One of the worthwhile endeavors that we as human beings can engage in is activities which are aimed at making a positive change to the society. This can be done through the advocacy of a certain worthwhile cause. A particularly worthwhile cause is that of ensuring the health of fellow man is preserved or his pain and misery alleviated. To take up this noble cause for humanity’s sake, many individual activists and organizations have engaged themselves in various activities aimed at alleviating misery or ensuring good health. The United States in particular boasts of a significant number of organizations which advocate for various interests ranging from diabetes, cancer to HIV/AIDS. This paper will review one organization which has been vocal and instrumental in calls for the prevention of HIV/AIDS in America. The paper shall review some of the projects that this group has engaged in as well as significant impacts that the organization has had in America.
The name of the organization is Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project (CHAMP). It is a United States based non-profit, non-governmental Organization working to “bridge HIV/AIDS, human rights and struggles for social, racial and economic justice” (champnetwork). The organization is prominent in championing HIV/AIDS awareness and bringing together people affected by the epidemic. The organization relies on the donations of well wishers as well as corporate sponsorship. It does not involve the federal government in its funding and as such maintains an independence from government interference in its activities. At the heart of the efforts of CHAMP are the campaigns to highlight the problem of HIV in the society and sway the government into playing a more active role in HIV/AIDS prevention. This is a worthwhile endeavor for of all the afflictions that have scourged mankind in the 21st Century, HIV/AIDS arguably passes as the most terrible. This is partly because it results in the premature death of the infected and also because there is no known cure to this ailment to date.
As such, prevention remains the primary weapon in the fight against this epidemic and nations have invested substantial effort in prevention programs. CHAMP, through its official website, claims that it has made a “significant impact on the framing of HIV prevention in the US” (champnetwork). This is a worthwhile endeavor considering the fact that prevention is the only means by which the spread of HIV/AIDS can be mitigated.
CHAMP is engaged in projects that are aimed at addressing some of the issues that result in the prevalence of HIV/AIDS for example imprisonment. A particularly significant project is the “Project Unshackle” which was began in 2008. This project incorporated former prisoners, people living with HIV/AIDs, local leaders, researchers and other key personnel who sought to address the issue of new HIV infections that were related to imprisonment (champnetwork). There has been a notable relationship between incarceration and the prevalence of HIV/AIDS infections.
A report by the CDC reveals that the infection rage is 5 times as high for prison inmates than for the rest of the population. CHAMP though its “Project Unshackle” proposes to offer support as well as empower ex-convicts once they are out of the prisons. This is because the relationship between HIV and imprisonment is not restricted to activities which happen to people behind bars (McTighe and Jervis 3). This is due to the fact that prisoners do not exist in isolation and when they complete serving their terms, they invariably return to the broader community. This being the case, when prisoners become HIV positive during their sentence, they end up passing the virus to the various sexual partners or with the people they share injecting equipment on the outside.
CHAMP therefore advocates for the provision of free condoms in prisons as well as HIV/AIDS seminars where the prisoners can be educated on the epidemic and how to protect themselves from it. CHAMP also questions the wisdom behind the stringent “war on drugs” which has lead to high imprisonment rates. This is because the war on drug has dictated that drug offenders be dealt with severely so as to deter would be future offenders. This has resulted in the imposition of minimum mandatory sentences which must be passed by the judge in drug related cases. The American prison system has therefore been overloaded by inmates whose offense did not necessitate imprisonment. CHAMP proposes that other forms of punishments be issued out since prison plays a significant role in the spread of HIV/AIDS and burdens the tax payer (McTighe and Jervis 1).
Another significant network that has been started by CHAMP is the HIV Prevention Justice Alliance (PJA). This Alliance was started in collaboration with the “AIDS Foundation of Chicago and SisterLove” (champnetwork). The network’s principle is based on the fact that various people have differing levels of risk for HIV. As such, some communities are disproportionally afflicted by the HIV/AIDS despite race and ethnicity not in themselves being risk factors for HIV/AIDS. This is a claim that is corroborated by the CDC which notes that “by race/ethnicity, African Americans face the most severe burden of HIV in the United States”. CHAMP has been very instrumental in the fight against homophobia which has been directly linked to increased cases of HIV/AIDS. Considering the fact that the greatest impact of the HIV and AIDS epidemic has being among men who have sex with men, this advocacy by CHAMP is of great significance.
Stigma and homophobia is especially high among the African American communities. Research conducted by the CDC on the prevalence of HIV among MSM revealed that not only were HIV incidents among young black MSM higher but that new infections were also high. Stigma and homophobia in the African American community have been blamed for the rise in HIV/AIDS infection rates amongst this group. The organization recognizes that socio-economic factors play a role in the HIV/AIDS epidemic. HIV transmission has been linked to the socio-economic status of people since a person’s socio-economic status influences their lifestyle as well as their ability to protect their health. As such, the economically disadvantaged are more prone to HIV/AIDS than better off members of the society since some of the consequences of poverty are homelessness, increased drug use, incarceration and risky sexual behavior. All these are responsible for an increase in the transmission of HIV/AIDS CHAMP declares that the HIV/AIDS scourge will only be defeated though scientific research and effective HIV prevention strategies. However, there has been a gap between the researchers and the communities affected by HIV/AIDS.
