IN THE NEWS
Blog Post: Reflections on Structural IntimaciesJune 21, 2013 9:00 am
By Durryle Brooks
We are living in a time when people are desperate for a cure for HIV. After 30 plus years of the HIV epidemic, medical advancements as well as social support services have certainly staved off imminent mind/body/soul deterioration and untimely death. However, HIV continues to ravage and unduly burden some communities more than others. When we take a look at the HIV epidemic within the United States, what emerges is a mosaic of the epidemic--overwhelmingly people of color-- with African American women and African-American gay and bisexual men easily discernible pixels within the HIV epidemic frame.
Hard pressed for answers and in dire need for the eradication of the HIV virus from our deeply affected communities, those of us doing the work have demanded explanation as to why rates of HIV infection among African-Americans are reaching levels near or greater than some unindustrialized countries. Over the years, responses have suggested individual pathology and cultural deficiency and degeneracy as explanations, and yet all of these have been scientifically disproven and none of these account for such high rates of HIV infection within Black communities. If the factors that are fueling such high rates of HIV infection within Black communities are in fact not located in individual pathology and cultural deficiency, then what is?
In order to begin to address these core questions one must be ready to engage issues of equity and social justice. Notions of a "post-racial" America must quickly fall from the mind and one must draw upon analytical lenses that point ones attention to race, gender, sexuality, heterosexism, religion, and class. Additionally, one must desire to hear the truths of those who are intimately infected and affected by HIV. Dr. Sonja Mackenzie, author of Structural Intimacies: Sexual Stories in the Black AIDS Epidemic is one of few researchers who does just that. Her response points us to Structural Intimacies, sexual stories produced by the meeting of interpersonal lives and social structural patterns, as a way of understanding and analyzing the HIV epidemic within Black communities. Found within the pages of her exceptionally written ethnographic work emerges the voices of Black gay, bisexual, and heterosexual folk narrating their own stories of social and sexual inequalities in ways that are often chilling, sobering, heart-wrenching, eye-opening, as well as thought provoking.
Moving beyond simplistic (individual pathology and cultural deficiency) interpretations and explanations to answer why there are such high rates of HIV within Black communities, Structural Intimacies highlights the complex and intersecting social realities of many African-Americans within this country and our inextricable ties to racism and other forms of cultural domination. To be clear, what is encased in Structural Intimacies are Black people's own social theories and how they attempt to survive in an age of HIV as well as within a white-supremacist country.
What makes this book fresh in my opinion thoroughly rests on its attention to individual, group, as well as institutional mechanisms that help shape, inform, and produce in many ways the "perfect storm" for the continued spread of HIV within Black communities. What is revealed through the everyday lived experiences of the Black folks within this book is an indictment of the "American dream," a confrontation that is simultaneously about the past and the present, the here and the now, as well as the future of Black America and the HIV epidemic.
What I found most striking within Structural Intimacies was the notion that social structures do in fact matter, and as Foucault suggested, are productive i.e. they produce certain types of being, ways of knowing, and modalities in which we may act. In addition, with chapters like A Liquor Store on Every Corner, Never a Black Brokeback Mountain: Sexual Silence and the "Down Low", and Crazy Talk: The Conspiracy Counter-Narrative in the Black AIDS Epidemic, it is without a doubt in my mind the ways in which racism, sexism, homophobia, poverty, drug abuse, class, religion, etc. all work together to create the right conditions or "perfect storm" that has fueled the HIV epidemic among the Black communities, but specifically heterosexual Black women and gay and bisexual Black men.
Unlike many scholastic works, Dr. Mackenzie does not simply tell of the systematic hardships of Black folks from the Bay Area and leave it there; on the contrary, she also captures how we persist. In spite of it all--the racism, sexism, homophobia, etc., Black people have continually thrived much to the chagrin of white supremacist and hetero-patriarchal policies, practices, and ideologies. As such, within Structural Intimacies we see and learn about the ways in which some Black people have resisted all manner of oppressions. The simple fact they are still here, alive and breathing, is an imperfect testimony of our resiliency as a community to withstand and persevere in the face of such great and seemingly insurmountable oppressions such as chattel slavery, Jim Crow, and the many new forms of racism that show up and persist even as we do.
