|March 10, 2014 marks the ninth annual National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. This year’s theme, “Share Knowledge – Take Action” is truly representative of the National Women and AIDS Collective’s (NWAC) core principles. Founded in 2005, NWAC aligns women-led and serving organizations in sharing our collective knowledge to build capacity and in taking action to ensure the needs of women and girls living with HIV/AIDS are addressed. We work in solidarity to engage in public policy and advocacy, provide capacity building assistance to enable women focused agencies to adapt and thrive, and work in partnership with coalitions to ensure that federal and state agencies charged with overseeing health policy and services move forth with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, National HIV/AIDS Strategy and other important national initiatives in a gender-responsive manner. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge that all of us as individuals and organizations are stretched extremely thin. As leaders we are walking a tight rope trying to balance decreasing organizational budgets due to government funding cuts as well as reductions in foundation and donor giving, while trying to meet the ever increasing needs of the women and families we serve who have been severely impacted by these contentious political and economic times. It is enough to make you throw up both your hands and flee. Yet, you have endured these changes and continue to keep your doors open because you know that you are one of few lifelines in your community.
What do we do under these circumstances?
I am asking you to invest some of your precious time and organizational resources to support the banding together of likeminded organizations whose charge is to provide support, technical assistance and advocacy to and for one another so that we can continue to be vital lifelines in and for our communities. NWAC is one of few national organizations devoted to representing U.S. based women focused HIV and health related organizations. On a daily basis, we impact the lives of tens of thousands of women across a broad spectrum of demographic characteristics such as age, race, ethnicity, and gender and sexual identify as well as social factors such as marital status, income, and education.
Our strength lies in our years of commitment, advocacy and diversity of experience in providing community-informed and evidenced-based services to our constituency. In terms of advocacy, NWAC has been and continues to be in the forefront on the issue of surveillance and women and its impact on services, such as prevention and resource allocations. In terms of service delivery, we work to strengthen the capacity of organizations serving women via our Sisters in Service (SIS) webinar series. Launched in 2013, SIS provided technical assistance in the areas of realignment of the peer workforce, strategic options and positioning in healthcare reform, and creating a gender-responsive continuum of care.
Why are these accomplishments important?
In 2013, President Obama announced the HIV Care Continuum Initiative. As you may be aware the HIV Care Continuum Initiative is designed to accelerate the pace of actions to be taken for achieving the three goals stated in the 2010 White House’s National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS): 1) Reduce new HIV Infections, 2) Increase access to HIV care and treatment, and 3) Reduce HIV-related health disparities. Since the release of the NHAS, the nation has made gains in reducing new HIV infections for certain population groups, including women; however, in order to build upon this progress and see gains in the other two goals, women must continue to have access to effective, innovative gender-specific services. These services include access to women centered services and facilities, trauma-informed care, and services which address the underpinnings of HIV infection – poverty, discrimination and violence against women.
Furthermore, we know that women require an array of facilitative services to help them successfully navigate our complex health care system. Required services include housing, transportation, nutrition, child care and even employment. Who best to provide these services so women have real options and choices in how they will live their lives and care for themselves and/or families?
Unfortunately, cuts and shifts in funding and resources undermine the ability of our organizations to continue to develop, thrive and provide these much needed services for women and their families. Testament to this is the fact that some of our sister organizations have not been able to survive these changes and are no longer with us. Unless we change this scenario, many more organizations devoted to serving women will either curtail their services or close altogether.
We cannot allow this to happen. Join NWAC today.
I close by reminding you that our organizations serve as important lifelines to our communities. Not only do we provide services but we employ community residents, serve as havens for women and we are the gatekeepers to a quality of life that will further diminish if we are not in existence. We must continue and we must thrive.
We can only do so if you take action today. Click here to review NWAC’s membership application and materials. Become part of a model network for participatory leadership and collective action. Join us today!
In solidarity and sisterhood,
Liz Brosnan, Board Chair
National Women and AIDS Collective