Nearly 50,000 African Americans are living with HIV in Florida and those numbers are continuing to climb according to Tatiana Williams.
As Co-Founder and Executive Director of Transinclusive Group, Williams also currently oversees the HIV Department at the Pride Center and works daily to make sure HIV Testing is available to everyone in Broward County.
With National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day approaching on Feb. 7, Williams would like to see more of a spotlight on those who are locally living with HIV and AIDS and also see more trans representation in the black community.
“I was welcomed into a lot of spaces in the trans community and I noticed a lack of involvement in HIV and AIDS prevention care in the African American community,” Williams said. “Once a week, we have support group within the trans community. We have trans men, trans women and non-binary. A lot of them are at risk.”
While Williams along with Transinclusive Group continues to spread HIV and Aids awareness, Williams believes not enough people are advocating the right way.
“The way the system is set up, when you cover people of color, it looks like that demographic is being served on paper when in reality it’s not,” Williams said. “When we’re speaking to the CDC, they’re not seeing what the needs of a specific population are from the ground up. It has to start at a higher level and it requires supporting black-led work and making sure we have equity in and access to the work we’re trying to do.”
Williams will be speaking as part of a Voices of Black Trans Women panel March 25 at the African American Research Library and Cultural Center and aims to continue to shed a spotlight on HIV awareness and testing. It’s a cause that caught Williams’ attention in 2014 and remains a strong focus since Florida had the nation’s third-highest rate of new HIV diagnoses in 2017 with more than 4,800 new cases identified.
“Knowledge is power and our community doesn’t understand,” Williams said. “To see change, we must be a part of that. There’s a stigma with HIV. People don’t want to talk about it. It’s about educating our community from within. Getting tested is just a simple finger prick and you can your results within 20 minutes. We offer testing at the Pride Center and we also offer in-home HIV testing for the trans community.”
With more than 40,000 new cases of HIV getting diagnosed across the nation each year, it’s a health crisis that remains even more of a threat in Florida, disproportionately affecting African American gay and bi men and transwomen.
“When I transitioned over 30 years ago, we didn’t have access to what we have now,” Williams said. “A lot of my friends have succumbed to HIV and AIDS. Doing pageants before advocacy, I felt it was my duty to improve my community. It’s important to stay involved and it will take all of us working together to truly make a difference.”