In gist, Structural Intimacies: Sexual Stories in the Black AIDS Epidemic is fresh, timely, and long overdue. As new forms of racism and other social forms of domination continue to arise, it is good to know that there are people drawing our attention to root cause issues and not simply addressing symptoms. Black people have known all too well how racism, sexism, homophobia, poverty, etc. impact our bodies and yet we still go overwhelmingly unheard. Therefore, works like Structural Intimacies that point to social justice and equity as solutions for so many social injustices are critical.--Durryle Brooks
This piece was written by Durryle Brooks, a 2009 graduate of SFSU's Sexuality Studies Program and a current doctoral student in Social Justice Education at UMass. He is currently a Doctoral Student Intern with the Health Equity Institute.
Check out his blog Expressions of Sol!
Katherine Kim, HEI Professor in Residence, co-authored report published by PCORIJune 20, 2013 9:00 am
Katherine Kim, MPH, MBA, HEI Professor in Residence, co-authored a report published by PCORI (Patient Centered Outcome Research Institute). The report helped guide PCORI in developing funding opportunities for the creation of infrastructure for building a national, sustainable research network for patient-centered outcomes research (PCOR). The report was authored by researchers at University of California, San Diego, SF State and RAND Corporation. Read the full report.
"Sex in an Epidemic" now on Showtime On DemandJune 10, 2013 9:00 am
A documentary by Jean Carlomusto called Sex in an Epidemic was recently released to Showtime On Demand for the month of June!
Sex in an Epidemic is a historical account of varying social, sexual and political reactions to AIDS told and directed by activist Jean Carlomusto. She talks of how AIDS transformed how Americans think about sexual practices with the creation of the "safe sex" concept and takes a deeper look at the struggle of HIV education in the face of the apathy and fear that greeted the rise of AIDS.
This documentary provides a sociocultural perspective on the history of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and its ongoing impact on the most effected populations including the gay, African-American and Latino communities.
The release of this film on Showtime On Demand is especially exciting because our very own Cynthia Gomez appears in Sex in an Epidemic sharing her own expertise on the subject of the HIV/AIDS epidemic!
Watch this engaging documentary on Showtime On Demand from 6/01/13 -- 6/30/13, or online with Showtime Anytime.
Don't miss it!
Documentary Film for Health & Social Justice accepted to APHA in BostonJune 5, 2013 9:00 am
One of the Fall 2012 documentary films for Health & Social Justice entitled "Release: Self-care for trauma workers," has been selected for the APHA Film Festival during the 141st APHA Annual Meeting in Boston. Organized by the PHEHP Section's Health Communication Working Group (HCWG) and the International Health Section, the Public Health Film Festival showcases films and videos promoting public health. The film will be screened in its entirety, which is a huge accomplishment for this team!
"Release: Self Care for Trauma Workers" tells the story of three mental health workers that choose to incorporate the arts and meditation as alternative methods in helping youth faceing any forms of trauma. The film showcases their experiences with trauma while highlighting the variety of methods they put into practice in order to release any stress, allowing them to continue working passionately and effectively with thier clients.
The filmakers recieving this honor for their hard work in creating this film are Shane Evangelista, Zander Mackie, Ragini K. Momi, Israel Ramos and Sarah Rosenberg.
Dr. Laura Mamo invited to Women In Public Service Conference at UMass LowellJune 4, 2013 11:58 am
The WPSP is an initiative seeking to advance women to positions of influence in governments and civic organziations worldwide. This conference is focused on emerging women leaders who are able to have an impact in key areas in their nation and associate Professor of Health Education and core-faculty member in the Health Equity Institute Laura Mamo is one of them!
Above: Laura Mamo (L) is pictured with Linda Oubre, dean of business, and Congresswoman NikiTsongas (R) at the conference.
Learn more about the conference and the WPSP's work with emerging women leaders!
PRESS RELEASE: HEI announces new book that shares stories from the Black community in the HIV/AIDS epidemicMay 31, 2013 9:00 am
Health Equity Institute announces new book that shares stories from the Black community in the continuing HIV/AIDS epidemic
Dr. SONJA MACKENZIE brings an intersectional lens to illuminate the structural dimensions of health and illness (including racism, homophobia, gender inequalities, mass incarceration, and poverty) in the U.S. HIV/AIDS epidemic. Her new book, Structural Intimacies: Sexual Stories in the Black AIDS Epidemic, is shaped by her work in the field and is a must-read for scholars and community HIV/AIDS activists alike.
