A Final Word From Tia

Did you know that African Americans have been estimated to have 44% of all new HIV infections? Men in general have been estimated to have 70% of all new infections. For some reason, these numbers did not surprise me – they instead made me think of questions such as: why is the black community at higher risk of getting infected? Is it based on our history?

The first day I arrived to BLC, Morrigan, the program director, sat me down in a room with paper, packets, and articles on HIV. She wanted to make sure I understood and was familiar with HIV and how it is impacting our community. A lot of the articles I read were survey based and showed the same conclusions.

African American male youth age 13 -24 was estimated to have over 5000 new HIV infections, the highest amount on the bar graph in the article I read. Hispanic / Latino and white males followed behind them with about 2,000 new infections, less than half of an African American male. Then came the woman; although African American females had only one forth new infections compared to an African American man, when compared to females of other races their number was about five times more.

The fact that African Americans are leading with the highest new HIV infection relates back to history because HIV is not the only thing that affects people of color. They have to deal with things such as: high rates of poverty, stereotypes, and lack of access to resources. African Americans have been on the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder for years, starting with slavery. That was a time when they were not only dehumanized but had to step up and prove their worth. Racism and negative stereotypes arose and have followed them for centuries. Also for some people of color trying to access resources for HIV can be problematic, especially if they are either homeless, ashamed of their sexuality, or uneducated on the virus.

After reading the articles those thoughts were my take aways; however, I wonder what others’ initial thoughts were as well. Why do you think African Americans are leading with the highest new HIV infection rate? Is it based on history ? How can the community and organizations such at the BLC contribute? These are questions we need to answer and discuss in order to bring awareness and help lower the HIV infection rate for people of color.

 

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Tia’s at the BLC: Part 1

Tia's pic    Hello, my name is Tia Murray. I am a highschool senior at a small charter school, Codman Academy. My school requires every student to complete two internships, one as a junior and the other as a senior. They believe it is important for students to go out and take on real jobs in order for them to learn how to be responsible. Also, as college is the next step in our lives, these internships give us an insight on what it would be like to join specific fields.

My mom inspired me and was the key factor in why I want to join a field such as social work. When I was younger, I struggled to cope with how little I saw her. As a single mother of three she was constantly working in order to provide us with everything we needed. She made no excuse, we were her priority. As a senior in high school, and still to this day, it amazes me how she was able to not only support us but have the time to give back. When we took family trips back to my birthplace, Jamaica, my mom always brought  barrels with her. Inside of these containers was cooking oil, rice, clothes, etc. She would then share it with the people who lived in our community on the island. My mom never forgot about where she came from. Even though she did not have a lot of money, she knew there were families who struggled more than ours.

I am at Boston Living Center shadowing Morrigan because I want to see what it feels like to be a social worker. I want to be able to take part in activities such as yoga and art in order to get to know the members more. I believe everyone one has a story and a purpose and it would be a pleasure to be able to build relationships within this community so that I can learn more. An experience like this will never be forgotten, it is a step in building my future.

I have only been here for three days but I have learned so much. The first day was more informational. I read articles on HIV and was introduced to the staff. The second day I felt like a businesswoman, traveling from one location to another for meetings. I really appreciated having the opportunity to sit in on these discussions. The first group was representatives from different organizations coming together in order to discuss what they have been doing and different ways to get the youth more involved in the fight against HIV. My second meeting took place at Boston Living Center with the members from CAB (community advisory board). Apart from their humorous personalities, I was intrigued by their rigorous ideas on how to improve the program. The third day was more hands on than any other day because I was in the kitchen. I learned how to cut different vegetables and then was able to serve the food. During this time I conversed with the kitchen staff and volunteers where I got to know them on a more personal level.

Though I am only in my first week, I already feel some sort of acceptance and bond from the BLC community. I am excited and honored to continue to participate in activities and meetings in order to better understand this organization and its purpose.

ALL THAT “JAZZZ”

This post was written by our BSW Intern, Anita Peete

“Not to fear it. Try to understand it. Accept that it is among us. The best way to fight it is to come together.”

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While here at the Boston Living Center, one of my main goals is to get to know members on a collective level; but even more on a personal basis. In order to fulfill this goal I sat down with a member of the Living Center named Jazzz. It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to get to know Mr. Jazzz, with an extra “Z”!

Jazzz is originally from Lewiston, Maine. He lived there until the age of 19. Jazzz has been a member of the Boston Living Center for the past 4 years. Although at first he wasn’t interested in coming to the Center, even after knowing so much about it; he came to the realization that it was “difficult to maintain the day to day routine.” He needed the support of those who fully understood what it means to live with this virus. No one understood what he was going through, so he came to the Center in order “to be in touch with the community. Those who were living with HIV.” Other ways that Jazzz works to maintain his life on a daily basis is through various hobbies. His hobbies include writing poetry and short stories, painting, being a member of the acting group. He also loves traveling, especially international travel. He has been to 5 different continents in his lifetime. He even had the opportunity to study in Mexico.

Just like the music, there are many levels to the person that is Jazzz. I discovered that he recently retired from teaching in the Boston Public Schools after teaching for 27 years. He taught everything from general education to Bilingual education. Yes! Bilingual education! Jazzz is fluent in Spanish! His best advice when learning Spanish is that you go to a Spanish speaking country and immerse yourself in the culture to learn the language.

Jazzz is a very vibrant and well-rounded individual. It was a pure joy to be able to sit down and get to know the wonderful soul that is Jazzz, with an extra “Z”! In closing, I asked Jazzz what he wants the world to know about HIV and those who live with it. His response was “Not to fear it. Try to understand it. Accept that it is among us. The best way to fight it is to come together.” Americans as a society has been known to come together in order to fight injustices, so it is important that we continue our fight against HIV, so that we can get to zero! It is because of the brave men and women, Like Jazzz, who share their stories that others are able to start to tear down the walls of stigma.