Kalamazoo College Professor Garriaga-Lopez will be speaking at the American Public Health Association in Chicago on November 3rd. Garriaga will discuss the consequences of federal inaction on the congressional health care cap for Puerto Rico.
Her presentation provides historical socioeconomic context for the current HIV epidemic and larger overall healthcare crisis facing the country, which is the topic of the forum “Tales from the Colony,” where Garriaga will be speaking.
“This is a very big thing. It’s the thing that matters most to me. It’s the thing I’ve dedicated my life to,” Garriaga said.
She hopes to place the Puerto Rican HIV epidemic in context as a byproduct of the United States’ past and present policy of territorial colonialism.
“You can’t talk about the viability of those (HIV intervention) programs without acknowledging the broader overall political social context in which people do not have resources fairly attributed to them,” Garriaga said.
Although Puerto Ricans contribute equally to services such as Medicare and Medicaid, they do not receive the full allocation due to them. This inequality of resource distribution stems from the congressional spending cap for healthcare in United States territories, a program that has not been revised since its creation in 1968.
Despite the gravity of the issue, relatively few Americans are invested or aware of the crisis facing Puerto Ricans, who are leaving their native country in large numbers, according to Garriaga.
“It’s an opportunity for me to make a political intervention,” the professor said and added that she views the financial crisis in Puerto Rico as completely connected to the congressional funding cap for health care programs.
“It’s one of those things where you go and say the thing that needs to be said. You don’t really know what’s going to happen,” Garriaga said.
Garriaga views her discourse as part of a larger, ongoing conversation with her fellow colleagues also invested in the future of Puerto Rico. She hopes that through discussion with fellow panelists at the conference, they can collectively decide how to move forward on the issue of Puerto Rican health care.
“I think that I’m modeling a certain kind of scholarly activism…this is also what social justice looks like,” Garriga said.