For Immediate Release
Contact: Holly Logan, (415) 405-7555
San Francisco, CA., May 29th, 2013 -- One of the most urgent social problems in contemporary America is the continuing HIV epidemic among Blacks. Fully one in 16 Black men and one in 32 Black women will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime. These overwhelming figures are not new, nor are they inevitable. Structural Intimacies: Sexual Stories in the Black AIDS Epidemic, a new book by Dr. Sonja Mackenzie, Health Equity Institute faculty, gives a voice to the men and women behind these statistics and aims to shed light on this serious public health concern.
Mackenzie's research found that structural inequalities such as racism, poverty, sexism, sexual stigma, and discrimination are at the core of the dramatic and disproportionate spread of HIV in Black communities in the U.S. Her research illustrates the ways men and women affected by HIV understand how these structural determinants shape their lives.
As Mackenzie says, "People think that AIDS is now over, or is just an illness of developing countries. Far from it - the rates of HIV/AIDS in some African American communities, including men who have sex with men, approximate one third of entire communities being HIV-positive. This is shocking, but perhaps more shocking is the continued lack of sufficient HIV prevention efforts that make sure that all lives are equal in this country."
"This is an epidemic of deeply-embedded racism and poverty. We interviewed men and women affected by HIV in Oakland and San Francisco and kept hearing the same thing: how risk for HIV is really about experiences of social inequality. How alcohol marketing and distribution targets Black neighborhoods; how the incarceration of one in nine Black men places these men at disproportionate risk of contracting HIV; how lack of trust based on histories of medical abuse keep Blacks out of testing, treatment and care. Structural intimacies are stories about how HIV is a social illness, not an illness of individuals. Structural intimacies indicate how it is that large-scale social forces affect sex and sexuality, and translate into HIV vulnerability. Until our public health and policy efforts acknowledge this, we will not be able to address the deeply rooted social issues at the heart of this epidemic."
This book, released in early June, presents an elegant argument that, in an era of deepening medicalization of HIV/AIDS, public health must move beyond individual-level interventions to community-level health equity frames and policy change.
Mackenzie sums it up: "HIV is a social epidemic. This book is a call for policy and structural change that addresses the social epidemics of racism, homophobia, poverty, and gender inequalities in the United States."
Book ordering Information: Published by Rutgers Press
Please send requests for a review copy to Sonja Mackenzie, email@example.com
Dr. Sonja Mackenzie is adjunct assistant Professor at the Health Equity Institute and Research Faculty at the Center for Research and Education on Gender and Sexuality at San Francisco State University. She holds a Doctorate in Public Health from the University of California, Berkeley and MSc in Health and Social Behavior from the Harvard School of Public Health. Currently, Dr. Mackenzie is Principal Investigator on a five-year NIMH research project investigating the cultural and relationship context of HIV among African American bisexual men and their female partners. Dr. Mackenzie's teaching and research is informed by her longstanding activism, policy and community work with local communities affected by HIV/AIDS in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The Health Equity Institute engages in research, practice and policy for a just and healthy society.
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Drs. Cynthia Gómez and Dellanira Garcia published in American PsychologistMay 30, 2013 9:00 am
Dr. Cynthia A. Gómez, Health Equity Institute Director, and Dr. Dellanira Valencia-Garcia, HEI researcher, were published in American Psychology. "The intersection of gender and ethnicity in HIV risk, interventions, and prevention: New frontiers for psychology", published in the May 2013 edition, was co-authored by: Gail E. Wyatt, Cynthia A. Gomez, Alison B. Hamilton, Dellanira Valencia-Garica, Larry M. Gant and Charles E. Graham.
