USCHA Needs Your Help – Abstracts Due July 17

The United States Conference on HIV/AIDS had over 1,200 registrations on the first day and 2,100 registrations one week later. Now we need your help. At its core, USCHA is a peer to peer training opportunity that prioritizes community learning from the experiences of other communities. The 2020 meeting will have 60 workshops and we hope you will submit an abstract. Please register for the 1 PM (eastern) July 2nd webinar on Abstract Submissions.

Tracks for the 2020 meeting include: Race, Federal Track, HIV Prevention During COVID-19, HIV Care & Wrap Around Services During COVID-19, Next Steps for Ending the HIV Epidemic (EHE), Reaching Communities Hardest Hit by HIV, HIV Policy, Community Organizing during COVID-19, Expanding HIV Services to Address COVID-19 Testing, and Track En Espanol.Last week more than 600 people registered to attend one of the three webinars that NMAC hosted to discuss the virtual platform and to get feedback on priority workshops. Attendees shared that they wanted workshops that address:

  1. How to provide HIV services in a COVID-19 world, and
  2. What does Black Lives Matter mean to the HIV Movement?
How to Provide HIV Services in a COVID-19 World
Per feedback received, attendees are looking for guidance on what HIV services they should prioritize and how to provide those services. Community especially wants and needs guidance from funders about what they will support in the next iteration of our work. Here are some of the topics that were suggested:
  • How to Reopen and Keep Your Staff and Clients Safe
  • Liability Issues if Someone Gets COVID-19
  • How to do HIV Testing, Treatment, Care, and Wrap Around Services
  • Providing Services to People Over 50 Living with HIV
  • Mental Health and Depression Challenges
  • Reaching the Transgender Community
  • Next Steps for Ending the HIV Epidemic in a COVID-19 World

Please consider submitting an abstract if you have experience on any of these topics. USCHA has guaranteed workshop slots for HHS, CDC, HRSA, SAMHSA, IHS, OAR, NIAID, and HUD. We’ve asked them to address their agency’s vision for moving forward during these challenging times. Additionally, there will be a Federal Village in the virtual Exhibit Hall.

What does Black Lives Matter mean to the HIV Movement?
Participants on the webinars also said they were looking for concrete steps for their agencies to stand in support of Black Lives Matter. Everyone agreed that the work starts with education about race and racism. Here are topics participants said they would like as workshops:

  • Understanding Race and Racism
  • Learning About White Privilege
  • What is Unconscious Bias and How Does it Impact HIV Service Delivery?
  • Policies and Procedures that Build Antiracist Organizations
  • Staff Training Needs on Race and Black Lives Matter

Workshops are one hour long. The first 30 minutes will be recorded in advance and the last 30 minutes will be a “live” Questions & Answers during the meeting. The “data” section for workshops will be recorded starting after Labor Day (September 7th) until the first week of October. Presenters will be required to sign a release that allows USCHA to put the workshop online for up to one year. Handouts and PowerPoint presentations will be uploaded to the conference platform for attendees to download starting on October 19th.

Each workshop will be assigned a technical assistance lead staff. This individual will work with abstract presenters on their recordings and facilitate the “live” portion of the workshops on Oct 19-21. Workshops will be recorded on Zoom, then transferred to the USCHA platform. In August, USCHA will host a webinar and provide a training manual for presenters. Our goal is to support presenters to create amazing workshops.

As you can read, virtual workshops require much more advance work. This is not something that can be done on the plane to the meeting. Thousands of people will attend this year’s meeting, and even more will view it online after. USCHA needs your help to make this a memorable and informative experience. Thank you.

 

Yours in the struggle,

 

My Blackness Doesn’t Diminish Based On My Trans* Identity

Written by: Derek Baugh, TGNC CAP NMAC

Foreword: Carmarion D. Anderson, TGNC CAP NMAC

In light of the most recent killings of unarmed Black people, I have found myself in the midst of a sea of emotions. These emotions have ranged from anger and fury to fear and hopelessness. In the wake of the murders of both George Floyd & Breonna Taylor, the Black Trans community has rallied alongside our cisgender/heterosexual counterparts in several ways. Whether it is Black Trans people organizing protests, providing resources to protesters, or physically putting their bodies on the front line for a community, Black Trans identified individuals are fighting at the forefront of a movement from which we feel separated and treated as outcasts.

