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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
LOUISIANA: Suspected Arson Destroys Nonprofit Health Center; Mid-City Group Focuses on Preventing HIV/AIDS
Kari Dequine
May 29, 2012
Times-Picayune (New Orleans) (05.28.12) - Tuesday, May 29,

Early Friday, the complex housing the offices of Women With a Vision (WWV) was ransacked and set on fire. WWV Executive Director Deon Haywood suspects arson; the matter is still under investigation by local police and fire departments.

Small fires were set in at least four different areas of WWV's offices, and the contents of its outreach office were a near- total loss. Haywood said that office contained "the heart of everything we use to educate the community," and makes the act feel "intentional." The education- and prevention-related supplies lost include male and female condoms, HIV test kits, and anatomical models used to provide instruction on reproductive health.

WWV uses advocacy, health education, support services, and community-based participatory research "to improve the lives of marginalized women, their families, and communities by addressing the social conditions that hinder their health and well-being." WWV focuses on women and the transgendered; it performs no medical procedures besides HIV testing. Its clientele includes the poor, homeless, sex trade workers, and previously incarcerated persons.

Haywood has gained notoriety advocating for comprehensive sex education and rehabilitation programs for former prisoners, and against criminalization of people with HIV/AIDS. WWV may be most widely known for championing the fight against Louisiana's "crimes against nature law" requiring those convicted of selling oral or anal sex to register as sex offenders. The law was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge March 29.

"I feel strongly the fire had to do with our work or my voice," said Haywood. "Our clients are not just numbers. They are family. We take care of one another," said Haywood, promising not to "stop speaking out about injustice. We'll keep moving."