“The main reason we started was that when Rock Hudson2 went public with its AIDS diagnosis in 1985, there was very little, if any, information about the impact of the burgeoning epidemic on the lives of women. And for some reason that announcement caught the attention or interest of women, ”Diallo said in an interview with The American Journal of Managed Care® (AJMC®). “And the local AIDS aid organization, which until then had mostly only looked after gay and bisexual men, had no idea what to say to these panicked women who wanted to know whether this illness or the experience they were having was actually was AIDS. “.”

Hudson died in October 1985, less than 3 months after his diagnosis was announced. 2

By 1989, 100,000 AIDS cases had been reported in the United States and an estimated 400,000 cases worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, 3 and the United States had only reported their first 5 cases in 1981.4

In the subsequent period from 1985 to 1989, several events occurred that highlighted the tough fight against the HIV / AIDS epidemic, particularly in the south, explained Diallo.

The Democratic National Convention was held in Atlanta in 1988, 5 coinciding with the protests against abortion led by Randall Terry6, and then-President Ronald Reagan continued to emphasize strict adherence to the Helms and Hyde Amendments of 1973 and 1976. and Helms limited federal funds to abortion-performing organizations, 7 and Hyde banned the use of federal funds for abortion and related services.8 At the time, many also saw that Reagan and his administration did not fully recognize the severity of the new epidemic. 9

“There would be absolutely no federal funding to do HIV prevention work for us because we [the Feminist Women’s Health Center] Abortions performed, and that was the main source of funding for HIV or AIDS prevention at the time. So it was a financial burden to do AIDS work, ”said Diallo. “It really didn’t look good for their support for AIDS because it wasn’t relevant to them. But it was relevant to most of the women we served who were young and black and tan. “

Diallo, who is also President of SisterLove and a member of the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power (better known as ACT UP) 10, took this relevance to heart and gladly accepted the challenge of fighting for the sexual health of women. “So I said, ‘Okay, someone has to do that,’ and we did.”

In the 32 years since then, while maintaining its core focus on HIV and sexually transmitted infections, SisterLove Inc’s services have expanded to include sexual reproductive rights and justice, and the sexual reproductive health and wellbeing of women. Public relations, commitment and immersion have shaped the uninterrupted work and committed employees from the start.

This concerted effort – the main ways of contacting them are health fairs, local symposia / conferences, advocacy and leadership of activists, and the provision of services, testing, and advice – not to stigmatize the people they serve has led many to choose SisterLoves praising non-clinical feeling and that it does not examine the lives of its customers.

“One of the things we adopted early on is ‘We are, whom we serve,’” Diallo said. “We have to start with our own communities and treat the whole person, not just their HIV issue.”

SisterLove’s Healthy Love Party, which gives priority to black women and women of African descent, is a big part of this inclusive message as it focuses on three main components: setting a tone of affirmation through conversation, teaching facts about HIV and sexually transmitted infections through exercise, and Promote safe sex by normalizing conversations about sex, sexuality, and sexual health. This interactive basic work, which is carried out in a session through a home visit, meets participants and participants “on their own territory”.

“It’s very sex positive,” Diallo told AJMC®. “And it also informs people in a way that it’s convenient to get that information. The Healthy Love Party was, is and probably always will be a cornerstone of how we get deep into the community. “

The desire for these community-forged and community-based efforts to be more widely available to the public health system in general, “since some of the interventions are developed by academics, not with a community for or by a community but for research” stressed Diallo, the “Healthy Love” program was not only rigorously evaluated internally, but also carried out in cooperation with the CDC.

From May 2006 to April 2008 a 2-phase study was carried out examining behavioral interventions based on the experiences of 2 cohorts: 161 women received the Healthy Love Workshop intervention (the study group) and 152 women received an HIV / AIDS 101 workshop. After 3 and 6 month follow-ups, the study group was more likely to report condom use with a primary or male partner at both points. In addition, those in the study group were more likely to report having been tested for HIV and knowing their results after 6 months

“In the end, we got approval status from the CDC and in their compendium of interventions that work because we used people’s social networks to reinforce the message,” Diallo said. “This is how we get to the people: using social networks in a way not normally used in group-level interventions.”

