International Transgender Day of Visibility

The International Transgender Day of Visibility (TDOV) is an annual holiday celebrated around the world. This day is dedicated to celebrating the accomplishments of transgender and gender non-conforming people, while raising awareness of the work that is still needed to save trans lives. We were inspired by this great list of 10 Things You Can Do for Transgender Day of Visibility compiled by the Trans Student Education Resources group and wanted to add some Texas specific things you can do to lift up and support trans voices today!

  1. Support a local trans organization! The Texas Transgender Alliance has been working on a statewide resource guide for transgender folks in Texas ( Go to the link to find your local trans organizations, and to find out more about what they do and how you can support them!
  2. Read about the experiences of transgender people in Texas! The 2015 US Transgender Survey is the largest national survey of trans people living in the US. We put together some highlights from the Texas report here.
  3. Learn about transgender people living with HIV in Texas! Transgender people are a priority population in Achieving Together – find out more about transgender Texans living with HIV here.
  4. Learn how community agencies can support transgender people! Go here to find some quick tips on what service providers and other organizations can do to make their programs and agencies better for transgender people
  5. Support transgender people in immigration detention by demanding their release! Especially in light of the rapidly evolving situation around COVID-19, Achieving Together supports the Detention Watch Network’s call to the US government to release all people in immigration detention now. Find out more about this issue here and find out other ways to support transgender immigrants in detention in Texas by following and supporting RAICES, a refugee and immigrant center for education and legal services based out of San Antonio, and  Diversidad Sin Fronteras Texas, a volunteer collective supporting asylum-seeking trans women in detention in Pearsall, TX.

Tell us in the comments what you’re doing to celebrate Transgender Day of Visibility!

Racial Discrimination and HIV

In recognition of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on March 21, we’re highlighting the relationship between racial discrimination and HIV. This year, the United Nations is focusing on a review of the International Decade for People of African Descent undertaken by the Human Rights Council in Geneva. In line with Achieving Together’s mission, we’re focusing specifically on the impact of racial discrimination on health and HIV.

How racial discrimination impacts health & HIV

When we talk about HIV and health issues in general, we must look at them within their specific context. It’s not a surprise that many of the health inequities we see, both across the state and across the country, are among communities of color. Many of those health inequities are fueled by racism and discrimination. Communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by forced segregation and reduced access to resources, including health care and information. These constraints, or lack of access to resources, help drive epidemics.

There is currently a higher incidence of HIV within communities of color, which helps fuel the epidemic.

Percentage of new HIV diagnoses in Texas among people of color in 2018

What we can do as individuals

There are a number of things we can do to address the issue of racial discrimination. The first thing we can do personally is to learn and understand where our privilege is. Being privileged means that you have rights or advantages that not everybody has. Begin to learn what it means to have privilege- whether as a US resident, as a white person, or as a man in our society. We need to learn what it means to have privilege and how it impacts our own decision-making and worldview. We should also learn to understand where our biases are.  Bias means that a person prefers an idea and might not give a different idea an equal chance.  

You can use the Harvard Implicit Association Test to better understand your biases. There is some criticism surrounding this tool because results have been shown to vary depending on when and how many times a person takes the test. However, it is a useful tool for starting a conversation. When we identify our biases, we can become aware of them and understand what role they play in our decision-making and how we interact with the rest of the world.

Another thing we can do is to venture outside of our personal comfort zone. If we become anxious, scared or concerned when we’re around people who are not like ourselves, we have to question why that is and begin to explore it. Going outside of our comfort zone is part of how we learn. We need to open ourselves up to conversations with people who don’t look like us or share the same views as us. Sometimes we surround ourselves with people who don’t look like us, but they share the same views that we do. It’s important to expand that to include people who don’t always share the same views as us as well. We can begin to learn from them and they, in turn, can learn from us. It’s important to continue to have conversations with people with diverse views, even if those views lead to discomfort. It’s so easy to find ourselves in our own echo chambers and we can forget that there are people we live and work with who don’t think the way we do.

What we can do as a community

At a higher level, it’s important that we bring diverse voices into our conversations, not just by hiring one specific person to represent a minority group, but by actively engaging with communities that are going to be affected by policies and decisions that are being made. If we’re looking to create a policy that aims to address homelessness, it is important to have conversations with people who are experiencing homelessness. We need to bring those voices into the discussion so that the decisions which are made don’t have unintended negative impacts on certain communities. Seeking information by holding focus groups with impacted communities, conducting community needs assessments, and including community in decision making will provide a more realistic view before policy decisions are made. This could be at an organization level, at a policy level, or a community level.

When we’re hiring or engaging with people in our community, we sometimes hear people say that race shouldn’t be a factor in decisions that are made. But, it’s important that we do see color because we live in a society that has been shaped by race. A lot of policies and decisions have been made on based on race in the past, and it’s important that we consider that historical context as we move forward.

Achieving Health Equity

The Texas Health Leaders Fellowship is one of the initiatives under Achieving Health Equity. The goal of this fellowship is to help provide leadership opportunities and skills to young black and Latinx gay and bisexual men and transgender individuals across the state because these groups are often under-represented in leadership roles. The fellowship team will work with young, aspiring leaders across the state to provide them with leadership skills, mentorship, and hands-on experience, which will, hopefully, allow them to step into leadership positions in their communities or in organizations in the future.

If you want to learn more:

HIV and COVID 19

As the number of cases of coronavirus increase many in the HIV community are concerned about the specific impact COVID 19 could have on people living with HIV. 

There are a number of excellent sources of information available online but you should be cautious and ensure that any information you read is from a reputable source.

The Body’s article What You Need to Know About the New Coronavirus and HIV features a short video by David Malebranch M.D. in which he summarizes what is known about this new virus, the risks it poses toward people living with HIV, and reiterates the basics on how people can protect themselves from it.

“The higher your T-cell count is, the more your virus is suppressed, the stronger your immune system will be—and then you won’t be exposed, not only to something like COVID-19, but to all other viruses like flu virus, and other kinds of parasites and fungal infections.” Malebranche added that if you are living with HIV and not currently on medication, now might be a good time to seek treatment. – The Body “What You Need to Know About the New Coronavirus and HIV”

CDC recommendations for people living with HIV

  • Ensure ample medication supply – 30 day supply at all times
  • Keep vaccinations up to date
  • Establish a plan for clinical care if you become isolated or in case of quarantine – Telemed options/Physician on-line portals
  • Maintain social networks but do so remotely

Currently the Texas HIV Medication Program (THMP) is working to ensure that people living with HIV in Texas have access to medications to stay healthy.  THMP will be providing early refills and extra medications to people to support people as they prepare for the impact of COVID 19.  THMP will also support people who need access to mail-order medications and who are facing challenges completing program eligibility.  If anyone has questions or needs assistance they are encouraged to contact their local HIV provider agencies and participating THMP pharmacies.  THMP has also created an emergency application to facilitate access to medications. Click here for more information about THMP

The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds

If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol

Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands

Avoid close contact with people

Learn more about COVID 19 and stay up to date with the latest information at CDC Coronavirus Site

National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Data fatigue. Do you have it? In the field of HIV, where numbers drive much of the conversation, it’s all too easy to become numb to figures. Globally, 18.8 million women (over half of the total number of people) live with HIV. Young girls age 10-24 are two times more likely to contract HIV than young boys of similar age.In the U.S., 19% of new diagnoses are women and adolescent girls. Here in Texas, more than half of women living with HIV are Black women.

Continue reading “National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day”