For years, Trans individuals have attended Trans Day Of Remembrance (TDOR) ceremonies, World AIDS Day activities, and various other community events. We have found ourselves in those spaces searching for those who call themselves our allies. In those solemn moments when we speak the names of our siblings, and now ancestors, which primarily consist of Black Trans women who die at the hands of cisgender men who are not unlike those they stand alongside when tragedies like this occur, and we wonder where our allies are. Where are the people who come and steal our culture and harness the talent from our community? Where are the people who throw around ballroom lingo but have no idea where it originated? Where are the people who see no issue with asking us personal questions or treating us like their own Trans glossaries? Where are our allies? Where is this fury and outrage when one of our Black Trans lives is senselessly stolen? Many of us are left angry and shouting that our Black Lives Matter Too, and yes, you would think this should be common knowledge. The exclusion of Black Trans individuals from this movement brings to mind a phrase, “I too am America”-Langston Hughes. We, too, are Black, and our lives matter.

When a sibling-like Nina Pop or Tony McDade is killed, it is painful for us, the Trans community-at-large.  It is doubly offensive when we are hushed and treated as shameful, confused, or embarrassing because of our gender identities by our cisgender counterparts. We are told or commanded to “be quiet” and “wait our turn” as if somehow these stolen Black lives are not as devastating or worth being upset about. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” The silence from those we march alongside is piercing, deafening, and painful. When our Black Trans sisters are killed, dangerous and false narratives suggest they have “tricked” someone.  Perhaps, if they had disclosed their gender identity earlier, their murder could have been prevented is the story that is perpetuated. Black Trans people are literally being told,” yeah, you can stay, just don’t be too loud.”

We ask those who are recipients of the rights, earned with the blood, sweat, and suffering of Black trans people to be true and intentional allies. Black trans people are educated, gifted, and talented, and by hiring this community allies will help create a path to leadership. Give up your seat at the proverbial table for a Black trans person. Don’t perpetuate false narratives. Have hard conversations. Call people out on their problematic statements. Do your own research. Compensate Black Trans people justly for their stories. My blackness doesn’t diminish based on my trans* identity; it diminishes when it is ignored!

The HIV Movement’s Problem with Race

NMAC logoNMAC (formerly National Minority AIDS Council) was founded in 1987 because minorities were disproportionately impacted by a new retrovirus. Back in the ’80s, AIDS was labeled a “White gay disease.” We created NMAC to give voice to People of Color. While much has changed, HIV health outcomes continue to expose our movement’s problem with race. In America the color of your skin greatly determines your HIV health outcome. People of Color are the majority of new cases of HIV,  the majority of people living with HIV, and  the majority of people who die from HIV. Yet 75% of the people on PrEP are White. Since PrEP is the major tool used to prevent HIV, the results of HIV’s demographics are more than mathematical; they are racist.

We’ve worked together for over 30 years, I’m not here to blame or shame, but to speak truth to our movement at a critical point in history. As our nation grapples with systemic racism highlighted by the Black Lives Matter movement, it is important to remember that people living with HIV, people on PrEP, staff, boards, constituents, donors, and peers are watching. Will you be the leader your agency/movement needs to get us through these troubled times? Our movement needs to reexamine what justice and success mean in a world after COVID-19, Black Lives Matter, and the unemployment of 40 million Americans that turned into a recession.

Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible-
even if you’re choking on it-until you let the sun in. Then you can see it’s everywhere.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Over $300 million in new HIV federal funding to end the HIV epidemic (EHE) is hitting the streets. This translates into thousands of new jobs and hundreds of new contracts for community-based organizations and others. Are federal agencies and health departments ready to distribute these funds in a fair and equitable way? Black Lives Matter is a call for justice for communities who too often are overlooked and ignored.

In addition to HIV health outcomes, our movement also lacks people of color in leadership positions. The Black AIDS Institute did a survey that found “White people hold 67% of the senior leadership positions in AIDS service organizations.” Questions about race, gender, gender identity, and the sexual orientation of our leadership are part of the much wider discussion on equity, fairness and justice for communities who suffered from generational racism and oppression. To be clear, I’m not saying fire all the White people. I am saying that White leaders working in the HIV field have a unique responsibility to address race and how they will work to dismantle racist systems.