It is well known that HIV had a disproportionate impact in the United States, where as recently as 2019 20% of states accounted for 65% of new diagnoses in adults and adolescents. The south accounted for more than 50% of new diagnoses13, down slightly from 52% in 2015, but highlights that new cases are still concentrated in this geographic area.14

Specifically, based on the rate of new diagnoses per 100,000 residents for 2019, 9 of the top 10 areas were in the south (8 states plus the District of Columbia), with Nevada being the only state from a different region (the west) that year. with 19.8 diagnoses. For the states / areas to the south, the District of Columbia had the highest total at 42.2, followed by Georgia at 27.6; Florida, 23.7; Louisiana, 22.8; Mississippi, 2-19; Texas, 18.2; Maryland, 18.0; South Carolina, 15.6; and Alabama, 5/15/13

At the city level, the three largest metropolitan areas by HIV diagnosis concentration in 2019 were also in the south: Miami and Orlando, Florida and Atlanta. 13

This is a fight that Diallo and SisterLove Inc took up long ago when they first fought to get women of color included in social and clinical deliberations about HIV and AIDS – especially diagnosis – before taking their approach to impact the epidemic extended to sexual reproductive health and rights, human rights and research, both in the United States and on the African continent.

“Women were and still are a little more than half of the world’s pandemic,” Diallo told AJMC®. “Black women, particularly in the United States, reflect the representation and burden of the HIV epidemic that pan-African women represent to the world. You will not reach the end of the HIV epidemic if you think you can get there without women, without black women, without women of African descent. “

It has always been about building bridges and sharing what we’ve learned and what we can learn from it, she concluded. “We are passionate innovators”

References

1. 1980s HIV / AIDS timeline. American Psychological Association. May 2017. Retrieved August 12, 2021. https://www.apa.org/pi/aids/youth/eighties-timeline

2. A&E television networks. Rock Hudson announces that he has AIDS. Story. November 13, 2009. Updated July 22, 2021. Accessed August 12, 2021. https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/rock-hudson-announces-he-has-aids

3. Overview of the history of HIV and AIDS. Turn away. Updated October 10, 2019. Retrieved August 12, 2021. https://www.avert.org/professionals/history-hiv-aids/overview

4. Gottlieb MS, Schanker HM, Fan PT, Saxon A, Weisman JD, Pozalski I. Pneumocystis pneumonia – Los Angeles. MMWR Morb Motral Wkly Rep. 1981; 30 (21): 250-252.

5. Denery J. 10 Things to Know About the 1988 Atlanta Democratic Congress. The Atlanta Journal Constitution. July 15, 2016. Accessed August 12, 2021. https://www.ajc.com/news/state–regional-govt–politics/things-know-about-the-1988-democratic-convention-atlanta/ Fwu1gJod8JNtHgIwDnPfJM /

6. Wilkinson F. The Gospel According to Randall Terry. Rolling Stone. October 5, 1989. Accessed August 12, 2021. https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-news/the-gospel-according-to-randall-terry-47951/

7. Population Planning and Health Programs, 22 US Code § 2151b. Retrieved August 12, 2021. https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/22/2151b

8. Hyde Amendment Codification Act – p.142 (2013-2014). Accessed August 12, 2021. https://www.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/senate-bill/142

9. Lopez G. The Reagan Administration’s Incredible Response to the HIV / AIDS Epidemic. Vox. December 1, 2016. Retrieved August 12, 2021. https://www.vox.com/2015/12/1/9828348/ronald-reagan-hiv-aids

10. ACT ON. Accessed August 12, 2021. https://actupny.com/

11th workshop for healthy love. Sibling love. Accessed August 16, 2021. https://www.sisterlove.org/women-program-healthy-workshop

12. Evaluation of the Health Love Workshop, an HIV prevention measure for African American women. NCT00362375. Updated May 14, 2010. Accessed August 16, 2021. https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00362375

13. The HIV / AIDS Epidemic in the United States: The Basics. Kaiser Family Foundation. June 7, 2021. Accessed August 18, 2021. https://www.kff.org/hivaids/fact-sheet/the-hivaids-epidemic-in-the-united-states-the-basics/