Monthly Archives: December 2016

“We Are One Tribe”: Fighting Forward Toward an AIDS-Free Generation

Group of Multiethnic Diverse World People

By Tiffany Grimes (Public Interest Policy Scholar, APA)

As we transition into a new Congress and presidential administration, it seems timely to reflect on the work achieved by the Office of National AIDS Policy and their achievements under the Obama Administration.   In December, I had the opportunity to attend “Moving Forward with HIV in America: Drawing Strength from Our Past and Empowering Today’s Leaders”, the Office of National AIDS Policy’s final public event during the Obama Administration to help mark World AIDS Day 2016. While I had always dreamed of visiting the inside of the White House, I envisioned my first trip to include visiting the West Wing and meeting President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.  Yet, I had never imagined visiting the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. It was truly an honor to represent APA as a Public Interest Policy Scholar and share space in the South Court Auditorium with so many advocates and impactful leaders working to eradicate HIV/AIDS.


Wise and young leaders who all shared a common goal of working towards an AIDS-Free generation filled the room.  Dr. Amy Lansky, the Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy for The White House, who also reviewed the National HIV/AIDS strategy, welcomed us: 2016 progress report. George Fistonich, Policy Advisor for the Office of National AIDS Policy, walked us through the past eight years under the Obama Administration to reflect on the advancements that the administration has made in combating HIV/AIDS. There were very few dry eyes in the room, as we recalled the commitment and dedication of President Obama and those under his leadership to people living with HIV and HIV prevention.

The facilitators then held a panel and group discussion titled “Acting Together, Fighting AIDS”.  The panel was stacked with key figures in HIV/AIDS advocacy, including Dázon Dixon Diallo from SisterLove in Atlanta, GA.  The intersectionality was apparent across the room: so many identities occupying a safe space within the White House.  Individuals feeling comfortable to just be themselves and express their concerns, anxieties, challenges, accomplishments, joys, and hopes for the future. There is no way to deny that this was a very special occasion and a very special moment in time.

The conversation was spurred using clips from David France’s 2012 American documentary film about the early years of the AIDS epidemic, How to Survive a Plague.

As we watched scenes from the efforts of ACT UP and TAG, once again, tears started to fall around the room. One attendee described the presence in the room as a “funeral”, as many in the room expressed their anxieties and fears regarding what is to come for HIV/AIDS advocacy and care, in addition to concerns regarding the stability of recent advancements in LGBTQ, women’s, ethnic minority, and disability rights and equality.  The audience member reminded us that there is much to celebrate, because we have come so far. It is time for us to rise to the occasion, as the fight and work is not yet over.

The panelists shared their experiences working in HIV advocacy and emphasized the sentiment that it is necessary for us to work together across identities and join forces. They elaborated that supporting each other is more important now than ever and that HIV advocacy goes behind just working towards an HIV-free generation, but also towards equity for all people, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, citizenship, or ability status.  Many reminded us that there have been many challenges in the past, which we have managed to overcome, which is what we will continue to do.  Our current priority should be combatting stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV and increased efforts to reach those most affected (youth, MSM, women and transgender women of color) in the places most affected (the South).  Ms. Diallo highlighted that the face of the epidemic and the geography have changed, thus we must adapt our ways of engagement in activism accordingly.

Panelists and participants highlighted the need to address the shame surrounding HIV in communities of color, which can negatively influence HIV testing and treatment adherence.  Ms. Diallo expressed the idea that shame “does not mobilize, it immobilizes” and at the core we are all working to not be “othered” or to be treated differently. Dr. Rich Wolitski, Director of the Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, psychologist, and APA member gave inspiring closing remarks to end the panel discussion. Throughout the event, there were so many insightful thoughts and impactful experiences shared, but these words of Ms. Diallo followed me home:

“We are a tribe and this movement has brought us together.”

The HIV movement has brought us together because of our intersecting identities.  Therefore, may we come together as one as we continue to “fight-forward” towards health equity and an AIDS-Free generation.

What can you do to advance the fight towards an AIDS-Free generation?



Tiffany Grimes is a Public Interest Policy Scholar at the American Psychological Association and a fourth year PhD Candidate at The University of Georgia.  Her clinical and research interests are primarily focused in health disparities, specifically among people living with HIV/AIDS, LGBTQ individuals, ethnic minorities, and other marginalized populations.

Filed under: AIDS, Public Policy Tagged: National AIDS policy, world AIDS day

The Inside Scoop: Straight from the Older Adults in Your Life

elderly african american man enjoying coffee with his granddaughter

By Sheri R. Levy, PhD, Rachel Smith, and MaryBeth Apriceno (Stony Brook University)

Who doesn’t enjoy a good story? This holiday season take a few minutes to listen to a story from an older person in your life. You may learn a thing or two and even find some inspiration. Sure, there are lots of self-help and motivational books out there, but a wealth of helpful inside information about how to find happiness and fulfillment is likely waiting for you a lot closer than you think – at your own dinner table or your neighbor’s doorstep.