Read the complete abstract:
This article articulates a contextualized understanding of gender and ethnicity as interacting social determinants of HIV risk and acquisition, with special focus on African Americans and Hispanics/Latinos-2 ethnic groups currently at most risk for HIV/AIDS acquisition in the United States. First, sex and gender are defined. Second, a conceptual model of gender, ethnicity, and HIV risk and resilience is presented. Third, a historical backdrop of gender and ethnic disparities is provided, with attention to key moments in history when notions of the intersections between gender, ethnicity, and HIV have taken important shifts. Finally, new frontiers in psychology are presented, with recommendations as to how psychology as a discipline can better incorporate considerations of gender and ethnicity as not only HIV risk factors but also as potential avenues of resilience in ethnic families and communities. Throughout the article, we promulgate the notion of a syndemic intersectional approach, which provides a critical framework for understanding and building the conditions that create and sustain overall community health by locating gendered lived experiences and expectations within the layered conceptual model ranging from the biological self to broader societal structures that define and constrain personal decisions, behaviors, actions, resources, and consequences. For ethnic individuals and populations, health disparities, stress and depression, substance abuse, and violence and trauma are of considerable concern, especially with regard to HIV risk, infection, and treatment. The conceptual model poses new frontiers for psychology in HIV policy, research, interventions, and training.
Pictured Above: Dr. Cynthia Gómez
Leticia Marquez-Magana one of Cosmos "Fun and Fearless"May 29, 2013 9:00 am
Last week Leticia Marquez-Magana attended the Cosmo Latina event at the Hearst Tower in New York City.
The lunch was in honor of Cosmopolitans "Fun and Fearless" where Leticia was being recognized as an honoree for her work in mentoring Latinas/Latinos in science.
Spring 2013 Documentaries now available online!June 14, 2013 9:00 am
Documentary for Health & Social Justice is a filmmaking class offered by the Helath Equity Institute and Cinema department at SF State Univeristy. The Spring 2013 cohort made up of four interdisciplinary student teams created the following films. The watch the films, click on the name of the film below:
BRILLIANCE explores the different ways in which the current public education system doesn't serve the majority of students that attend it, and alternative pedagogical methods for evaluating student, teacher, and school performance.
GENDER SILENT lifts up and celebrates the lives of transgender men and women.
THE NET shines a light on the personal loss, sacrifice, and perseverance of those whose loved ones were taken from them on the Golden Gate Bridge and how they have created a network of support to help each other recover the joy of living.
$HIFT. A global movement is coming together to challenge the fossil fuel industry in a fight for the planet and our future on it. This film documents the stories, ideas and actions behind groups like Fossil Free SFSU, 350.org, 350 Bay Area, Fossil Free SF and other divestment campaigns, uncovering the truth about climate change and revealing the case for divestment.
Register for the CBPR Institute for Health Equity, hosted by SF StateMay 17, 2013 9:00 am
Enjoy a week in the city by the bay and join us for the Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) Institute for Health Equity, hosted by San Francisco State University. This year's Institute will feature keynotes from national leaders in CBPR as well as case studies of current CBPR projects in Northern California. The Institute will also include skills-building CBPR workshops, networking opportunities, and site visits to local CBPR projects. The Institute will increase participants' capacity to engage in CBPR to promote health and social justice. The Health Equity Institute is one of the partners and on the planning committee along with other programs, Universities and organizations working together to bring you this workshop.
Academic Partners: $750 (full week); $180 (per day)
Public Health Agencies: $500 (full week); $100 (per day)
Community Based Organizations, Non-profits, & Students: $250 (full week); $50 (per day)
Credit: Course fees waived for students who enroll in the Institute for 2 credits through their respective campuses (25 student credit slots available)
Location: San Francisco State University.
To see the full agenda: download the PDF
If you have questions about the event, please contact Jessica Tokunaga
Planning Committee: Chinese Progressive Association, Commonweal, The Data Center, Plumbline Consulting, Inc., California Breast Cancer Research Program, CANFIT, San Francisco Department of Public Health, Tobacco Related Disease Research Program, The California Endowment, Health Equity Institute and Health Education Department at San Francisco State University, University of New Mexico, University of California, Berkeley; University of California, Davis; University of California, San Francisco, San Jose State University, Stanford University.
This conference is funded by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (Grant # 1R13MD007620-01)
Project SHARe seeks same-sex couples for participation in study of relationshipsMay 14, 2013 9:00 am
Project SHARe, led by HEI Professor of Sociology Dr. Allen LeBlanc, is currently seeking same-sex couples to participate in a one-time interview in San Francisco or Atlanta. Each partner is given $30.00 for their time.
Read more about the project and learn about one couple who has already participated.
Find out if you are eligible to participate.