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Kenya Hutton Combats HIV Stigma with Education

Kenya Hutton is a program manager at the Urban Coalition for HIV/AIDS Prevention Services (UCHAPS). His core expertise includes HIV prevention and a passion for social justice with marginalized populations. Kenya has over 10 years’ experience facilitating behavioral interventions with those heavily impacted by HIV in NYC and Washington, DC. In the lead up to National HIV Testing Day, we caught up with Kenya to learn more about his work, motivations, and what UCHAPS has planned for the awareness day.

Tell me a bit about yourself and how you came to be involved in this work?

Hi, I’m Native of Brooklyn NY. Child of Jamaican, immigrant parents, and I’m oldest of 7. I became involved in this work when about 18 years ago, I noticed people passing unexpectedly but no one was talking about it, then one day a good friend of mine passed and it hit home. From there I began looking for ways to help. Right out of college I needed a job and at that time Capser Latex posted a job opening at GMHC. It was a part time job but it was something to put money in my pocket. Through my time there I met Aisha Diori (Then Mother Latex). She saw something in me and pushed me to take advantage of all the trainings and opportunities available. 17 years later, here I am program manager of a national organization impacting the lives of individuals and communities in need.

UCHAPS focuses specifically on HIV in larger cities. How did this focus come about?

Being responsive to the epidemic and funding, UCHAPS was able to work with the most impacted jurisdictions. Through this, we have been able to provide services to those 9 jurisdictions some of which have seen a dramatic decrease in HIV Transmission. UCHAPS now has begun to strategize on providing resources to areas in the south that has been indicated as his prevalence counties. We know that being responsive to this epidemic is important to ending HIV in America.

The CDC estimates that most HIV transmissions arise from people who don’t know their status or haven’t been linked to care. Can you share some of the work you’re doing to combat barriers to testing and treatment?

One of the major barriers people face is stigma, and one of the best ways to combat stigma is through education. We host a number of trainings, webinars and best practice documents free of charge on our website to help organizations get the information they need to make better choices in working with their communities to impact the lives of those that need the information the most.

We’re coming up on National HIV Testing Day later this month, is UCHAPS doing anything to recognize this day?

Yes, UCHAPS is hosting our National HIV Testing Week (NHTW). NHTW provide an opportunity to highlight HIV testing during the entire week, leading up to National HIV Testing Day. NHTW combines events across the nation to demonstrate the positive benefits to health and well-being that an HIV test facilitates, encouraging individuals to become aware of their HIV status and to encourage those that are HIV-positive and are not in care to start a discussion about treatment options with medical professionals. We provide technical assistance, best practices, financial support, resources etc. to assist organizations in executing HIV Testing events within their local communities.

How do you stay motivated in your work?

Whether doing direct services or working on the policy background side, hearing the stories of communities keeps me motivated knowing that I’m making a difference in someone’s life.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Thank you for the support from organizations such as AIDS United and others. It’s through support we are able to do what we do to help organizations make real impact in their communities and make a shift in this epidemic.

Thank you, Kenya!

Posted By: Sarah Hashmall, Communications Manager - Monday, June 24, 2019

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