It’s not just the leadership. Too many People of Color-focused HIV organizations have closed over the last 10 years. Just as we become the majority of the HIV epidemic, the agencies that were founded and led by People of Color are closing. Most of the initial funding for these agencies came from the Minority AIDS Initiative (MAI). Slowly, that money has been redirected and no longer prioritizes People of Color agencies per its original intent.

What role does racial bias play when reviewing funding requests from People of Color organizations? This bias was recently acknowledged by the University of California when they stopped using SAT or ACT scores for college admission because of the racial bias of those tests. This matters to the HIV movement because we are about to distribute millions in new funding. Look at who gets funded to understand how systems are biased against people of color and the organizations they run. If we keep operating in the same ways, how can we expect different results? It is not enough to make a statement supporting Black Lives Matter. Now is the time to create and implement systems that value the leaders and communities hardest hit by HIV.

This is where the hard work begins. Community-based organizations, health departments, national organizations, and federal HIV agencies who want to end the HIV epidemic must address racism and its structural impact on America’s HIV outcomes. The work to build antiracist institutions starts with education. Understanding White privilege, unconscious implicit bias, and structural racism are essential before building plans.

We are not any kind of role model. NMAC started our journey to build an anti-racist organization with the People’s Institute and their trainings on Undoing Racism for the agency’s board and staff. We had to educate ourselves before we could identify the changes needed at NMAC. This year there is a Track on Race at the United States Conference on HIV/AIDS. Your staff can discuss, argue, and hopefully better understand race and how it impacts HIV prevention, treatment, and care. At times this process can be very painful. Our movement has decades of history and misunderstandings.

NMAC was formed in 1987 because minorities were disproportionately impacted by AIDS. We are not going away. We are resolute in our commitment to ending HIV in a post COVID-19, Black Lives Matter, and the unemployment of 40 million Americans world.

Yours in the struggle,

 

 

 

 

 

USCHA is Virtual & Free Online Oct. 19-21, 2020

The 2020 United States Conference on HIV/AIDS will be virtual and free for the first 4,000 registrations*. You can find the latest information at the USCHA website or register for one of our June 25th webinars:

10:00 am Eastern time
1:00 pm Eastern time
3:00 pm Eastern time

The 2020 meeting will have five plenaries, 60 workshops, 14 institutes, and a Virtual Exhibit Hall. Workshops and plenaries will be online after the meeting for everyone to view for free.

The 2020 meeting tackles the seismic shifts that are changing our world. COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter have forever changed our work and the delivery of HIV prevention, care, treatment, and wrap around services. Consider submitting a workshop abstract on how your agency is responding. The meeting will have 10 different tracks. The deadline for abstract submission is July 17th.

The meeting is free because it seemed tone deaf to ask for money when so many nonprofits are hurting and there are over 40 million people unemployed. Free registrations* are for community and only possible because our 2020 sponsors stepped up and continued to support the meeting. NMAC thanks our Presenting Sponsor Gilead, along with ViiV Healthcare, Janssen, Merck, and our Federal Partners, including the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. While registration is free, NMAC will ask for donations. You do not have to give, but I hope you will consider making a donation. Even with the sponsor fees, the board had to approve deficit spending to keep the agency whole during these challenging times.

The murder of George Floyd was another in a too long list of wake-up calls that Black Lives Matter. The issue is bigger than just the police. It was also a wake-up call for the HIV movement. The majority of people living with HIV are people of color and the majority of people on PrEP are white. Our HIV outcomes document the challenges that race plays in our field. NMAC challenges community-based organizations, health departments, health centers, national organizations and federal agencies to create and implement strategic plans to build antiracist HIV institutions.

New programs at the 2020 USCHA include a Virtual Jobs Fair. Over 40 million people are unemployed. USCHA hopes to bring people needing jobs together with the HIV organizations who are hiring. Over $300 million in new funding was in the 2020 federal budget to end the HIV epidemic and that means thousands of new jobs. NMAC is giving free booths to the 57 jurisdictions targeted to receive this money so they or organizations in those jurisdictions can share job openings. Hire people from the communities your efforts hope to reach, particularly people in senior leadership positions.

Virtual conferences are another result of COVID-19. While we’ve gotten more adept at Zoom calls, virtual conferences are new. NMAC will host a series of webinars to help attendees get the most out of the meeting. Please register now (space is limited) for the first webinar on June 25th. This webinar will go over plans for the 2020 meeting and seek your input into this new adventure. Future webinars include 1) how to submit an abstract, 2) how to set-up a virtual exhibit booth, 3) how to record a virtual workshop, 4) how to participate in a virtual jobs fair, and 5) how to get the most out of a virtual conference.

Given these turbulent times, USCHA has decided to return to our 2017 theme, Family Reunion II. Family are more than blood. They are the people you want to hug when you should be socially distant. NMAC remains committed to Puerto Rico. The 2022 USCHA will be in San Juan on Oct 10-13, 2022 and there will be a Spanish language track at this year’s meeting. This Friday is Juneteenth and NMAC will be closed. On this day we celebrate the emancipation of the last enslaved African Americans by the Confederacy.

Yours in the struggle,

 

 

 

 

*Free registrations are for people living with HIV/AIDS, people on PrEP, activists, community organizers, students and people working or volunteering at nonprofits, community-based organizations, national organizations, health departments, health centers, universities, researchers, or health professionals. Per federal regulations and at the request of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NMAC cannot offer free registrations to federal employees. The registration fee is $250 for federal employees and employees of for-profit companies.

The Indian Health Service and the Albuquerque Indian Health Board, with resources from the Minority HIV/AIDS Fund, and in partnership with NMAC, will offer free registration for USCHA. The free registration applies to (1) U.S. federal- and state-recognized tribal members/citizens, employees, contractors, and volunteers; (2) U.S.-based Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders; and (3) others directly affiliated with those communities.

NMAC Hails Supreme Court Decision Preserving DACA

NMAC today hailed today’s Supreme Court decision that preserves DACA protections for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children.

“Today’s decision is a win not just for the immigrant community but for justice in immigration,” said Joe Huang-Racalto, NMAC’s Director of Government Relations and Public Policy. “After blatant abuses of undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers by this administration, we finally have a voice of reason in the Supreme Court saying ‘enough.’ We hope that this is just the beginning of comprehensive immigration reform and of compassionate approaches to those seeking safety and a better life in the United States.”

NMAC leads with race to urgently fight for health equity and racial justice to end the HIV epidemic in America. Since 1987, NMAC has advanced our mission through a variety of programs and services, including: a public policy education program, national and regional training conferences, a treatment and research program, numerous electronic and print materials, and a website: www.nmac.org. NMAC also serves as an association of AIDS service organizations, providing valuable information to community-based organizations, hospitals, clinics, and other groups assisting individuals and families affected by the HIV epidemic.

NMAC Hails Supreme Court Decision In Bostock v. Clayton County

NMAC today hailed the Supreme Court decision in Bostock v. Clayton County which protects LGBTQ workers from being fired or denied employment because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Today’s historic landmark decision by the Court ends decades of ugly behavior by employers who never valued a good employee and fired them because of who they are,” said Joe Huang-Racalto, NMAC’s Director of Government Relations and Public Policy.

By amending the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Court ruled that Aimee Stephens, a transgender worker for a funeral home in Michigan, and Gerald Bostock, a gay employee for Clayton County in Georgia, were covered under sex discrimination as outlined in the Civil Rights Act of 64.

“Yesterday, millions of LGBT Americans went to bed fearing the loss of their jobs because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Huang-Racalto.  As a result of today’s decision, those same Americans will go to bed tonight knowing that they no longer have to be fearful of losing their jobs. In the absence of a functioning Senate, we are sadly becoming more dependent on a conservative court for full civil rights. And, while today is an historic day for LGBT Americans, we know that this journey won’t be completed until the full spectrum of rights are afforded to LGBT individuals. We will continue to fight against this administration’s unrelenting attacks against transgender Americans, especially discriminatory health practices, and we will continue to fight against the ugly health crisis known as racism which continues to grip our nation.”

NMAC honors the life of Aimee Stephens, who sadly passed away on May 12, 2020.  While she was not alive to witness today’s landmark ruling, her courage and drive to improve the lives of transgender American’s will forever be memorialized.

NMAC leads with race to urgently fight for health equity and racial justice to end the HIV epidemic in America. Since 1987, NMAC has advanced our mission through a variety of programs and services, including: a public policy education program, national and regional training conferences, a treatment and research program, numerous electronic and print materials, and a website: www.nmac.org. NMAC also serves as an association of AIDS service organizations, providing valuable information to community-based organizations, hospitals, clinics, and other groups assisting individuals and families affected by the HIV epidemic.

The Reckoning

There is a reckoning coming to America about its legacy of racism. However, it is not limited to the police. This reckoning is about the systemic racism that impacts all facets of society, including the HIV movement. Unfortunately, HIV disproportionately impacts people of color, people with trans experience, black women, and gay men. How do we build an antiracist HIV movement that is committed to Black Lives Matter?

This weekend I joined thousands of people who protested on the streets of DC. Walking with my mask, I was amazed at the diversity. Families of all races, all genders, and all sexual orientations came together in a peaceful protest. It was actually more like a celebration. People were dancing, drumming, singing, and chanting. There were no leaders, just concerned citizens who felt compelled to make their voices heard, even in the middle of COVID-19. I heard one father explain to his child that they were there to witness history and to fight to make the world a better place.

I just so happened to arrive when DC Mayor Muriel Bowser stepped on to Black Lives Matter Plaza. It was an honor to see her amazing protest art in front of the White House. Her leadership as a Black woman at this critical moment added to the peaceful and celebratory nature of the protests. She was a rock star and I honor her vision, strength, and courage to step up and be heard. I also loved that her mask matched her t-shirt.

The HIV movement, like the rest of the world, has some serious soul searching to do. What does it mean for us to be an antiracist movement that is committed to Black Lives Matter? This is the challenge not only for community-based organizations, but also for health departments, health centers, national organizations, and federal agencies. We want to end the HIV epidemic that is overwhelmingly impacting people of color, yet so many of the top leadership positions are held by White people. I’m not saying fire all the White people, but I am asking leadership to work to end racism and to stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter.

Fifty-seven jurisdictions are about to implement plans to end the epidemic in their regions. Will the plans address the racial dynamic that impacts HIV prevention, care, treatment, and wrap around services? White privilege is thinking you know the answers for communities that you cannot even begin to understand. This is not to say that all white people are racist; however, the reckoning is about all white people and the role they play in fighting or perpetuating racist systems. Only white people can end racism because all of the systems and power are built and maintained upon their privilege.

 

 

 

 

 

 

That is the double edged sword: why would anyone want to dismantle systems that are set-up to benefit them? Maybe because those systems are wrong. Just ask the family and loved ones of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Christian Cooper, Dustin Parker, Neulisa Luciano Ruiz, Vampi Mendez Arocho, Monika Diamond, Lexi, Johanna Metzger, Serena Angelique Velazquez Ramos, Layla Pelaez Sanchez, Penelope Diaz Ramirez, Nina Pop, Helle Jae O’Regan, or Tony McDade.

The world is on fire. Ask yourself: are you the gasoline or the water? Thank you for your declarations of support, but that is just the first step. Now the real work begins. I challenge health departments, community-based organizations, health centers, national organizations, and federal agencies to create and implement strategic plans to make their institutions antiracist.

One important step, especially during these difficult financial times, is to hire people of color, people of trans experience, Black women, and gay men. Our movement is about to experience the largest influx of new funding in the last two decades. Thousands of new people will be hired to carry out the various programs to end the HIV epidemic. Hire people who live in and are part of the communities our work hopes to reach. Employment is a critical social determinant of health and an important step towards racial justice.

Talk to me in two weeks, after I find out if I got COVID-19. This was a very personal decision and definitely not the right one for most people, especially people who are immune compromised. I support everyone’s right to protest or stay home and understand both sides equally. NMAC is proud to lead with race to end the HIV epidemic.

Yours in the struggle,

 

 

 

 

Rest in Power, Dr. Simmons

Relentless. Innovative. Effective. Passionate. Caring. Visionary. Focused.

These are just a few words that instantly come to mind when thinking about the one Doctor I. Ronald Simmons, a committed strong Black gay man who changed our world not by singular leadership but by inspiring us into collective action and taking responsibility for one other’s wellbeing. Dr. Simmons dedicated his life to ensuring the Black LGBTQ+ community saw its own value and celebrated all the beauty it held. He made sure that Black gay men understood their power and how to channel that power into improved behavioral health which would be the key to our survival against all odds including HIV.

When Ron transitioned last week, we lost one of our greatest heroes ever to lead the HIV movement. He made an indelible mark. As an educator, he taught us about the historical legacy of African LGBTQ+ people as integral leaders within their communities. As an advocate, Dr. Simmons reminded us to view the world with our whole selves by not solely focusing on Black-only or LGBTQ-only issues. As a leader, Ron encouraged us to find a way to support each other against all odds.