Long before the Internet and Wikipedia, older adults were a key source of information about how the world works and how to successfully maneuver our way through life’s endless twists and turns. Unfortunately, our jam-packed, fast-paced schedules often don’t leave time for us to take even a few minutes to learn from the older adults we know.

Spending those few minutes together can be mutually beneficial. When older adults share about their lives, there are psychological benefits for both the older individuals doing the talking and for the younger people doing the listening. Since at least the 1960s, healthcare providers have been successfully dabbling in this kind of informal interviewing in which they encourage unstructured storytelling among older adults. Studies with healthcare providers as well as studies with children in schools show that older individuals doing the talking report reduced depressive symptoms and increased positive well-being, while the individuals listening report receiving valuable life advice and more positive attitudes toward aging and older adults. That’s a win-win.

This activity is simple to do and doesn’t have to be time-consuming. Just ask an older adult you know to share something about her/his life. Be sure to ask for details – lots and lots of them. The positive effects of storytelling are magnified when the story is detailed and comes to life. You’ll get a clearer window into their lives, and they will appreciate and enjoy an engaged listener.

So, go ahead and be a nosy relative, neighbor, and friend, and get to know more about the older adults in your life. You are likely to learn something new, while helping make an older adult feel more valued. You might just make a new friend, strengthen a bond, and discover a role model. Bring on the holiday cheer!


If you would like to learn more about this topic, the following articles might be of interest to you:


Butler, R. N. (1963). The life review: an interpretation of reminiscence in the aged. Psychiatry, 26, 65-76.

Clarke, A., Hanson, E. J., & Ross, H. (2003). Seeing the person behind the patient: enhancing the care of older people using a biographical approach. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 12, 697-706.

Gaggioli, A., Morganti, L., Bonfiglio, S., Scaratti, C., Cipresso, P., Serino, S., & Riva, G. (2014). Intergenerational group reminiscence: A potentially effective intervention to enhance elderly psychosocial wellbeing and to improve children’s perception of aging. Educational Gerontology, 40(7), 486-498. doi:10.1080/03601277.2013.844042

Levy, S.R. (2016). Toward reducing ageism: PEACE (Positive Education about Aging and Contact Experiences) Model. The Gerontologist. 10 AUG 2016, doi: 10.1093/geront/gnw116

Levy, S.R., & Macdonald, J.L. (2016). Progress on Understanding Ageism. Journal of Social Issues, 72(1), 5-25. doi: 10.1111/josi.12153

McKeown, J., Clarke, A., & Repper, J. (2006). Life story work in health and social care: systematic literature review. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 55(2), 237-247. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2006.03897.x

Pinquart, M., & Forstmeier, S. (2012). Effects of reminiscence interventions on psychosocial outcomes: A meta-analysis. Aging and Mental Health, 16(5), 541-558. doi:10.1080/13607863.2011.651434



Sheri R. Levy is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Stony Brook University, USA. She earned her PhD at Columbia University in New York City, USA. Levy studies factors that cause and maintain prejudice, stigmatization, and negative intergroup relations and that can be harnessed to reduce bias, marginalization, and discrimination. Her research focuses on bias based on age, ethnicity, gender, nationality, race, sexual orientation, and social class.  With Jamie L. Macdonald and Todd D. Nelson, Levy co-Edited a special issue of Journal of Social Issues on “Ageism: Health and Employment Contexts” (Levy, Macdonald, & Nelson, 2016). Levy’s research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, and Levy publishes her research in journals such as Basic and Applied Social Psychology, Child Development, Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, and Social Issues and Policy Review. Levy was Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Social Issues from 2010-2013 and is a Fellow of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (Division 9 of American Psychological Association).

Rachel Smith is currently a graduate student and teaching assistant at Stony Brook University. Rachel received her BA in Psychology from Eugene Lang College in New York City, NY. Her research investigates the role of construal level in the narrative effects on social mindsets, and seeks to elucidate the link between concrete detail and beliefs shown to underlie different styles of person perception.

MaryBeth Apriceno is a graduate student and teaching assistant at Stony Brook University. She received her BA in Forensic Psychology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in NYC. Her research investigates the impact of cultural messages and representations of aging in popular forms of media on ageist attitudes, anti-aging behavior intentions, and aging anxiety.

Filed under: Aging Tagged: healthy aging, mental health, older adults, psychological benefits, social bonding, social relationships

For Richer or Poorer: What Works to Reduce Poverty in America?


By Annie Davis (Public Interest Policy Scholar, APA)

How can we improve the economic wellbeing of American families? This was one of the issues that dominated the 2016 election cycle, with each candidate proposing a different way forward. Across party lines, we can all agree that poverty is harmful for our society. Research from psychology links poverty to negative physical and mental health outcomes – particularly for vulnerable groups like children and older adults.[1]

So what do we know about programs that effectively alleviate poverty? Most of our poverty data comes from the U.S. census, but this excludes many benefits shown to boost economic mobility.[2]

The Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM),[3] on the other hand, sheds more light.

