Zina Age and Aniz Inc.: Fighting the secrecy, shame and guilt of HIV

In the fight to educate others about HIV and eradicate the stigma surrounding the disease, what challenges has your organization faced.?

There are a lot of children born with the virus. but out of secrecy shame and guilt, they are not taught about the virus. The parents are not disclosing to these children that they have the virus. A parent will say to a child “You sick” don’t have sex”. So through secrecy shame and guilt, it becomes almost generational. That’s one of the things we have to confront  about this virus whether its children or those who are 50 years old  secrecy, shame, and guilt is passing this virus in the African American community

Do you believe with medication today that HIV is manageable?

Yes, 100%.  HIV is manageable if you are stable. So right now our organization Aniz uses a holistic harm reduction approach. The reason we use this approach is that people have social determinants of health. So if you are homeless, if you are a  drug addict taking your HIV medication is not going to be on your mind. You’re not going to be thinking about taking medication if you are in a domestic violence relationship, Your thinking about what is my immediate need, not about HIV medication.

So if the whole determinate of social health approach is not used with HIV, then this virus is going to continue to pass.  For example, we are looking at the opioid epidemic but look at how the opioid epidemic is also tied with HIV, mental health, Poverty, legal issues, spirituality, everything is affiliated with this opioid epidemic.

The fear I have is everyone looking at this opioid epidemic and not looking at a  holistic approach. We have to use this approach when we go up to a person and say you can take this medication and your disease is manageable. Yes, It is manageable but your life must be manageable in order for you to take the medication.

 What age range are you seeing with a new HIV diagnosis?

We are seeing people over 50 getting the virus. It has been linked to Viagra use. Men that are bisexual or down low are able to have sex again. So they are now engaging in high-risk behavior. But those between 13-24 are still getting the virus. People do not want to educate those over 50 about the virus and the naive thinking that the virus is not going to hurt them. So you get these people in their 50s running around and having sex again not educated and feeling invincible.

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