Twin States Network Newsletter

September 2018


Logo Contest – Design and submit ideas for a new logo for Twin States Network. We are looking for a logo that can be formatted large or small. Send all suggestions to by November 1, 2018. The winner will receive a token prize and bragging rights.

Women’s Retreat – This year’s theme was “Remember and Rejuvenate”. Women fom Vermont and New Hampshire who are living with HIV came together for informational workshops, support groups, massage, yoga, clothing swap, arts and crafts and more… Participants were able to relax and have fun in a loving, supportive environment with other women who share similar life experiences. This has been an annual event, and highlight of the year for many of us, for more than 20 years. We welcome new and returning participants and hope to see you there next year!

Fitness Fund – Twin States Network has limited funding available to support fitness activities. That’s right! If you are HIV+ and would like assistance with a gym or pool membership, exercise equipment, or other fitness related expense we may be able to assist. So far this year we have assisted 39 individuals with this fund.

”I’m so thankful for the fitness funds from Twin States!  I wanted to do a Biggest Loser Program at my local gym, but it was pretty expensive.  I knew it would help me jump start losing weight again.  This program involved exercise and a food plan. The funds I received made it possible for me to participate.  Let’s be real, healthy food can be expensive.  I was able to use the money that I would have paid the gym to buy healthy food. I just lost 29.25 pounds and 86.75 inches in ten weeks!!  I feel absolutely amazing!  I won the contest too, and received a free year’s membership.” Julie J


WE ARE ALWAYS LOOKING – If you have a suggestion or would like to write something for a future newsletter please submit it via email to our Assistant Director at


NEW STAFF   Welcome aboard ….

Hi everyone!  I’m Gail Porter and happy to say I joined Twin States as a Peer Advocate in February. As an Advocate I offer support for individuals in St Johnsbury, Newport and the surrounding areas.   I’ve been a longtime volunteer for the area AIDS service organization/ syringe exchange. I enjoy helping others! In my down time I enjoy cooking (I make awesome macaroni and cheese) and I’m known as the cat lady.

Penni Cleverley, MS Assistant Director of TSN as of March 2018. I am assisting in the duties of the Executive Director along with providing ongoing supervision and support for the Peer Advocates. I have several years of experience as a psychotherapist, several years working in non-profit organizations and 13 years of experience working in supervisory roles. I enjoy gardening and indoor/outdoor fires at the Gingerbread house.

Laurie Casserly A New York transplant in Vermont for thirty years, I have been involved with TSN since its inception twenty-fixe years ago. I was originally a client when there was virtually no support for women available in VT. For ten years or so I have been a peer advocate volunteer and recently (August) made the switch to employee.

Gail and Laurie join our already established Peer Advocate Team: Tonya Sheets (8+yrs), Miriam Cruz (4+ yrs.) and Anne Ball (1.5 yrs.).

Peer Advocate attends conference

SPEAK UP! 2018

A Report on the PWN (Positive Women’s Network) Advocacy Summit, by Annie Ball

In April, I was privileged to attend this year’s PWN-USA Summit held in Myrtle Beach, S.C. It was a 3.5 day intense training with an extra side of fun. Other than some support staff, this was a conference designed by HIV positive women, presented by HIV+women, and attended by HIV + women. Three hundred fifty HIV+ women advocates gathered together was a powerhouse raise-the-roof experience.

This was a special year. It was 10th anniversary of the founding of PWN so to them it was 10 Years Fierce (#10YEARSFIERCE for those of you in Twitterland).

The focus of this year’s summit was “Advancing Racial and Gender Justice for All Women”. There were six main tracks for the summit:

  • Advancing HIV Research, Care & Prevention Agenda for Women
  • Building Leadership Skills
  • Organizing for Power
  • Policy, Advocacy & Action
  • Rights, Power & Justice
  • Strategic Communications for Leaders

I chose a mixture of workshops with the majority from the Rights Power & Justice and Policy Advocacy & Action tracks. The workshops I attended were eye opening and engaging. Presenters demonstrated how gender equality is not just about getting equal pay or access to jobs, but includes stigma, discrimination and prejudice in reproductive rights, health care access and treatment, employment, racism, violence, housing, and criminal justice.

I learned a whole new vocabulary in a workshop entitled “The Power of Language”, which was about using ‘people first language’ (referring to a person properly not by a label), ways to change the word choices we use, use of pronouns, and socially acceptable, non-judgmental terminology and vocabulary to use when engaging the transgender community. In “What You Need to Know: HIV among Trans Women and Barriers to Care”, which could easily have lasted another 2 hours, discussion was centered on the multitude of issues trans women face and what resources are available to better support and serve trans women. This included how to help agencies be trans welcoming and true allies of the transgender community.

I attended the “Self-Care for Leaders: Creating Sacred Spaces workshop, which I had watched in an online seminar and was able to meet the presenter in person.

In “Nothing About Us Without Us” (which is an older HIV activist phrase), we explored the changes that have resulted as HIV prevention and care has become more professionalized, and how to change from PLWHIV having to demand inclusion and engagement in ASO’s, planning councils, and advisory boards to being intentionally integrated into decision making about our care. The importance of addressing “intersectional stigma” was discussed (more info below). In the presentation, the idea that MIPA (Meaningful Involvement of People Living with HIV) needs to be the standard not the exception, was clear.

