GAA's Returning Citizens Outreach Team -Mound Correctional Facility

Let’s Talk

My name is Jawan Hayes prison number 426663. I am 33 years old and I have been incarcerated for 13 years now. I was never fully educated on the epidemic of HIV/AIDS. During my time in high school, I had sex education class; however, it was a very simple class and did not go into much detail. Actually, the only time I heard the conversation of HIV/AIDS was when someone was referring to Magic Johnson. Growing up in a single parent home with my mom, it was embarrassing at that time to go to my mother and talk about sex.  Also, growing up in the church, there weren’t any classes being taught about safe sex or sex in general.

The summer of 2006 is when I met Mrs. Rosalind Worthy and Paula Sirls. I was serving as the vice chairman of the NAACP. When the seminar that Gospel Against AIDS was discussed, I thought it was going to be a gospel concert. When they began the workshop, they passed out a questionnaire about HIV and I found that I was very uninformed and that was embarrassing. I listened closely to the workshop, took notes, and paid close attention because I remembered that when I entered the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC)they test for HIV. And even though I was negative I was still nervous listening to them break down the facts of HIV because I was very promiscuous in the past. During the time of Q&A, the first question I asked was what is the difference between HIV and AIDS?

What I learned was that HIV is a virus that infects cells in your body. When you immune system becomes so damaged that you get certain serious infections or your CD4 count falls below 200 then you are said to have an AIDS diagnosis. Everyone with AIDS is infected with the HIV virus, but not everyone with HIV has AIDS. The training session was very enriching and empowering. Little did I know that my journey with GAA had begun.

I expressed to Mrs. Worthy that I wanted to be involved with GAA and do more to help. So we started AIDS 101 classes at Mound Correctional Facility. We educated prisoners and we had a huge waiting list as the class filled up quickly. Mrs. Worthy invited me to join the GAA board. I like this and I love teaching and this is something that needs to be taught in schools, churches, and more prisons.

When I educate prisoners on preventive measures, I start our conversation off with the same question posed to me when I was educated. I ask them what they know about HIV. The information is so vital and the facts are not being spread like it should. This is why I love Gospel Against AIDS! They spread the information fast and nation wide. They go to churches, schools, and prisons. The facts are not sugar coated with these women.

When people talk about HIV and prison, people automatically thing bout prisoners being sexually active with each other, which does happen, but there are so many other possible risk factors for HIV in the prison, such as the prison barber shop or tattoos. If the barber does not sterilize his tools properly then there is a risk of transmission. Who would ever thought that it would be possible to contract the virus through just getting properly groomed?  Furthermore there is a high risk with tattoos. While I don’t have one, almost every prisoner has one. Prisoners love them because it is an opportunity to express themselves and the art has a story to tell.  Again, if the tools are used and not cleaned there is risk involved. HIV is not the only disease, but these are risk factors for Hepatitis C too, and many people participating in these activities are not conscious of the risks.

GAA has given me the opportunity to educate and possibly save someone’s life by educating people on HIV. While teaching and learning from the young people I have discovered that they learn from the streets. I’m not able to go out into the streets to educate t hem so I work hard to educate the ones who are going back to the community. I hope and pray they would share this information with others. Each one teach one, and this epidemic will slowly decrease.

In June of 2010, during National HIV testing Month, we initiated a call to get tested at the Mound Correctional Facility and the outcome was outstanding! Most of the population was tested and the correctional and health care staffs were supportive of the cause. For the first time ever there was widespread testing in MDOC. This was a result of the amazing work of GAA.

Sometimes I’m transferred to a different facility  and whenever I go to a new place, I try to get a class on HIV/AIDS started there. Many question why or what is the purpose? My response is there is a need. The prison population is 75% with younger prisoners who has had multiple partners or using drugs before their incarceration and they have never been tested or educated. Then there are those who have been tested but don’t know anything about the test or how to understand or read the results. Educating about HIV/AIDS in the prisons is so important. This is why I do what I do.

Thank you for taking the time to read my words. I hope and pray that I may have sparked a light in you to join the fight against HIV/AIDS.

May God bless you and your family,

Jawan Hayes