World AIDS Day: A Time of Hope & Remembrance

Tyler TerMeer
Executive Director

World AIDS Day is upon us again.  For me, World AIDS Day has always been a time of reflection and remembrance. A time for me to remember those individuals lost along this journey and to reflect on the ways in which HIV has changed the course of my life.

However, this World AIDS Day feels different. This year has felt a bit like we have been under siege.  We have been bombarded with efforts to deprive people of healthcare and attacks on programs that people living with HIV have come to depend. We have felt the tide of racism, xenophobia and misogyny rising. And it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the negativity and fear.

That’s why on this World AIDS Day I am focusing on the ways in which my own life has been enriched. For nearly 14 years I have been living with HIV. As a 34-year-old, gay, HIV positive man of color, I have faced my share of stigma and fear. But I’ve also come to understand the tremendous courage, strength, and compassion that many people have shown in the face of this disease. Personally, becoming positive was a transformation for which I will always be profoundly grateful as it gave me a perspective that was bigger than myself. It catapulted me from a career in the arts to working in HIV policy and activism and it gave me the opportunity to work with and for people most impacted by the epidemic. 

So, this morning, I am thinking of how we can build on our progress and reimagine a new path forward to end the epidemic. We have traveled a long way from the dark beginnings of this disease and have come so far in the fight. The rate of new infections is decreasing and we are diagnosing people earlier. We have a pill, commonly known as PrEP, that when taken consistently can help prevent HIV infection.  Once diagnosed and connected to care, people living with HIV can lead long and vibrant lives. And science now confirms that individuals living with HIV who have an undetectable viral load are no longer able to transmit the virus to others.

In short, there is much to be joyful about even as we grapple with the challenges of our time. As Dr. Maya Angelou famously said “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”

As we celebrate and remember on this World AIDS Day, we must take her words to heart. We will encounter these challenges, learn how to rise from them, and come out of this stronger together.

Sincerely, Tyler

CAP Reaffirms Commitment To Equity By Creating New Equity Outreach Coordinator Position

CAP is proud to announce that it has created a new position of Equity Outreach Coordinator to address barriers faced by refugees, people of color, people living in rural areas, and others in obtaining the housing resources available for people living with HIV. In addition to direct outreach to high barrier communities, this position will also help inform CAP’s efforts to design programs for improved equity outcomes across the community. The Equity Outreach Coordinator position will report directly to CAP’s Director of Housing & Support Services.

Tyler TerMeer, Executive Director

“This important new position will work to address the very real disparities faced by some of the most vulnerable members of our community,” said Executive Director Tyler TerMeer, “The data we have collect over the past year supports our understanding of the barriers confronting people of color attempting to access housing and other services which often result in longer wait times and lower program participation. There are a lot of factors contributing to this inequity, including higher rates of criminal conviction and eviction history that makes it harder for people in communities of color to access housing. All of which means that CAP needs to work hard to overcome these barriers and achieve parity with white clients.”

“We know that HIV-related stigma is so high in some communities that significant numbers of people who know they are positive are going without treatment and services” said Angie Harbin, CAP’s Director of Housing & Support Services, “We also know that a lot of people, for a variety of reasons, face obstacles to accessing CAP’s services through our existing processes. And, finally, our numbers tell us that we need to be doing more to address the disparities in outcomes among certain groups of people. This position is intended to address these issues.”

The position will be funded with dollars from CAP’s federal Ryan White Housing contract that is anticipated to last a minimum of 5 years.

Download the full press release here: Equity Coordinator Press Release

Stigma & Employment Discrimination

A mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person. “the stigma of mental disorder”.  Synonyms: shame, disgrace, dishonor, ignominy, opprobrium, humiliation, (bad)

For the folks in Bridges to Work, CAP’s Employment Program, dealing with employment-related stigma is a reality. It is no new fact that both trans individuals and those living with HIV/AIDS are fighting an uphill battle with every step in the journey towards employment. As The Center for HIV Law and Policy writes, “HIV-related stigma is among the most formidable obstacles for people living with HIV and their advocates… it creates very real obstacles for people with HIV in obtaining treatment, housing, education, and employment, all of which are essential to their health.” HIV-related stigma works against individuals looking to increase their confidence, engage or re-engage in the workforce, and improve wellbeing.

Bridges to work

For folks who are transgender, research proves an equally difficult struggle against stigma. A study published by the Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, Vol 1(2), June 2014, 146-158, states “Stigma toward transgender individuals (i.e., transphobia) poses significant barriers to employment and other areas of functioning. Transgender individuals with a history of mental health concerns may encounter double stigma.” The National Transgender Discrimination Study, published by The National LGBTQ Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality reports that 90% of trans individuals have experienced harassment or discrimination on the job. Even more so, in the Positively Trans study of 2016, trans and gender nonconforming people living with HIV in the US stated employment discrimination as the second of their top 5 health concerns, only behind HIV-related discrimination.

I have the privilege of working with individuals who have seen the underbelly of our culture and continue to experience work-related discrimination based on their HIV status and/or their gender. Each week in Job Club, we support each other through the hard parts of looking for a job and encourage each other for the week ahead.

The American Psychological Association defines resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors.” The individuals, who I have the honor of working with daily, are quintessentially resilient. They are endlessly inspiring and brave in the face of employment-related stigma and discrimination. Bridges to Work is invested in the act of working with individuals towards their goal of employment. The statistics are reminders that our work is not done, in fact it has just begun.

By Effie Stansbery