Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A GREAT conference I attended recently

Hi, I'm Bo Keppel, an AmeriCorps National AIDS Fund member in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In December I received a full scholarship to attend the National Rural Health Association's annual Rural Minority and Multicultural Health Confernce in Albuquerque. It was a fantastic conference and I urge you to apply for a scholarship next year when it will be held in Memphis, TN. There were many excellent presentations and LOTS of great information and goodies to share with clients.

A presentation of particular interest was the one on rural women and HIV. Here's the summary I wrote for my AmeriCorps and health department bosses, just to whet your appetities:

HIV/AIDS Prevention for Women Living in the Rural South, Mary Bowers, MSW, DOHHS, Office on Women’s Health Public Health Advisor

Women represent a growing number of individuals living with HIV/AIDS in the US, and HIV/AIDS is increasingly affecting women, adolescents, and minorities in rural and Southern areas of the country. These facts were made concrete through a presentation of United States maps representing population dispersal, racial dispersal, poverty, unemployment, hospitals, rural health clinics, and much other data. The presenter listed the disparities of sexism and racism, oppression, stigma, poverty, under and unemployment, crime and incarceration, limited resources and geographic isolation as barriers to preventing HIV infection among rural women of color. We must also take into consideration the gender-based, cultural, socio-economic, psycho-social, geographic and biological risk differentials for women, as well as the risk violence against women adds.

What can we in prevention do? We must reach women where they are, in workplaces, hair salons, bars, daycare centers, schools, public assistance offices, church, home. We must provide woman-centered services through a gender-centered approach by communicating in the standard community language which is non-condescending and non-judgmental; by building women’s self-esteem and self-determination. We must push for the development of microbicides and other female-controlled barriers. As part of prevention we must also work to see women receive routine wellness checks which include risk assessment and counseling, STD testing and reproductive health check-ups.

This complete and relevant presentation was offered in PowerPoint, a copy of which I have received from the presenter. If you are an AmeriCorps National AIDS Fund member working with rural women and would like a copy, please email me at and I'll send it to you

If you'd like info on next year's conference or the National Rural Health Association, go to their website at

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