts of warehousing?

These aren’t just dreams — Black, Indigenous, and people of color-led movements in New York, the DC area, Southern California, and beyond have imbued these visions for racial, gender, economic, and climate justice in their work towards transformative change. And in each place, local grassroots organizers are leading the way to ensure that our communities can thrive — with homes that working families can afford, jobs with livable wages, neighborhoods with clean air and access to water, and genuinely democratic systems.

We at NFG know that in order to achieve transformative and lasting social change, philanthropy must mobilize resources to Black, Indigenous, people of color, and migrant-led movements that are rooted in place. And funders at the national, regional, and local levels all have a role to play. There are no federal, state, Southern, or Midwestern strategies without supporting local action.

Learn and strategize alongside NFG about how your grantmaking can help build power in place:

Keep reading for full descriptions of these events and more resources from your community of co-conspirators at NFG.

Onwards,
The NFG team

read the newsletter

 

Find More By:

News type: 
June 24, 2021

Reflections after my first year as NFG President: NFG's June 2021 Newsletter

I didn't choose my first leadership role — it chose me. As a child who emigrated from Mexico to Detroit with my family, I became my family’s language broker. I learned English the fastest, un-learned my accent the quickest as a survival mechanism, and learned how to navigate the systems for my family. I took this role with pride, resentment, and ambivalence. It wasn’t until I was in my early twenties that I began to understand and unpack this role, to see it as a leadership role that many immigrant children have.

As I’ve navigated my career, it has felt different to choose a leadership role consciously and with agency. In 2019, I chose (after some encouragement from my mentors) to apply for the position of NFG’s leader. I was ready to lead, not follow — the words from my long-time friend and mentor Denice Williams. After three years as NFG’s Vice President of Programs and nine months as interim co-director, May Day 2020 marked my first day as NFG’s President. I was ready to build upon the legacy of this team that had been led by Dennis Quirin for six years, and share my vision for NFG’s next iteration.

My first year as NFG’s leader was a rollercoaster: emotional, isolating, exhausting, a privilege, a gift, a chosen challenge. [For all my other BIPOC first-time Executive Directors and Presidents: I see you, I am with you. You got this. And when you feel like you don’t (or find yourself asking, ‘why did I want this?’), reach out to me. As one of my favorite leaders, Joanne Smith, from Girls for Gender Equity says: “we got us!”]

When I reflect on my first year in this role that coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic, racial justice uprisings, and navigating work & life in wholly new ways, the power of support and the power of space and spaciousness stand out as key lessons.

The power of support and asking for support:
 I have had what should be a nonprofit standard and unfortunately isn’t: a supportive Board of Directors and co-chairs who stayed present as they managed their own work and lives, and who didn’t scale down their involvement after the executive search and transition were completed. I had a board committee that worked with me during my first three months on my 90 day goals, professional development, and support needs. When I was managing a harder process that I felt needed more board support, I asked for it and got it. I also had my leadership coach and a peer coaching circle that kept me grounded and was witness to what I needed.

Launching NFG’s Senior Management Team with Sarita Ahuja, our Vice President of Operations, and Faron McLurkin, our Vice President of Programs, has provided me and NFG with the leadership team that best fits this organization. I have felt the support of NFG’s staff and our network of members by my side. These multiple layers of support got me through the hardest moments, steadied me when I felt out on a limb, encouraged me when I felt imposter syndrome creep in — and have filled what has been an ‘unconventional’ first year as NFG’s President with connection, camaraderie, and community.

The space to practice, think, be: As leaders, our time is in demand. Being a people-pleaser, and someone that was used to managing (and controlling) my own calendar, had me at times over the past year in 7-8 zoom meetings a day. I had little time to think, reflect, or follow up on the action items I named as next steps, let alone eat at regular times.

These pitfalls of being a new leader are all too common. When sharing this with my coach, she challenged me to reflect on what I would need to do to create radical spaciousness. Initially, this felt impossible. But with her challenge (I am an Aries, afterall), I felt an unlock: I hired a virtual assistant and she helped to protect my mornings and time to eat lunch; I found one day a month to have a meeting-free day for reflection and journaling; I began more fiercely resisting urgency and the white supremacist & capitalist notions that keeps us reacting & responding versus thinking & reflecting.

From the technical fixes to the larger adaptive challenges, I continue to commit myself and NFG to practice spaciousness. This spaciousness has helped think, write, and get clear on my priorities — and to become more rooted in the role of President. My body and my son urge me not to rush back to be on the road for 50 percent of my work/life, and to continue to lead with impact and spaciousness. This practice will inform a thoughtful approach for how and when to travel to reconnect with NFG’s staff and members at in-person meetings and convenings. And we at NFG have seen that we can be impactful, experimental, and creative virtually — all while moving money to movements.

The space to dream and reimagine: In our most recent Philanthropy Forward session, which brings together CEOs of foundations in a leadership cohort, we talked about what we would do if we were 10x bolder. I love this question and call as a leader to consider what the world and philanthropy would be like if we were more bold and our wildest dreams came true.

Last week, NFG received the gift of a $3 million unrestricted grant from MacKenzie Scott. This grant allows us to dream and reimagine what it looks like for NFG to be 10x bolder in holding philanthropy accountable to move more money and shift power to Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities, low-income communities and workers, rural communities, queer, trans, and gender non-conforming people, women, and immigrants. What a difference this makes to our work and the spaciousness; what a signal of support to our work and our staff, board, and member leadership.

As I embark on my second year as NFG’s leader, I carry my lessons on support and spaciousness — and I welcome your ideas for a 10x bolder NFG.

NFG is a place for philanthropy to strategize new and more ways to show up for our communities now and in the long-term; a place to move more money to racial, gender, economic, and climate justice; and a place that provides space to find your co-conspirators, draw strength, be nourished, reflect upon and celebrate the wins and work that has been accomplished so far.

What comes to mind when you imagine what it looks like for NFG to be 10x bolder in holding philanthropy accountable? Send me a note, reach out to the NFG team, join a Member Connection Call (the next one is June 29 and then we’ll take a break until September), learn alongside us and share your ideas at our events.

I look forward to continuing to be in community and solidarity with you.

Un abrazote!
Adriana Rocha
President

read the newsletter

 

Find More By:

News type: