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Home > This Just In > PAF Board Member Venus Ginés

PAF Board Member Venus Ginés participates with First Lady Michelle Obama in event to mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month

On Friday October 23, 2009 PAF Board Member Venus Ginés was invited to participate with First Lady Michelle Obama in an event to mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month and to focus attention on the importance of healthcare for women. Here are the remarks from Ms. Ginés:

"It is an honor and a privilege to be here today to tell my story. Thank you, First Lady Obama, for your gracious invitation.

As a Latina breast cancer survivor and advocate, my mission is to provide Latina women with culturally specific health education to increase screening and reduce mortality for breast and cervical cancer—in the US and globally.

In 1992, a lump in my breast was found as I was being treated for an on-the-job accident as a flight attendant for TWA. I had a mammogram, then a biopsy – and subsequently the bad news. Just after 9/11, I, along with many furloughed employees, was suddenly without a job or health insurance. After exhausting COBRA, I sought and was denied health insurance because of my previous bout with cancer. Many of you in the audience can relate to the feeling of abandonment – by your employer, your insurance company and your government. I say “government”, because there are no laws to protect you from this type of discrimination.

My experiences with our broken health system and my sister’s untimely death of cervical cancer due to HPV prompted me to action. In 1997, I founded Día de la Mujer Latina, (translates to Day of the Latin American Woman) a nonprofit Latina health and wellness organization. Día de la Mujer Latina Health Fiestas provide culturally and linguistically specific health education and screening, follow-up care and patient navigation to poor, underserved, and uninsured Latinos.

Under our nonprofit, I was able to get health insurance but it was pricey and limited – there was no protection for a re-occurrence. According to the Patient Advocate Foundation, as more and more Americans lose their medical insurance because of unemployment or pre-existing conditions, they are unable to access life-saving basic care and treatment. For many of our attendees, this is their only form of breast cancer screening and preventive care. PAF documented a 146% increase of cases from the previous year of patients who were negatively affected by pre-existing medical condition and/or did meet underwriting criteria as a result of previous illness.

Today, together with our partners, which include local merchants and community-based organizations, hospitals and clinics as well as countless dedicated volunteers, Día de la Mujer Latina health fiestas has been celebrated in over 30 cities in the US and Puerto Rico with a successful outreach of nearly 55,000 women of all races and ethnicities. We’ve empowered Promotoras/Community Health Workers to provide health outreach and support to the people and families in the neighborhoods and these folks are breaking the barriers of medical mistrust and identify resources for care and support.

With my upcoming 17 years of breast cancer survivorship and our schedule for 2010, my resolve is to save the lives of our medically uninsured and underinsured vulnerable populations "one city, one community at a time.”"

Read more about Venus Ginés here

View the complete video of the event on C-SPAN,org

View First Lady Obama video on Healthcare and Women

View event video on