As a famed member of the Black gay movement, Ron led by example by unapologetically uplifting the Black gay male experience. He would never tolerate nor was he ever drawn to the White Boys-Only Club of the Gay movement nor the heterosexist-leaning Black Liberation movement. He, therefore, brought his energy and talents to invest in the lives of Black gays and lesbians. Dr. Simmons refused to allow HIV to erase the legacies of LGBTQ+ Americans of the African Diaspora. Our society works overtime to silence Black gay men and not recognize our outsized contribution to the American experience. Naturally, Ron came to eventually lead the storied Black gay AIDS organization based in Washington, D.C. known as Us Helping Us or UHU.

UHU had one purpose: to give Black gay men hope to survive and ultimately thrive by overcoming health challenges, e.g., HIV, through a vision of inclusiveness. His leadership helped people improve their health outcomes. Ron legacy has not only enhanced the lives of individuals impacted by HIV, but entire organizations with the goal of reducing the impact of HIV. To be clear, the Black gay men at NMAC honor the road that he cleared for us to support our community. Charles Shazor, Jr. is a shining example. He shared, “Ron led by example displaying how to effectively create, demand, and implement structural change to positively impact the lives of gay Black men living with HIV…coming from a background of substance use and sex work, he allowed me to get my career started working in HIV leadership.”

As Black gay men, opportunities for growth are limited. Addressing the constant barrage of racism and homophobia can be overwhelming. There are too few people like Ron in this world. NMAC’s Anthony Anderson opined, “I met Ron while searching for my identity as a youth living with HIV and as a new member of the Black DC gay community. He educated me on his experiences living and working during the AIDS epidemic and sewed into my life in ways he will never know.” Our Terrell Parker concurred: Dr. Simmons took any opportunity to pour into you or enlighten you. He was not a man who was afraid to challenge you. His challenges were meant to help you grow, to expand your mind, to be a better servant in this work.”

Thanks in large part to Dr. Ron Simmons, our collective movement has become the gold standard for so many other initiatives for one reason and one reason alone: our movement harnesses the collective work of not just those of us here today, but also those who have come before us. Anthony concluded with a message for all of us who knew and loved Ron. “While we are all deeply saddened, his legacy is a reminder of all the work that has been done and the work that still needs to be done. Ron left us a vision and it is going to take all of us to make it come alive. That is the best way to memorialize a man like Ronald Simmons.”

–UJIMA—

Ace Robinson, MHL, MPH
NMAC
Ace Robinson

 

 

 

 

 

We Can’t…

BREATHE | JOG | WALK | SHOP | DRIVE | STUDY | SLEEP | FIGHT | KNEEL

The list goes on…

It’s 2am. Another Black family has been torn apart. Another Black person must go and identify the body of someone that they love. Another Black child has tears falling uncontrollably to the ground. Another Black man sits in the corner too unnerved to move.

Twelve hours earlier. That same Black family is still whole. That same Black person is hugging on the person that they love. That same Black child was laughing and giggling. The same Black man sits in the corner too unnerved to move.

This is America. Black children are being taught to prepare for a covert war that they have no desire to wage. Black children are being taught that their schools are not as good. Black children are being taught that they must be thrice as good to have half as much. Black children are love.

My country. Black women have been overlooked. Black women have been left to pick up the pieces of fragmented families. Black women must work 19 months to be paid what the average White man makes annually. Black women are magic.

‘Tis of Thee. Black men have been beaten. Black men have been tortured. Black men must accommodate and smile in the face of the exact people who do not care if they survive. Black men must navigate constant threats to their existence since they are constantly seen as a threat. Black men are beautiful.

If you are reading this newsletter, you are directly impacted by HIV. You care deeply about doing whatever it takes to see an end to this epidemic. You came to this life’s work from a different origin, reasoning, and skill set from the person next to you. In this field, you learned that every voice is valued. You learned that all of us matter in decision-making. And you also learned that not all people and communities are equally impacted.

Black people make up nearly half of the PLHIV community. And we make up over half of the HIV-related deaths. We know that this reality did not happen by chance. It happened by design. HIV is today and has always been an opportunistic disease. It has always found a way to harm the communities with the smallest voices and the least resources.

