(Cross-posted from TargetHIV)
BWF Sites Come Together to Celebrate the Resiliency of Black Women with HIV
To be resilient is to withstand and recover from difficult situations. For Black women with HIV, resilience is often expected but is rarely celebrated. In June 2022, staff from Grady Health System and Positive Impact Health Center (PIHC) collaborated on a community event that they hoped would change that. The event, “Resilient, Black, and Graceful: A Night of a Thousand Words,” brought together 30 Black women from the greater Atlanta, GA area to celebrate and share stories about their lives after being diagnosed.
Grady Health System and PIHC are two of the 12 demonstration sites funded by the HRSA Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program (RWHAP) Part F Special Projects of National Significance (SPNS) Program’s Black Women First Initiative (BWF). The initiative supports the design, implementation, and evaluation of bundled evidence-informed interventions for Black women with HIV. In practice, BWF demonstration sites are using bundled interventions to build communities of care that support and uplift Black women.
“This initiative is about having a place where I can push myself, come out of my shell, and find a safe place.” – Anonymous event attendee
Over the course of the evening, women shared a meal, took professional photographs, and watched a screening of “New Nickels,” a documentary by Iman Shervington. The Documentary features participants from the Institute of Women and Ethnic Studies (IWES) program called Out of the Shadows, another initiative aimed to recognize the impactful role that isolation plays when reaching viral load suppression among Black women with HIV. The women also shared the stories of their lives and were able to see other resilient women like themselves not only on the screen but sitting across the table from them.
Black women in Atlanta – and, no doubt, across the country – want to talk about the effect that HIV has on their lives and share the ways that initiatives like BWF have helped them find and grow their communities.
Safe spaces like this event, which are held outside of the clinic, offer women the room to have an open dialogue about the things that are important to them. Conversations about disclosure, dating, and having children while living with HIV are much safer and more supportive in the context of sisterhood.
Tips for Hosting Your Own Event
Consider what you can do to create forums for women with HIV to meet, network, establish new friendships and professional connections, and celebrate their stories. Event organizers from Grady Health System and PIHC offer these tips:
- When choosing a venue for your event, consider proximity to public transit. Picking a venue that is close to a metro or subway stop, bus stop, or easily accessible by walking will help ensure that everyone who wants to attend is able to.
- Support local Black-owned and other minority-owned businesses. From the venue to party favors, do your best to support the local business community.
- Prioritize safety. Confirm with the venue that they are LGBTQ-friendly and, if necessary, plan for how to ensure the event is safe for all participants.
- Be intentional about including both cisgender and transgender people. Consider the following:
- Provide name tags and/or pronoun pins, and allow for aliases to be used instead of real names.
- Hire presenters who are representative of the community.
- If you need to check IDs, be mindful that people’s names do not always match what is listed on their IDs.
- Check to see if bathrooms are single-occupant or gender neutral.
For Grady Health System and PIHC, putting on “Resilient, Black, and Graceful: A Night of a Thousand Words,” was an important opportunity to connect women from their two BWF programs. They utilized the tips above to create an event that was safe, accessible, and most of all fun. You can use these tips to do the same in your community.
Visit TargetHIV for more about the SPNS Improving Care and Treatment Coordination Black Women with HIV initiative.