Development of state and local plans to End the epidemic
Policy, Program, Intervention or other types of research evaluation
Issues : State health, housing, and educational policies relative to HIV prevention, detection, and treatment
Level of need for above in rural states like Mississippi
Stigma and policy
Description : This presentation is based on several years of policy analysis at the state level. It includes the cultural and contextual issues that affect policy development as well as the consequences of the resulting policies on people living with HIV/AIDS and on rates of transmission.
Lessons learned : Most southern, rural states have a history of implementing counter-intuitive policies relative to HIV/AIDS. Cultural context plays a major role in the development of such policies, and legislators tend to pay more attention to constituent beliefs than scientific findings. Where poverty, disparity, homophobia, racism are commonplace and adequate education is rare, policies affecting HIV are, at best, ineffective and, at worst, deleterious.
Recommendations : Education and advocacy are imperative! Policy advocacy based on scientific evidence and statistics is desperately needed to effect changes in state policies. Legislators need to see the cause and effect relationship between current policy and HIV infection rates and treatment. In addition to the targeted education of legislators, more grass-roots education is needed. Clergy and faith centers are major contributors to stigma and condemnation of people living with or at highest risk of acquiring HIV. Peer education by other faith leaders could be effective among them. Sex education in the schools is often absent or mis-informed, and school systems should be empowered to teach factual and unbiased health practices.