Monday, 10 March 2014

National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is a national campaign to raise awareness about HIV and its impact on women and girls. It is observed on 10 March and Farmworker Justice is proud to work with our Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative (AAALI) partners, ASPIRA and National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) to promote this important day.

Women and girls have been impacted by HIV/AIDS since the beginning of the epidemic. Women’s and girls’ risk of HIV is often overlooked, although approximately 25% of those infected with HIV in the United States are women. Black and Latina women are disproportionately affected compared to women of other races/ethnicities. By the end of 2010, Black women accounted for 64% of all estimated new HIV infections among women and Latina women accounted for an estimated 15%. [Source: Office of Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services]

The theme of NWGHAAD is “Share Knowledge. Take Action.” This year we decided to connect with organizations and people and hear from them. We partnered with our Latina AAALI partners ASPIRA and NHCOA, and collected a series of thoughts and reactions on HIV/AIDS and its impact on women and girls from our staff, partner AAALI organizations, organizations we work with nationally and in the field, constituents, and individuals. The thoughts ranged from a few words to page long reactions, poems, and memories. From the words of each submission we created a word cloud image of a hand, and then used each hand to create a larger image of a tree to symbolize courage and strength, life and growth.

The responses we got were truly moving. Some women talked about when they first learned about HIV or when they first experienced the death of someone close to them due to HIV. Others admitted to not really even thinking about women and HIV at all. Before being asked to reflect, they had not realized that women have different risks than men do and that some women may have a harder time protecting themselves from HIV or taking care of themselves if already infected. Some people sent words, powerful words, that came to mind when they thought about HIV and women: fear, exposed, voiceless, orphans, rape, mothers. We received responses in English, Spanish, and even Mixteco. Thoughts came from farmworkers, farmworker organizations, health centers, youth, older adults, national organizations, and organization Presidents and CEOs. To see the word clouds and read the individual messages, please visit our Facebook page.

What we learned is that we need to talk about women, girls, and HIV/AIDS more often and with more people. We need to encourage more women and girls to get tested, help HIV positive women find the care and treatment they need, and work to reduce the stigma that surrounds HIV/AIDS in our communities.

Farmworker Justice is a proud partner of the Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative (AAALI) and is working to raise the HIV knowledge, awareness, and action in farmworker and Latino communities. We encourage all our partners, supporters, and friends to “share knowledge and take action” today, on National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, and every day.

by Kattrina Merlo
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Friday, 28 February 2014

February is National Condom Month. Created to bring greater awareness to the effectiveness of condoms in preventing sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV, National Condom Month presents an opportunity for organizations to highlight and advance their condom promotion and distribution activities. As we near the end of the month, Farmworker Justice urges communities to continue to promote condom usage as an effective HIV prevention method.

Studies suggest that condom adherence tends to be low among rural Latinos, due to poverty, cultural norms that don’t encourage condoms use, limited access to healthcare services, low literacy, and language barriers. For optimal adherence to condoms, condoms have to be available without restrictions in rural Latino areas, and individuals must feel self-confident enough to use them.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages partners, to pursue a High-Impact Prevention (HIP) approach. One of the principle HIP strategies that has been proven effective is Condom Distribution as a structural level intervention.  

In order to align our HIV prevention efforts with HIP, the Poder Sano team is finalizing a training module on condom distribution as a community-wide intervention for HIV prevention. This new module will be incorporated into our existing curriculum, Training Promotores de Salud in HIV Prevention in Rural Latino Communities: A Train-the-Trainer Curriculum. The new module equips promotores de salud with the necessary skills to plan, implement and evaluate a community-wide condom distribution project. Promotores will assess the availability, accessibility and acceptability of condoms in their communities and then develop activities that respond to gaps in these three areas.  

Another innovative way Farmworker Justice is trying to change attitudes and cultural norms related to condom use is through a customizable Spanish-language Public Service Announcement (PSA), titled Mejor Cuidate (Better Take Care of Yourself). This Spanish-language PSA which is set up as a conversation between peers, encourages and normalizes condom use for young Latino men. A customizable tagline allows for tailored information to be recorded by local organizations that air the PSA. 

We encourage you to advance condom distribution in your communities by ensuring that condoms are more available, accessible, and acceptable. By doing so, we can reduce the spread of HIV.

If you are interested in obtaining the condom distribution module for promotores de salud and/or Mejor Cuidate, our PSA promoting condom use among Latino youth, please contact

by Valentina Stackl
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Friday, 07 February 2014

February is Black History Month and today, 7 February is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD). In light of these events, Farmworker Justice would like to bring attention to the Black and African American farmworkers who harvest our crops on a daily basis. When people think of farmworkers, they most often think of Mexicans or Latinos. And while the majority of farmworkers are indeed Mexican, a small percentage of farmworkers are Black or African American. As most of us in the farmworker community have come to realize, up-to-date data on farmworkers is difficult to come by. However, the National Agricultural Worker Survey from 2001-2002 found that 4% of those interviewed self-identified as Black or African American (out of 6,472 workers interviewed). More recent data from the US State Department shows that in 2012 the government issued 65,345 H-2A visas to foreign workers and 1,135 were from an African country and 58 were from Haiti (the only Caribbean country that had H-2A workers). Although Black/African American farmworkers are a small percentage of the larger farmworker population, they do make up a larger portion in certain regions like Florida or other eastern states.

Unfortunately, neither US nor foreign-born Black/African American farmworkers have escaped mistreatment and abuse at the hands of their employers. Before sugar cane was mechanized, many Jamaican farmworkers came over to work in the sugar cane fields and were often cheated out of wages or gravely mistreated (see “In the Kingdom of Big Sugar” by Marie Brenner). More recently Farmworker Justice and Florida Legal Services reached a settlement in a case against a Florida potato farmer that was charged with labor trafficking violations for employing homeless, drug-addicted men from the streets of Jacksonville, FL. The majority of workers in this case were African American.

When we talk about HIV and farmworkers, we also tend to supplement the scarce farmworker data available with data on HIV among Latinos. However, on National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, Farmworker Justice would like to shine a light on the HIV/AIDS rates in the Black/African American community in the United States as a reminder that not all farmworkers are Latino. A study done over 20 years ago in 1988 found a very high HIV/AIDS rate among farmworkers in Belle Glade, FL. This is one of the few studies done on HIV in the farmworker community where the majority of participants were Black/African American. However, it is impossible to make any assumptions about current rates of HIV in Black/African American farmworkers based on a study done over two decades ago in the early years of the HIV epidemic.

However, we do know that African Americans are the racial/ethnic group most affected by HIV/AIDS in the United States. African Americans represent approximately 12% of the US populations but account for almost 44% of all new HIV infections. The CDC reports that 1 in 16 African American men and 1 in 32 African American women will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime. There are many reasons why African Americans are at such high risk of HIV infection including poverty, discrimination, stigma, limited access to high-quality health care, homelessness, fear, lack of education on HIV/AIDS, and negative perceptions of HIV testing, to name a few. All of these reasons are also issues that farmworkers deal with on a daily basis too.

So, what can we do?

The theme for this year’s NBHAAD is “I Am My Brother’s/Sister’s Keeper: Fight HIV/AIDS” which means that we all need to be part of the solution to the HIV epidemic. Being part of the solution means getting tested for HIV regularly, getting educated on HIV/AIDS, becoming involved by raising awareness and fighting stigma, and getting treated if you are HIV positive.

For more information:
“In the Kingdom of Big Sugar” by Marie Brenner
Farmworker Justice Press Release: Florida Potato Grower Charged With Labor Trafficking Agrees to Settlement Agreement with Farmworkers Comes After Accusations that Grower and Contractor Preyed on Vulnerable Homeless Men
Castro KG, et al. Transmission of HIV in Belle-Glade, Florida - Lessons for Other Communities in the United-States. Science 239(4836):193-197, 1988.
HIV Among African Americans Fact Sheet
National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

by Jessica Felix-Romero
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