Recently, the U.S. has survived three devastating hurricanes, with people in the South (primarily Texas, Louisiana, and Florida) most impacted. That’s the same region with the highest rates of new HIV cases. As thousands in those states lost homes, I was reminded of the spirit of generosity that happens during emergencies, the ability to cross political boundaries to help each other.
It also underscores the great vulnerability of people living with HIV, for whom even a short treatment interruption can be dangerous. As Irma hit Florida and the Caribbean, I was at NMAC’s U.S. Conference on AIDS with numerous people from those regions who had nowhere to go as the conference ended and no idea how their homes (and sometimes families) had weathered the storm.
That’s when NMAC, AIDS United, and Gilead all stepped up to help them. Gilead gave $1 million gift to HIV capacity building organizations that were impacted by both Hurricane Harvey (in Texas and Louisiana) and Irma. AIDS United is administering the fund. Meanwhile, in the Caribbean, where islands were devastated Alturi teamed with The Rustin Fund for Global Equality, which links U.S. based foundations and people to help LGBTI people in low and middle income countries (that “I” is for intersex, by the way) to get funds to the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (which works with Caribbean populations who are especially vulnerable to HIV).
Charlie Rounds, program director of Mossier Social Action & Innovation Center, tells us that CVC’s work is crucial for gay and bi men and trans people in the area, because fundamentalist religious groups often blame natural disasters on queer and trans folks (just like in the 2008 Haiti earthquake) and they can be denied food and water because their households don’t include cisgender females or children. Marginalized people become even more vulnerable during disasters so it’s on those of us who can help to do so. Here’s info: Alturi.org/Rebuild_Caribbean. And please tell anyone who’ll listen about your own needs so they are addressed. As we head into the holidays, let’s remember we are all one people and are responsible for each other.