Two concept words that were used frequently throughout the summit was “intersectionality” and “intersectional stigma”. One workshop I attended was “Understanding Intersectionality”. While I heard of the concept in 1990, it was discussed regarding feminism or “interconnected oppressions”.

In the workshop, the focus was on intersectionality as a method of systems analysis – to look at how separate systems such as criminal justice system, healthcare system, welfare system, housing system etc. – interact in ways that regulate how women of color and people living with HIV live, by having disparate impacts on poor women and people living with HIV through government regulations. In short, if you are a POC (person of color), plus poor, plus HIV positive, plus a trans woman etc. – all these oppressions together magnify stigma impact on the individual. This was made clear in another workshop, “It Leaves a Mark: The Impact of Intersectional Stigma for Women Living with HIV”. The results of three recent research projects focused on HIV-related stigma were presented and discussed:

  • The HIV Stigma Index ( ) is a community based participatory research project by, for, and with people living with HIV. This index is now global. In the U.S., the Index has been conducted in Louisiana, Michigan, and New Jersey.
  • The Southern HIV/AIDS Strategy Initiative (SASI)

( )HIV Stigma Study examined the impact of stigma among persons living with HIV in four deep South states: Alabama, Mississippi, N. Carolina, and S. Carolina.

  • The Southern HIV/AIDS Strategy Initiative (SASI) HIV Stigma Study examined the impact of stigma among persons at higher risk for HIV in four deep South states: Alabama, Mississippi, N. Carolina, and S. Carolina.

In short, yes, stigma does leave a mark. There were high rates of experiences and negative consequences of HIV-related discriminations and stigmas despite most participants having access to social and institutional resources to foster positive coping and support efforts to address stigma/discrimination. Specific results can be accessed at the above websites.

So, there was an abundance of interesting information to learn in a short span of time. But there was also, fun and sun, a pajama party with a creative flair, a DJ and dancing with a Pink and Black theme. The hotel was directly on beautiful Myrtle Beach and two days of gorgeous weather to take it in. There were also an indoor/ outdoor and saltwater pool. I arrived home to NH from 72 degrees and sunshine to 30 degrees and snow, very tired but happy and hopefully better educated than when I left.

For more information on Positive Women’s Network, they are on the internet at: On Twitter @uspwn and FB /pwnusa



Medications vs Food – Good Reminder for all!

During a recent visit with a nutritionist I was asked if I like cheese. My response was “I love cheese”. I was then asked when I eat cheese in comparison to taking my medications. Eating cheese too close to my medications can actually lower the impact of my meds by 30%. I did not know this!

We hear the common things like garlic, St. Johnswort and grapefruit that can affect meds but I had never realized that cheese also has this potential affect. On the internet there are sites (Drug Interactions Checker- for drugs, food and alcohol) where individuals can enter the medications prescribed and it will list the foods that can potentially have an affect on the meds. Using this tool opens up information that can be discussed with providers so individuals can make informed decisions about food consumption with medications. Sharing knowledge is always a good thing…. Submitted by Penni



  • Quiche, cookies, brownies, pies, nutbreads, donuts, etc… We are looking for donations for our upcoming “Coffee Break” fundraiser which will take place at the Sharon, Vermont Welcome Center (I-91 Northbound) on Sunday, October 14, 2018.
  • “NEW” Donation button – TSN has added a donation button to our web site, Contributions are always welcome and can also be made on Facebook!
  • We are doing our first “Pop-Up Dinner” fund raiser in Concord, New Hanpshire later this fall. These are events held at a supporter’s home, where they invite members of the community for a special dinner in exchange for a donation to Twin States Network. The format can vary from an elegant sit-down dinner to a buffet or cocktail hour. If you or someone you know would be interested in helping TSN in this way, please contact Donna Pratt at 802-477-3264.



It’s been 2-1/2 years since I came on board as Executive Director for Twin States Network. The time has flown by and I’m very pleased by the progress we’ve made. We have a strong and active Board of Directors and excellent staff. We just submitted a 4 year grant application for continued funding through the Vermont Health Department. We are also searching for funding opportunities to support services in New Hampshire. Broadway CARES recently awarded us a $7500 grant to support the Fitness Fund for another year! We also received a grant of $1500 from the Samara Fund to support administrative costs. With the addition of Penni Cleverley as Assistant Director we are improving and strengthening our Peer Support program, with professional supervsion and training for the Peer Advocates. We also plan to participate in the Miracle Providers Christmas gift program again this year, to provide gifts for our client’s children. This is a wonderfully generous program that truly creates miracles for children affected by HIV. And finally, we are looking ahead to the 2019 Women’s Retreat which will once again be held at a lovely inn in southern Vermont.



Greetings from Peggy Villar, President of the TSN Board: My involvement with Twin States Network dates back to the early years of the organization. I must say that with Donna Pratt as our Executive Director and the addition of Penni Cleverley as Assistant Director, we as an organization are in really good shape with leadership. Their professionalism, energy and integrity have brought the organization to a higher standard.

We have two new board members, Julie Bardales and Angela DaPrato. Both of these women bring an array of skills and energy to the table. We are always looking for new board members to join our now strong and engaged board. Please contact me via email if you have any interest in serving on our board of directors.

We have some exciting stuff in the pipeline….. STAY TUNED!