Behind the Scene: My Experience at the Commission

Since the beginning of August, I have been interning at the Latino Commission on AIDS. When I first started working at this organization, I did not know what to expect. It was my first time working in an office setting and I was unsure of how the overall experience would be. I have learned a lot from this experience. For example, I learned how to input data using the statistical analysis software, SPSS. Using this program will help me in the long run because a lot of organizations and companies probably use the program for their data. I also learned that there is a oral test that is quick and simple to find out if a person is HIV positive or not.

In this experience I have worked with many people who have taught me a wide range of skills. The tasks I completed included inputting data, scanning newspaper articles and emailing the articles to myself, organizing files and stamping paperwork. While looking through newspaper articles I learned that a patient known as the Berlin Patient was functionally cured of HIV while receiving a stem cell transplant in 2008. I found this one of the most interesting things I have learned while working for the Commission, because it allows me to have hope that people who are living with AIDS will be cured some time in the future.

Overall my experience at the Commission has been amazing. The workers here are all very friendly and hard-working. They have made my time at the Commission fun and interesting. I am glad I took this internship and was able to do something productive with my summer.

Written by Tiara Vega

Behind the Scene: Summer at the Commission

This summer, I was given an opportunity to take part in something that can really change the world. I was able to spend my summer working with the Latino Commission on AIDS. During this time, I helped organize information for the Latino Religious Leadership Program from previous fiscal years and helped prepare for the next fiscal year to come. I got to work with some amazing people for a goal that seems obtainable: to increase awareness of HIV and AIDS to help reach the point where it will, one day, not be around.

I learned some new skills while working here, such as how to work with programs used for data entry, including how SPSS and Microsoft Excel. I learned how to set up SPSS depending on the data I have and how to use the various features to accurately portray what I want it to. I was surprised by how easy it was to learn these new programs. At first sight they seemed really complicated and difficult to understand, but after a short time of actually using them, I got more comfortable. I now feel confident that I can use these programs efficiently and effectively whenever the time may come. I learned skills to help me work in practically any field since all fields have some form of data within them. With this new knowledge I will be one step ahead of everyone else and have a better understanding as the training gets more advanced.

Everyone who worked at the Commission was amazing. They were all friendly and helped out whenever asked. They made my time working here incredible and all the more enjoyable. I had an incredible time helping out and a truly great experience. I am glad to have been given this opportunity to take part in something like this. It was a great experience.

Written by Ramon Torres

Intern from John Jay College

A haiku for the end of AIDS

In honor of our upcoming Congressional briefing to commemorate National Latino AIDS Awareness Day, here is a haiku (or really a tanka) to visualize that end of AIDS.
A world without AIDS
Hopeful we are for that day
Can not rest , just yet
Activism and science, both
Interconnected they are
Miriam Y. Vega, PhD

 

What Keeps Me Up At Night

As an advocate at Woodhull Medical Center for a nonprofit organization that strives to address social determinants of health, I find my work both riveting and frustrating. Each week, I call a number of my clients, most of whom do not speak English, and the others hardly answer the phone to begin with.
How does a public health professional become a catalyst for change and empower those they work with?
I feel like I fail week after week when I do get in touch with my clients and they tell me things like “Oh I did not have time to go an apply for health insurance” or “I do not see the value in going back to school and taking GED classes when I need to work.” How do you convince someone that these social needs are actually essential? It is nearly impossible to create a sense of agency for someone who finds a need like adult education undesirable or inaccessible…but that is why the field of public health captivates me. Each day I try to find unique ways to market to my clients value-value in their own health. It is one thing to exhaustively explain to someone that educational status is in fact a lead indicator for poor health, and it is not always clear to everyone the impact of their routine on their overall quality of life. When clients of mine fear even setting foot into a hospital, you know there needs to be a change.
New York City has an abundance of resources. If there is one city in the United States that can address some facet of health, this would be the place, and though I am going to make a rather broad generalization, I do not believe every organization makes the most of their potential to maximize resources. I should not have to explain to someone living in one borough that they are better off traveling into another borough to receive quality service, or that help with their need does not exist in their specific borough. This goes back to the notion of accessibility and acceptability.  Is it feasible to ask someone to travel for a class or to fill out an application? (I hope you agree with me that the previous question is rhetorical). If the resource landscape in New York City as a whole is so robust that every other major city in the US looks to us to inform their own public health agenda, then why shouldn’t that be the case in each borough? Would overall health increase by providing permanent solutions to address borough-specific social determinants? It is by no means a panacea, and I know I am not the first person to question the system, but it is just some food for thought. My mind continuously wonders about my role in the public health of our community, and so, why not think about your own?
Written by Pilar Mendez
Contact: pmendez@latinoaids.org

 

photo by Miriam Y. Vega

We are still in the midst of an HIV epidemic and we must not forget this: bring the ice bucket on

We are still in the midst of an HIV epidemic and we must not forget this: bring the ice bucket on

Growing up in the South Bronx I saw many individuals impacted by HIV/AIDS, although I was a bit young to understand that. However, it stayed in my consciousness and in my social justice vein. In college, HIV  was not a major concern for the overall population. However, it was still forefront on my personal advocacy front.

There was a time of increased HIV activism by the public at large and then that grand spotlight on HIV was a bit dimmed. Nowadays we are talking about reaching a worked without AIDS. However, by most scientist and politician accounts this can be achieved by 2030. Thus, lately while there is an urgency to get to zero new infections, we are still in the midst of an HIV epidemic. We must not forget this.

In the beginning of the epidemic, as a country, we were trying to grapple with the disease. In trying to grapple with the emerging epidemic back then we knew we needed more research and a stronger response. We have gotten there in terms of scaling up interventions and resources. However, while  the number of cases are evening there is also a change in the number of new infections and the key populations being impacted. One may argue more and more that HIV does discriminate. Those at social margins, who lack ready access to care are indeed being impacted. We must not forget about the marginalized.

Do we need an ice bucket challenge to give us a cold wake up call that HIV is still with us?  Who wants to take a cold splash to reach a world without AIDS?

Post by Miriam Y. Vega, PhD;  @miriamyvega

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