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Preface.

The Metro DC Collaborative for Women with HIV/AIDS, a national demonstration project of the Center for Women Policy Studies (*), sought to reduce cultural, linguistic and organizational barriers to care for women with HIV/AIDS in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area. Over a period of five years, from 1994 to 1999, the Center conducted a wide range of project activities to achieve this goal -- with a particular focus on identifying women's self-defined needs and developing a cadre of women living with HIV/AIDS who are empowered advocates for policy change.

The Center conducted a variety of research, training, organizing, information development and dissemination, and empowerment activities for women living with HIV/AIDS and for policy makers and AIDS service providers. The Collaborative's success can in large part be attributed to the active involvement of women living with HIV/AIDS in all aspects of the planning and implementation of the following program components:

Research to Assess Barriers to Care: The Center conducted research -- including surveys, focus groups and in-depth interviews -- to bring the voices of women to policy decision making.

Information Sharing: The Center convened information sharing meetings and other forums to bring women with HIV/AIDS together to gain information, discuss issues, identify needs and find support.

Information Development and Dissemination: The Center published 29 reports of Collaborative research and information sharing meetings, as well as a quarterly newsletter, Woman CARE News.

Training and Capacity Building: To help women with HIV/AIDS become more effective advocates and to help service providers respond to the self-defined needs of women with HIV/AIDS, the Center conducted three annual two-day "Fighting for Our Lives" advocacy training programs for women with HIV/AIDS.

Over the past five years, we have had the opportunity to work with more than 400 women living with HIV/AIDS. It has always been the Center's mission to value and respect each of these women as an expert in the health policy arena. The telling of their stories, the sharing of their lives provided the Center with a framework to identify over 100 program and policy recommendations to improve the scope, type and accessibility of comprehensive services to meet women's needs.

The Metro DC Collaborative for Women with HIV/AIDS served the Washington D.C. eligible metropolitan area -- which includes rural, urban, and suburban communities; in addition to the District of Columbia, the Collaborative reached counties in Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. In many ways, therefore, this area is a microcosm of the United States. Project participants included women with HIV/AIDS and staff members of local health and support service organizations and agencies that currently provide services for women. The Collaborative's service area continues to report one of the highest rates of HIV in women in the United States and is a major epicenter of the AIDS epidemic for women -- making our recommendations even more urgent.

The first section of this report describes the self-defined needs of particular groups of women living with HIV/AIDS who have been especially invisible to service providers and policy makers. Yet they experience overwhelming barriers to care -- and many women are marginalized because of their race sexual orientation, language, and socioeconomic class status. Section Two of the report takes a look at the extensive health care and social service needs of women living with HIV/AIDS, including a wide range of services that fall outside of traditional models of health care. Most women with HIV/AIDS also face enormous financial barriers that limit their ability to gain access both to health care and to other services, including housing and food for themselves and for their families. Finally, while some women are able to gain access to care through organizations, hospitals and agencies experienced in providing AIDS specific care, other women receive their care through community clinics that lack the experience and/o r capability to address their specialized health care needs.

The final section of the report examines some of the special issues that affect women with HIV/AIDS. Their devastating impact must be acknowledged and addressed if we are to meet the health and psychosocial needs of women with HIV/AIDS.

The dissemination of this report of policy recommendations is an ongoing priority for the Center. More important, it is our hope that these recommendations can facilitate the creation of strong, permanent partnerships between women with HIV/AIDS and the policy makers and providers who serve them. Only in this way can we ensure that programs and policies that provide services to hardly reached and underserved women with HIV/AIDS will be developed and implemented with women's self-defined needs in mind.

We want to thank the providers and policy makers who participated in the Collaborative. And, we express our deepest gratitude to the women living with HIV/AIDS whose courage and guidance shaped the Collaborative's work and the recommendations in this report.

Leslie R. Wolfe

President

Belinda L. Rochelle

Project Director

December 1999

(*.) The Health Resources and Services Administration, Special Projects of National Significance, Ryan White CARE Act funded the Metro DC Collaborative under a cooperative agreement. The Center's subcontractor was PROTOTYPES which conducted needs assessments and training for local service providers.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:HIV/AIDS treatment in women's health services
Publication:Building a Woman-Focused Response to HIV/AIDS
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U5DC
Date:Dec 1, 1999
Words:861
Next Article:Building a woman-focused response to HIV/AIDS: Policy recommendation from the metro DC collaborative for women with HIV/AIDS.
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