Uterus Painting

Del 29 de noviembre al 4 de diciembre 2015 tuve la oportunidad de participar de la conferencia ICASA o La Conferencia Internacional de Sida e ITS en África, y fue celebrada en Harare, Zimbabue. En esta conferencia pude realizar un corto taller en el cual las mujeres jóvenes pintaban sus úteros mientras que expresaban lo que sentían acerca de ellos. Aquí las pinturas. Un abrazo y gracias a todas las jovenes que participaron.

From November 29 to December 4 2015 I had the opportunity to participate in ICASA or the International Conference on Aids and STI’s in Africa, which was held in Harare, Zimbabwe. Here, I realized a short workshop in which young women painted their uteruses while expressing how they felt about them. Here the paintings. I appreciate to all those women and young women who participate.


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Breaking The Silos

June 8th, during the High Level Meeting on Aids, at the United Nations Headquarters, I have the opportunity to be part of a panel. UNAIDS supported the Organizations of African First Ladies to organize a side event called “Breaking the silos: Empowered adolescent girls and young women accessing integrated services. It was done with GAVI and PEPFAR, but led by the First Ladies Organization (OAFLA).

To watch the video go here https://goo.gl/2GWDYX Between 1:15:50 – 1:21:30 for my part

So UNAIDS invite me to be part of the panel, I said yes, and got the opportunity to make a 3-4 minutes intervention. Honestly I thought it was a small and informal panel, but when I get in the room I saw a four times bigger room that I expected, and three times more people. Most of the people in the room where delegates from the countries with the most conservatives positions. I really was preparing for getting the microphone off or for the booing.

Why? Because for thinking that is was more an informal panel, I prepared my “notes” four hours before, that is very little time for me. And also I was very disappointed with the whole High Level Meeting process, and I almost discharge myself in my speech. So, in this panorama, I was extremely nervous.

However, it was a nice event, and the First Lady form Namibia and of course, Thandiwe with her poweful story and courage left us all shocked and inspired. Below you will find my ACTUAL & REAL notes or speech:

“Hermanas y hermanos. Brothers and Sisters, is a pleasure to be here with you, and I really appreciate the invitation. I’m an activist, feminist, black and Latina – Caribbean. Im from Puerto Rico and Im 28 years old. I was born with HIV, but I didn’t came to talk about that.

I want to start my intervention by making a call to every First Ladies, to use your privilege position, voices and resources to be bold and push for a better declaration and implementation in the national levels, which can end with harmful policies and practices for everyone in the HIV response. Also, to push for a comprehensive education on sexual and reproductive health and rights, and to ensure the access for every woman, young woman, adolescents and girls, in all our diversity, including Key Populations. This services and education must be free of stigma, discrimination and religious positions. I make this call, because at this point of the game, coming here to share my experiences and stories, share our pain, without having concrete compromises and actions, is another way of tokenism. You don’t get to use our pain to do what is right.

When we talk about breaking the Silos, we must acknowledge that not everyone wants to or can do so. Acknowledging this vulnerabilities and positions is vital for a clear and stronger actions for the HIV movement and stakeholders in the HIV response. We, young women, and youth in general, have been very efficient and creative to position ourselves in key spaces, however, very often we don’t get the recognition we work for, and this generates a delay in our formation, mentoring process and the transfer of leadership.

Times has changes, and so generations, we must speak about sex, oral sex, vaginal sex, anal sex, sexual pleasure and freedom. It’s outrageous that many young women living with HIV are not able to enjoy their sexual life. We need governments that provide for us, instead of control us, control our bodies, and control our autonomy. Shifting the way we do policies, activism, innovation and even funding, is essential, because every time we keep non-functional policies, strategies and practices, we lose lives.

When we talk about breaking the silos, we need to recognize the HIV response as multisector, intergenerational, global and collective. It is NOT possible to end AIDS just for one group, and we need to understand that women are also Key Population. Womens also are sex workers, transgender, women who use drugs, prisoners, women who migrate, and so much more. When we say Key Population, we are not talking about a gender, we are talking about people, women and youth who systemically are being left behind, and even here today, they still left behind.

Networking, from the grassroots to the global level, it’s what have keep us together. But when we arrive to this spaces, the dynamics that the Government and even UN system put us through, push us to make political decisions and positions that do not represent the true civil society essence, activism, feminism and values. I am afraid that every five years we have to come here just for a little bit of progress, as if we were begging for our human right. And we DO NOT beg for our rights, we demand them.

Breaking the silos is about pointing the bad stuff and to take action to make it better. Is about identifying the privilege and our own privileges, use it for everyone and to share it. Breaking the silos is about recognizing that sometimes you need to ally with people you may not want, and knowing that your allies can be wrong sometimes. Breaking the silos is about quitting being a well behave woman or political correct without apologizing. Is about being free to enjoy your sexuality without being ashamed for it. Breaking the silos is about remembering that policies and declarations written on paper, can determine people’s life.

Papers are determinating people’s lives! How crazy is that!

Breaking the silos is about having love enough to act according with a mindset where nothing in the world, no genders, no religions, no ideology, no differences, are more valuable than human life.”

Silos definition: “A system, process, department, etc. that operates in isolation from others”. So, “Breaking the Silos” kind of means the integrations of multiples countries and partners for collaboration in the HIV response.

