NMAC Strongly Supports White House Request for FY 2022 Discretionary Funding for HIV/AIDS Services

The White House in Washington DC with beautiful blue sky

NMAC strongly supports the White House’s request for a $670 million increase in funding for HIV prevention, treatment, and equitable access to care.

“This is fantastic news for the fight against HIV,” said Paul Kawata, Executive Director for NMAC. “The Biden/Harris Administration is living up to their word that the federal plan to end the HIV epidemic would be a priority under their leadership. This additional funding will help bring greater access to HIV care and prevention services to those communities bearing the greatest burden of the epidemic. We are also pleased to see that the administration is making a commitment to equitable access to services, something that is desperately needed in communities of color and among LGBTQ+ people of color. We could not be more pleased about this announcement and we urge Congress to approve the full funding requested.”

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.

Statement of Support – National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day Resolution

NMAC is proud to support Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s Congressional Resolution to recognize the National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day on April 10.

“Minority and LGBTQ+ youth are a critical part of the fight to end the HIV epidemic,” said Paul Kawata, Executive Director for NMAC. “Young people continue to be at risk of HIV, accounting for nearly 40% of new infections. Young people of color, like the rest of their communities, are at the greatest risk. Bringing attention to the HIV epidemic among young, increasing their knowledge of testing, treatment, and all the prevention options that are open to them, including Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, will help us reach the goal of ending the epidemic by the end of the decade.”

“NMAC applauds Congresswoman Barbara Lee for her continued leadership on HIV/AIDS related issues,” said Joe Huang-Racalto, Director of Government Relations and Public Policy for NMAC. “Recognizing youth leaders in this movement, especially those most impacted, is important not only to raise awareness but to build tomorrow’s leaders so that public health crises such as HIV/AIDS and racism,are finally epidemics of the past.”

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 Applauds Confirmation of Dr. Rachel Levine as Assistant Secretary of Health

NMAC applauds the confirmation of Dr. Rachel Levine as Assistant Secretary of Health. Assistant Secretary Levine will be the first openly transgender person confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

“Dr. Levine, as the first transgender American ever to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, has become an historic figure in our country,” said Joe Huang-Racalto, Director of Government Relations & Public Policy for NMAC. “As a doctor with vast experience in public health, Dr. Levine brings a wealth of experience on both HIV/AIDS and COVID-19. She knows from personal experience the health care challenges of the LGBTQ+ community  -especially the transgender community- and her experience will lead to a better understanding of those challenges. As NMAC continues to address healthcare equity in the minority community, we will work with Dr. Levine to approach racism as a public health crisis. We also look forward to working with Assistant Secretary Levine on the Biden/Harris Administration’s commitment to ending the HIV epidemic by 2030.”

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.

Standing Up Against Anti-Asian Racism

Too often, Asian Americans are incorrectly labeled as the “model minority.” The label minimizes our pain and the challenges we face living in America. Some of us could assimilate, but too many continue to live in poverty, especially people with limited English-speaking skills.

The rise in violence and discrimination against Asians was just another example of the world going crazy. How much more stress, recriminations, and loss can America endure? We are all living on the edge waiting for the next shoe to drop. Would Asians fight back? Would our friends stand with us? Would the President stand in solidarity or blame us for the virus? Please watch this video of an older non-English speaking Chinese American who fought back.

TW: Violence, and Anti-Asian Hate Crime

Don’t mess with “Grandma.” Under similar circumstances, I’m not sure I would have her courage. I definitely understood her pain. It is the pain that too many Asians and too many people of color carry. “Why do people hate us just because of the color of our skin, our accent, or where we were born?” These are not things I can or want to change, but they make so many people angry and define how many Asians show up in the world.

I am the executive director of the National Minority AIDS Council, yet I am still asked to get people’s drinks or hang their coats. Part of why I dress so outrageously is so guests understand that I am not the help. Even at the United States Conference on HIV/AIDS, I’m still asked to get coffee for a table during plenary sessions. It’s taken a long time for me to learn to speak back and now you can’t stop me. Too many Asians cannot speak up. My parents were interred for nothing more than being Japanese. They taught their children the hard lessons they learned from that experience. Keep your head down, try to blend-in, and never speak up.

That’s why I am so inspired by the Asians who are fighting back and the people who are standing in solidarity. People of all races, genders, gender identifies, sexual orientations are standing with the Asian community like never before. Thank you to everyone who posts on Facebook, makes a donation to an Asian nonprofit, attends a vigil, or just talks with their friends. You know your real friends when the s*** the fan (that is so Japanese).

This experience taught me that leadership matters. The President matters. The Vice President matters. I am so proud of the Asian American elected officials who are speaking out. For too many this is their first time on the national stage. Watching the tears of Representative Grace Meng (D-NY) as she called out a member of Congress for hijacking the hearing was an incredible moment. Her words were both heartbreaking and empowering. Her courage to stand up to power and take back the hearing reminded me of warriors like Maxine Waters and Nancy Pelosi.

