(This is a 2 part series guest blog post discussing HIV awareness in correctional facilities)
Having traveled around the state of Michigan to 13 different correctional facilities, I not only aim to help and assist incarcerated citizens, but I look to learn some things myself to add to my tool box to be successful in my daily comings and goings. There has been a complete shift in the rise and fall of the prison population. The last two facilities I have been working diligently in raising awareness of HIV/AIDS due to the population. At The Muskegon Correctional Facility, My younger brothers are very skillful and knowledgable in a lot of areas, but when it came to AIDS/HIV there were no facts, just assumptions. I found the same response when I arrived here at Lakeland Correctional Facility.
Hearing the terms AIDS/HIV, the first thought comes to one’s mind is various ways a person can contract the virus. When I am informing the men about AIDS/HIV most of us fearful because of the lifestyle we were living in the past or the lifestyle we are currently living.
One of the tools I use to raise awareness is addressing the barriers that will keep us from having a open mind and learning. The common barriers are:
Stigma, Fear of Rejection &
Physical Abuse (man-woman, man-man)
Having the trust and respect of the men, I am able to educated and share some points to clear up the mis-education on how one can get HIV. Such as HIV is not spread by:
Use of the community bathrooms or showers, seats, tears, urine or saliva, hugging, sharing a meal or just casual contact. The fear of not knowing causes people to misplace their judgment on a person or topic.
When the men leave the GAA seminar inside the correctional facility they gain an understanding of the routes of transmission, such has sharing syringes, mother to baby, unprotected sex (high risk heterosexual, men who have sex with men). At the end of the seminar one question always comes up. What can we do to spread the word and help educate the next person? Get tested know your status is what I encourage the men. Invite someone to the next seminar, Join us at the AIDS walk for AIDS awareness month. Most important pray with your neighbor, your brother.
Prayer is powerful.