CHAMP through its various affiliates bridges this gap by building the capacity of the people in the affected capacity so as to influence and improve research efforts. By doing this, the organization has made it possible for the researchers to obtain much needed data to enable policy makers to come up with better focused preventive strategies for the affected communities. One of the activities which have been blamed for a rise of HIV infection and transmission in America is substance abuse and especially Intravenous drug use (IDU). Research has demonstrated that drug use is responsible for HIV prevalence with new data suggesting that intravenous drug use accounts for approximately 25% of the new HIV infections among African Americans (Lowinson and Ruiz 1097). CHAMP has taken up measures to educate the community on these dangers through its training programs. The organization has paid close attention to peer education and this has proved to be an effective platform to address the youth who account for a high percentage of intravenous drug users.
The organization has been involved in awareness programs and has supported the Campaign to End AIDS. This campaign was necessitated by the lack of vociferous activists in the fight against AIDS (Ryan 6). This campaign emphasizes on the importance of getting tested and knowing one’s HIV status. Lack of awareness of one’s HIV status has been blamed for the prevalence of HIV and AIDS in much of sub-Saharan Africa.
This scenario has been the same in America and especially amongst the minority groups where unawareness levels remain high. Laurencin, Christensen and Taylor declare that the high level of unawareness of one’s HIV status among African Americans is a public health concern (40). A survey in 2004 found out that a third of African Americans had never been tested for the disease.
One of the most significant achievements of CHAMP has been its push for progressive HIV/AIDS policies that pay special attention to communities that are most affected by poverty, homophobia and other risk factors that fuel the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Szekeres and Coates praise the CHAMP Academy which is a program that offers training and technical assistance so as to strengthen a HIV/AIDS movement that is rooted in the organizations philosophy of justice. Through this academy, the organization has empowered the local community; a step which is deemed to be critical in addressing the unique realities of each community in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The training has also meant that research efforts are better directed and that there is a liaison between the researchers and the affected community hence resulting in more relevant data being collected. CHAMP has been at the forefront in demanding for HIV/AIDS data from government agencies. CHAMP through its executive director, Julie Davids has been at the forefront in demanding for more commitment by the federal government to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The New York Times documents that the group protested to demand for the release of HIV/AIDS infection rate figures by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Gardiner). The group declared that without such figures, it would be impossible to know if the prevention efforts that were currently been employed were working.
The Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project made an announcement that it was ending its operations on the 27th of October this year.
The organization did not give any solid reasons as to the decision but suggested that it would continue its work through some of its networks most notably of which were the HIV Prevention Justice Alliance and Project Unshackle. However, the organization did suggest that the closure had to do with challenges that it failed as a non profit making NGO. Up to its closure, CHAMP was held in high esteem by its members, the society and the media. This high regard could be credited on the organizations valor and passion on the issue of HIV/AIDS in society as well as the personality of its founder and chairman, Julie Davids. As of its closing, CHAMP claimed to have achieved its core objective of bridging HIV prevention and other social injustices.
CHAMP has directed most of its criticism against the CDC which it has blamed for failing to come up with programs that address the needs of the people. This is despite the CDC being at the forefront of the fight against HIV/AIDS. CDC has also established HIV prevention and interventions programs which have been specifically structured to meet the needs of the various unique communities.
In addition to this, intense research on how to reduce HIV risk in Americans has been undertaken with the aim of coming up with customized biomedical interventions for high risk groups. The CDC has also liaised with local leaders in its “Act Against AIDS” campaigns which are aimed at increasing the awareness of HIV among the members of the community. As such, it is grossly unfair for CHAMP to direct all its criticism at this government agency which has and is playing a very significant role in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
In my opinion, the significance of this organization is huge and its activities are essential especially in the present time where HIV/AIDS continues to have an adverse effect on both the affected individual and the community around him. The organization’s involvement of ordinary people in its efforts to bring about awareness as well as pressure the government is key since it results in people realizing the adverse effects of HIV/AIDS.
As such, the organization presents a platform on which the war against HIV/AIDS can be effectively waged with optimum results. The profound understanding by the organization that the different realities of the various communities result in different risk levels of HIV/AIDS infection is especially sound and if followed, it will lead to a reduction of new infection. The fact that the organization works hand in hand with other organizations demonstrates that CHAMP recognizes the importance of joint efforts in addressing an issue as big and important as HIV/AIDS.
This paper set out to conduct a concise yet informative review of an organization that champions a particular cause in society. This paper has reviewed CHAMP, an organization that is involved in advocacy for HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention works. From the discussions presented in this paper, it is clear that CHAMP has played a significant role in empowering the society at grassroots levels as well as ensuring that the government pays more attention to HIV/AIDS.
The organization has also engaged in a number of projects all aimed at mitigating the spread of HIV/AIDS and empowering the affected. The organization has also endorsed prevention strategies which if followed may lessen the HIV/AIDS crises that currently faces the community therefore leading to a healthier and more prosperous United States.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). HIV Among African Americans. 9 Sept 2010. Web.
15 Nov. 2010. http://www.
cdc.gov/hiv/topics/aa/ Gardiner, Harris. Figures on HIV Rate Expected to Rise. The New York Times. 2 Dec, 2007. Web. 22 Dec 2010.
Laurencin, Cato Christensen, Donna and Taylor, Erica. “HIV/AIDS and the African-American Community: A State of Emergency.” Journal of the National Medical Association. Vol.
100, No. 1, January 2008. Lowinson, Joyce and Ruiz, Pedro. Substance Abuse: a Comprehensive Textbook.
Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2005. McTighe, Laura and Jervis, Coco. Confronting HIV and mass Imprisonment: Two Intersecting Epidemics. 2008. Web 15 Nov. 2010. http://www.
champnetwork.org Ryan, Benjamin. “New Group Searches for Activist Voices.” HIV Plus, Vol. 8, No. 6.
2005. Szekeres, Greg and Coates, Thomas. “Leadership development and HIV/AIDS.” Pub Med Central, 2010.