For a couple of weeks now, I have been collaborating with the campaign #WhatWomenWant. I tweet and retweet many stuff, but never posted an original message. During this days I have been reading “What Women Want” so much that I actually start thinking, what do I want? Like, what do I really want? It was hard to think about it, because sometimes you have in your mind a lot of recycled statements and slogans that you just forget about what you want for you. But this last weeks I have been so full of the “High Level Meeting”, media, university, elections, work and economic troubles, that it was impossible to think about what I really want, and this is it:

What I want is the guarantee that I will be in peace, I want mental health. I want to feel that this is not the wrong decade to be a young woman. I need to know that I will make it, that I don’t actually need to fulfil anyone’s expectative. What I want is nobody pressuring me to be the perfect young activist, with the perfect mindset, participation and statements.

What I want is to be able to watch TV, without feeling that I’m not pretty enough. I like to eat and what I don’t want, is to feel that I need to apologize for it. What I want is sexual pleasure, without feeling shame about it. I want that my doctor ask me about it, instead of ask me about the condom use first. What I want is not to be seen as a high risk person if I have sex partners instead of sentimental partners. I would like to feel the warm of the people instead my phone vibrating because most of the human contact now, is on the social media. What I want is better data and evaluation systems.

What I want is that governments take responsibility for their mistakes and inactions. What I want is that the government to stop running over workers women. What I want is a stable salary. I which that my activism, passion and creativity could pay for my rent and university. What I want is to see my friend and her children economically stable. I also which that she doesn’t see me as a bad influence to her children, because of my support of LGBTQI’s Rights, and my agnosticism.

What I want is to have less side effect caused by ARV. I would like them to taste like pistachio, then I would be 100% adherent without any doubt. But seriously, I want to stop taking medication and what I want is a cure. I don’t want to feel afraid if I’m using marihuana. What I want is to walk down the street without looking behind me to see if someone is following me. I would like to drink without feeling unsecure.

What I want is that my dad doesn’t feel pressure because he need to provide to the family. I want him to be able to express his feelings. What I want is gender perspective on my nephew and niece’s classroom so they could be whatever and however they want to be. I would like to have more tools to provide to my friends living with HIV and wants to come out. What I want is acknowledgement of my multiple identities without having to choose between one of them. I would like that no one asked question to my ex-boyfriend when I was on the newspaper talking about being HIV positive. I also would like that my dad doesn’t have to explain anything when I’m on TV.

What I want is that the word “feminism” stop being seen as a bad word for many people. What I want is that every women be able to choose if they want to be mothers or not. What  want is that countries stop being so conservatives and recongnize Key Populations and the decisions that people make. I wish someday the term “Key Populations” became useless because they are no longer vulnerable or unsafe. I which I could trust on the politicians that are willing to govern my country, and I would like to think that at least one of them can resolve many issues here.

What I want is no age restrictions for adolescents and young people when they want to access to any sexual and reproductive health services all around the world. What I want is stop being seen as a menace for others people life while having sex. What I want is that the main reason for my treatment is my quality of life instead the reduction of the transmission. What I want is more people with courage on the power positions. What I want is not being a token for the international initiatives. I don’t want any more empty agendas and declarations for decoration. I wish my voice could actually change the harmful practices and laws. What I want is less politic position with religious influence.

What I want is less transgender women being murdered in the USA and Latin America. What I want is that the state stop seen the sex workers as criminals in most of the countries. I want that most of the people treat other people who use drugs with dignity. What I want is an end to stigma. What I want is more apreciation for the activist work. I wish I could live in a world without borders. What I want is more love, more peace, more freedom.


The MTCT Term

The term MTCT in HIV refers to “Mother to Child Transmission”. This means that the child gets infected during the labor or by breast milk. As far as I know, the child doesn’t get infected during the pregnancy because the virus doesn’t cross the placenta, unless that woman has a very high viral load.

During this last year I learned that there are countries were people living with HIV don’t have a viral load test, because there’s just no money to get the necessary equipment for that. There are other countries were most of the services are in the main cities, so a lot of people living in rural areas don’t have all the necessary services, including viral load test. In this context, I don’t think that goals like “elimination” of MTCT are quite real, instead I would say “reducing” MTCT.
As most of you may know, I was born with HIV. Trying to support a guy that got infected by sexual transmission or contact last weeks, I realized that my mom raised me with love, and this is why I don’t hate my mom, or can feel that anger that a lot of people living with HIV still feel, or felt in some moment, with the person that “infected them”. I know that didn’t have a choice; I couldn’t use a condom, say no or use a sterilized needle, but this happened anyway, it’s here and I have to deal with it, hate it or love it. The way I got infected doesn’t make me better or a victim.

Now, thinking about the term “MTCT”, I don’t really like it, at all. This is the only term (as far as I know) that we use to describe a transmission, which makes reference to the person that infected the other one. The way I see it, is like adjudicate the whole responsibility (more likely guilt) to the mother. I remember that my mom, ask me for forgiveness several times, and even when I was naïve to understand guilt, I always told her that I didn’t have anything to forgive her for. Now that I’m 26, I think exactly the same way, but that never gave her peace, and even when she was adherent, she always felt guilty, and that what’s actually weakened her until she dies almost 15 years ago.

We shouldn’t, we cannot adjudicate the whole responsibility to mothers living with HIV, if we don’t have effective sexual education programs with gender and human rights perspective. It’s unreasonable for mothers if they don’t have the right knowledge, if they don’t get to choose, if they don’t have access to a universal health care. It’s unfair for mothers if they are not aware of their own bodies and rights, if you don’t empower them.  If we use this term on mothers, you can’t expect them to have peace and a good mental health, and you can’t expect for those children to have good mental health and adherence.

I believe that language is more than a way to communicate; words are symbols, constructions, creations and realities. The word “freedom” doesn’t mean the same for a colonizer that for a colonized.