HIV knows how to find the people who are most hungry. HIV can sniff out those who are least stably housed. HIV can track those people who barely have access to jobs and healthcare. And clearly, HIV has a predator’s eye on those people who are most abused.

People who look like, love like, and live like #GeorgeFloyd, #NinaPop, #AhmaudArbery, #BreonnaTaylor, #TonyMcDade, #SandraBland, #LaquanMcDonald, #EricGarner, #MyaHall, #LaquanMcDonald, #You, and #Me are first on HIV’s predatory list. What have we learned in the nearly 40 years of struggling against HIV? Our legacies of love will live on. Our families will fight for all that we were meant to be.

Although Black people have a paucity of access to healthcare education, healthcare services, and culturally responsive care, we must overcome the steepest hills to live long and healthy lives. Currently, the COVID-19 pandemic has once again raised the alarm outside of our communities to our unmet and actively precluded needs. COVID-19 in the USA is a clear case of the haves and the have nots.

Life-saving information and needed access to care came late and hardly at all to the Black community. And the spokespersons who brought those messages do not look like nor live in the communities most burdened.

At NMAC, we Lead with Race. We know first-hand what happens when entire populations are overlooked. They must advocate, organize, beg, plead, and take action to demand access to the inalienable right of life. And in far too many cases, that does not happen then they are blamed and demonized.

For the past week, many parts of America have literally burned to the ground due to the inaction of our leaders to support people most in-need. That is not acceptable. Just as we demand more from each other, we must demand more from them. There will be no justice as long as it is just us.

One day, each and every one of us who reads this will be gone. We will be the ancestors. Our question is: Will people pay homage to the work that we did to ensure that those of greatest need had all that was available to thrive? Or will we be the example of the what not to do to bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice.

It’s our choice. I hope we choose life.

Onward. Together.

#BlackLivesMatter

Ace Robinson
Director of Strategic Partnerships

Ace Robinson

 

 

 

 

 

My Love Affair with Larry Kramer

– By Paul Kawata

Like many people in our movement, I had a love/hate relationship with Larry. I loved him and he hated me. To me, it was a badge of honor that Larry hated me because it was his seminal piece in the New York Native that changed the course of my life.

If this article doesn’t scare the shit out of you, we’re in real trouble. If this article doesn’t rouse you to anger, fury, rage, and action, gay men may have no future on this earth. Our continued existence depends on just how angry you can get.
Larry Kramer, New York Native Issue 59, March 14-27, 1983

Larry’s calls to arms got me to Richard Dunne the then executive director of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis. Richard brought me to Washington where I have lived and fought against AIDS for the last 35-plus years.

Larry Takes Over NMAC’s First Sit Down Dinner
In 1993, NMAC held its first sit-down dinner/fundraiser in the Library of Congress called Our Place at The Table. It was a glamorous affair by NMAC’s standards. We honored the new Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala and celebrated the election of President Bill Clinton. There were waiters who passed hors d’oeuvres and a three course sit down dinner that would end with a speech by the new Secretary. About a week before the dinner I get a call from Larry who is screaming “how dare we honor Shalala. She has done nothing to help our community.”

To be honest, it was both exciting and scary to get a call from Larry. Here was the man who changed the course of my life telling me to un-invite the Secretary. At the time, I did not believe he would come to DC to take over the dinner. Little did I know…

Not only would Larry attend and shout down the Secretary, but she would not speak to me for the next two years! People wonder why I am so open to protests at USCHA. It’s because of Larry. We both understood the important roles we had to play in the drama to end the epidemic. Larry’s job was to make politicians uncomfortable, and my job was to negotiate in the aftermath.

Larry Gets Cut from Opening Plenary of the United States Conference on AIDS
In 2018, Larry was going to keynote the Opening Plenary at USCA in Orlando. Unfortunately, his health was failing. As a result, he said he would send a video message. Two days before the conference was to start, I get this 60-minute video from him. The plenary was already too long, so I decided to play the first 20 minutes.

When I tell Larry, I get a two-word email back from him “fuck you.” What do you do when your hero sends you a two-word message? I apologized and played the entire video at the closing plenary.

Like so many heroes, I’m not sure if I loved the man or the mythology of him. All I know is that his writings changed the course of my life. I was going to be a dentist. Instead I became an AIDS activist. Larry taught me that no one was going to give you power; you had to take it. I’ve spent the rest of my life taking back power, particularly power from the white straight men of Congress.