The SPM provides a comprehensive picture of poverty in the U.S. by measuring household income, factoring in cash and non-cash benefits, and subtracting necessary expenses. This measure can be used to calculate the impact of individual safety net programs.

  • The Earned Income Tax Credit enables low- and moderate-income working individuals (primarily parents) to offset the impact of paying taxes, incentivize workforce participation, and provide income for necessary expenses. It raised 9.2 million people above the poverty line in 2015.
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is monthly nutrition assistance for eligible low-income households to buy the food they need to be healthy. It raised 4.6 million people above the poverty line in 2015.
  • The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides support for low-income, nutritionally at-risk pregnant and postpartum women and young children (up to age 5), including food assistance, nutrition information, and referrals to medical and social services. It raised over 370,000 people above the poverty line in 2015.[4]

The huge impact of these programs adds to the massive reach of Social Security (26.6 million people raised above the poverty line).[5] These findings about the societal benefits of the safety net are consistent with data showing a 40% reduction in poverty since the beginning of the War on Poverty (and the creation of federal safety-net programs) in 1967.[6] The SPM unequivocally shows federal safety net programs work to protect low-income people from the harms of poverty, particularly those in marginalized groups.

The value of these programs is clear, not only in alleviating poverty but also in preventing the downstream effects of poverty on physical and mental health. However, these kinds of programs are constantly under threat in the current political climate. If they were to be further cut, as has been proposed, this would plunge more Americans into poverty, and the physical and psychological harms that ensue.

These include negative impacts on:

  • mental health,
  • family functioning,
  • cognitive functioning,
  • trauma/chronic stress, and
  • academic and professional success.[7]

APA will continue to advocate for programs that alleviate the burden of poverty. For example, APA has supported SNAP, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and the Child Tax Credit, programs that lessen families’ financial strain and food insecurity, thereby reducing toxic stress and improving mental health.

Moreover, APA has recently supported legislation like the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act (S. 786/H.R. 1439), which would guarantee paid leave following the birth of a child or during a serious health condition, with positive impacts on child development, maternal mental health, and family relations.

Help APA stand up for vulnerable Americans! Sign up for our Federal Action Network to contact your representatives about these issues.


[1] Evans, G.W. (2004). The environment of childhood poverty. American Psychologist, 59, 77–92. doi: 10.1037/0003-066x.59.2.77

[2] Bitler. M., & Hoynes, H. (2013). The more things change, the more they stay the same? The safety net and poverty in the Great Recession (NBER Working Paper No. 19449). Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research. Retrieved from

[3] Renwick, T., & Fox, L. (2016). The Supplemental Poverty Measure: 2015 [U.S. Census Bureau, P60-258(RV)]. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

[4] Renwick & Fox, 2016

[5] Renwick & Fox, 2016

[6] Wimer, C., Fox, L., Garfinkel, I., Kaushal., N., & Waldfogel, J. (2013). Trends in poverty with an anchored Supplemental Poverty Measure (Working paper 13-01). New York, NY: Columbia Population Research Center (CPRC). Retrieved from

[7] Evans, G.W. (2004). The environment of childhood poverty. American Psychologist, 59, 77–92. doi: 10.1037/0003-066x.59.2.77

Flouri, E., Midouhas, E., & Joshi, H. (2014). Family poverty and trajectories of children’s emotional and behavioural problems: The moderating roles of self-regulation and verbal cognitive ability. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology42(6), 1043-1056.

Hudson, C.G. (2005). Socioeconomic status and mental illness: Tests of the social causation and selection hypotheses. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry75(1), 3.

Manseau, M. (2014). Economic inequality and poverty as social determinants of mental health. Psychiatric Annals, 44(1), 32-38. doi:

Santiago, C.D., Wadsworth, M.E., & Stump, J. (2011). Socioeconomic status, neighborhood disadvantage, and poverty-related stress: Prospective effects on psychological syndromes among diverse low-income families. Journal of Economic Psychology32(2), 218-230.

Shonkoff, J.P. (2010). Building a new biodevelopmental framework to guide the future of early childhood policy. Child Development81(1), 357-367.

Yoshikawa, H., Aber, J.L., & Beardslee, W.R. (2012). The effects of poverty on the mental, emotional, and behavioral health of children and youth: Implications for prevention. American Psychologist67(4), 272-284.


Annie Davis is a Public Interest Policy Scholar at the American Psychological Association and a fourth year Ph.D. student in Clinical Psychology at The Catholic University of America. Her clinical and research interests center on mental health interventions for young children living in poverty.


Filed under: Poverty and Socioeconomic Status, Public Policy Tagged: Child Tax Credit, Earned Income Tax Credit, paid family and medical leave, poverty, poverty reduction, public policy, safety net programs, SNAP, social safety net, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, war on poverty