Unless new policies are enacted to address the structural inequities and systemic racism that disproportionately affect people of color and marginalized communities, who bear the brunt of these inhumane conditions, many will lose their homes, businesses, and livelihoods.
When I think of home
I think of a place where there's love overflowing
I wish I was home
I wish I was back there with the things I’ve been knowing
—from the song, Home, by Charlie Smalls
in the musical, The Wiz
“Home isn't a place, it’s a feeling.”
—novelist Cecilia Ahern
This issue of Positively Aware is our at-home issue, and explores some of the changes in our lives during the past year in the midst of a pandemic. Home can represent a place of safety and solitude for some, especially in the before times. I used to be able to deal with all of the crazy stresses of work and life, knowing that at the end of the day, I could head home to share the evening with my husband Stephen, our dog Kylie, and our cats, to unwind and leave it all behind—“Calgon, take me away,” as the old TV commercial for bath suds went.
I recognize, now more than ever, that I come from a place of privilege when I say this. If they aren’t already unstably housed or homeless, millions of people are facing evictions. Food lines formed by cars of families have stretched for miles in 2020, and the outlook doesn’t look good for 2021—food programs have lost or stand in danger of losing funding and turning more people away this year. Many small businesses that we depend upon that form the lifeblood of our economy may not survive the COVID-19 pandemic and the shutdowns. Unless new policies are enacted to address the structural inequities and systemic racism that disproportionately affect people of color and marginalized communities, who bear the brunt of these inhumane conditions, many will lose their homes, businesses, and livelihoods.
Thankfully there is hope on the way, in the form of preventative vaccines and therapeutic treatments for COVID-19. The speed in which the Pfizer, Moderna, and other vaccines are being developed is truly remarkable, and is due to a number of reasons. Some of them include the fact that we’ve been studying coronaviruses for 50 years, so we have some idea of how they work. Plus there was worldwide collaboration between scientists who shared their data with one another, and new methods were employed using mRNA technology, which has never been done before. There were a lot of people who volunteered for these studies, and we had many more study sites than usual. Operation Warp Speed allowed for companies to begin stockpiling doses of the vaccines even before the FDA approved them for use.
But medical mistrust is still real, especially among people of color, and will need to be addressed using effective public health messaging, changing the way we deliver healthcare, and through building back trust. According to a recent report in the Washington Post, while Black people in the United States are 1.4 times as likely as non-Hispanic Whites to contract the disease, and 2.8 times as likely to die of it, some may be less likely to take the vaccine. “The root of the problem lies not in Black communities themselves, but in a medical system that has historically dehumanized them and continues to do so. The result is that the history of medical racism in the United States presents a significant barrier to anything approaching equitable care in the present and future.”
Even facing such seemingly insurmountable challenges, we have a new incoming administration that will need to, and is more likely to, address some of these inequities and injustices head on. In the meantime, there are things we can do at home, or wherever we are, while we adjust to the new norm. In this issue Michelle Simek looks at how HIV testing sites are adapting to the pandemic. As this issue went to press, TPAN, the publisher of Positively Aware, was set to roll out a new home-testing initiative that includes delivering direct to clients’ homes HIV testing kits, condoms, lube, and other materials and information, as an alternative to coming in to the agency to get tested. Margaret Danilovich explains the role of diet and exercise in the era of COVID-19. And poet Natalie Patterson provides ways we can exercise self-care through journaling and other relaxation methods.
Just like we can’t go home again, we won’t ever be going back to what was normal—nor do we want to. Look at where normal has gotten us. We need to create a new normal, a more just and equitable society, one that has a place for everyone and a level playing field for all. Only then will we all finally find a place that we can proudly call home.
Take care of yourself, and each other.