Interview with Amna Osman, CARES CEO and Vanderbilt HIV Vaccine Trials Unit
In honor of National Black HIV AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD) on February 7, we decided to interview some of Nashville’s leading trailblazers in the community. The Vanderbilt HIV Vaccine Program interviews Amna Osman, Nashville CARES CEO for an exclusive and candid conversation about stigma, knowing your status, and how you can get engaged in your community. We appreciate the work you’re doing Mrs. Osman!
Q. How do you help reduce the stigma around HIV/AIDS?
A. As individuals we take care of our physical and emotional health. To reduce the stigma of HIV we need to have open, honest conversations about sexual health and educate the community that HIV is a chronic health condition and collectively we can End the HIV epidemic in our community by Knowing our Status and taking our health in our own hands. Address stigma and discrimination at all levels, personal, interpersonal, institutional, and systemic to embrace all people living with or impacted by HIV
Q. Why is it important to know your status?
A. 1 out 7 people don’t know their HIV status. Knowing your Status is Power.
Knowing your HIV status gives individuals the power to take their health and overall lives in general in their own hands. The advancement in treatment allows newly diagnosed living with HIV the opportunity to manage their care and become virally suppressed in a matter of 2-3 months which is a game-changer!
Q. What words of encouragement do you say to someone who is on the fence about getting tested or seeking treatment?
A. Having the knowledge of your HIV status allows you to take control of your health and the lives of people you love regardless of what your result is. If you are negative you will be given the tools to remain negative. If you are a person living with HIV you will be given the tools to treat, manage to stay healthy, and live a long productive life, as well as drastically decrease your chances of exposing others as you stay in care.
Knowing your Status is important, Knowledge is Power. It’s empowering, and you take control of your sexual health. Be healthy and contribute to being part of Ending the HIV epidemic in your community. Be safe and protect yourself always. If you have questions about HIV, Nashville CARES is here to answer them. Please call 615-761-4474 to speak to an HIV/ Education Testing specialist.
Q. How can someone take part in other prevention methods/practices?
A. Pre- Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), Condom Use for prevention of HIV and other STI’s. Engage in open and honest dialogue about sexual health with your partners. Utilize community resources, contact My House Clinic for PrEP, STI screenings, and HIV Care and Treatment, at 615-499-7406.
Q. Where do you feel that researchers are missing the mark when it comes to engaging the black community in HIV/AIDS research?
A. Community Engaged Research is paramount to engage the black community in HIV/AIDS Research. Researchers need to engage the community during the formative evaluation, throughout the research project and the dissemination of the findings need to be shared with the community. Addressing the stigma around HIV in the black community is very important. Fear around medical research still exists, especially after the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. Research must regain the trust of the black community by engaging us from the inception. Research is a beast of many faces! There is not and will never be a “magic pill” that everyone will be interested in participating in. Being willing to place Black & Brown faces at the podium, in ads, and speaking their experiences to the communities they are wanting to involve is very important. Incentives can be helpful only if the individuals that you are asking to give of their time don’t feel like a number in the process. Getting buy-in from a variety of different people within the actual communities such research is being done, and not just social media influencers that are being paid may also help. Collaboration with local agencies is also a must and can lead to broader conversations and dissemination of information, ideas, and findings which can reduce the anxiety of those researchers are trying to engage.
Q. In your opinion, how can an ally help support National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day?
A. Share information on sexual health on your social media blasts, virtual education programming, and testing awareness. Be an advocate of change by knowing your HIV status and increasing education and awareness and share it with your networks.
Q. How will you be celebrating National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day this year?
A. We will be commemorating the 2021 National Black HIV Awareness through a series of different educational links, videos and virtual events throughout the month of February. Please visit our Nashville CARES, My House Nashville, and Nashville Black Pride social media sites for more detailed information Nashville CARES will be conducting Drive-thru testing on the following Days:
Starting February 2, 2021, every Tuesday and Thursday from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm at 633, Thompson Lane. Providing HIV/ HCV/ Syphilis testing. Come see us and Know your Status. Visits us on Social Media to order an HIV Home Testing Kit and for Black Awareness Activities in the month of February. We are here to serve you!