This is the legacy of racism that is breaking the fabric of our society. How many people have todie? Unfortunately, the answer continues to be that our lives don’t matter. Calling out anti-Asian violence is interconnected to NMAC’s fight to lead with race to end HIV. None of us can do it alone and we’ve got to figure out how to work together. Divisions are killing us and our communities.

Yours in the struggle,
Paul Kawata
NMAC

Paul Kawata

NMAC Applauds Confirmation of Xavier Becerra as Secretary of Health & Human Services

NMAC, formerly the National Minority AIDS Council, applauds the confirmation of Xavier Becerra as Secretary of Health & Human Services. Secretary Becerra will be the first Latino HHS Secretary.

“We are thrilled by Secretary Becerra’s confirmation and we look forward to him on not only ending the HIV epidemic but addressing racial inequities in health care,” said Paul Kawata, Executive Director of NMAC. “The country faces a number of challenges in health care at the moment, including ending the COVID-19 pandemic. We know that Secretary Becerra will be a voice for those who have been forgotten or overlooked by the nation’s health care system, particularly communities of color and LGBTQ Americans.”

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.

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National Native American HIV/AIDS Awareness Day 2021

Christopher Paisano - Program Coordinator – Indian CountryOn Saturday, March 20, we recognize National Native American HIV Awareness Day. Many here on the Navajo Nation will be traveling to get weekly or monthly supplies as we “go to town” off the Navajo Nation into “border towns” such as Gallup, N.M. or Flagstaff, AZ. For most of last year, Saturdays were just another extended week of lockdown and social distancing for Navajo people.

We have eased up the Navajo government-imposed lock down as we move into getting our COVID-19 inoculation shots at our Indian Health Service (IHS) facilities. Separation seems to be a part of our life now. But for many others on the Navajo Nation and off, separation has existed for much longer. I’m talking about the invisible and sometimes not too invisible social barriers that exist for many of our people living with HIV.

For those on HIV treatment, medicine was supposed to unlock and break down self-imposed barriers to freedom. In many ways, this has happened. But for many, going publicly to get meds at the IHS on a Saturday represents freedom and secrecy while everyone has “gone to town” when pharmacies are uncrowded. I’m talking about the real effects of stigma.

“Stigma is a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.” Our previous Director of the Center to Eliminate HIV Epidemic, Ace Robinson, wrote in the ESCALATE narrative, stigma is fed by “a lack of knowledge or misconceptions about HIV among People Living with HIV (PLWH), their service providers, and medical professionals, fear, discomfort, prejudice and negative attitudes associated with HIV and specific groups (often connected to other social prejudices such as homophobia, transphobia, racism, stigma about substance use, etc.). At the core, the drivers of stigma are characterized by an essential lack of understanding or knowledge that manifests in prejudice.” Prejudice is stigma’s twin.

In other words, to do better, we must know better.

Here at NMAC, we are creating a new program that will help clients, service providers, and community how to recognize stigma and the tools how to eliminate it. We are creating ESCALATE, which stands for Ending Stigma through Collaboration and Lifting All to Empowerment.

We, as so many in community and HIV agencies, recognize that stigma is the barrier that limits access to HIV care for patients and family care within families. Living silently alone within a crowd of family creates a poor image of self that further creates a never-ending cycle of stigma and prejudice. Some PLWH then believe that they shouldn’t deserve more or are worth less. Each experience with stigma begins to slowly erase the true individual when caring for oneself and becomes yet another hurdle to overcome to self-care. Enter ESCALATE.

ESCALATE has been designed with three components in mind that will help participants access tools for self-efficacy: Individual training for community members and leaders, Technical Assistance, and Learning Collaborates for Organizational training. Training will help answer these questions: What is stigma? How to recognize it within self and in communities. What tools can you learn to begin eliminating it in your communities? What will you do once you get back into your community and health facility? All three are designed to work together to train those who access health care with those who provide health care, to create a world without stigma.

That’s the goal. It’s not a just noble goal, but a mandatory goal that recognizes the true worth of our family and community members.

Currently, we Native people are under social distancing and waiting for the time for grandma to freely welcome back her family members. Isn’t it time to welcome back family members and those who are living with HIV?

ESCALATE. When we know better, we do better.

ESCALATE is a four-year cooperative agreement funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration HIV/AIDS Bureau. In partnership with HRSA, Abt Associates, NORC, and TRX Development, NMAC will lead trainings for RWHAP providers and grantees to dismantle HIV-related stigma on individual and organizational levels (for more information, visit https://targethiv.org/ta-org/escalate).

Christopher J. Paisano
Navajo Nation – Laguna Pueblo
Coordinator to Indian Country

NMAC Applauds Confirmation of Deb Haaland as Secretary of the Interior

NMAC, formerly the National Minority AIDS Council, applauds the confirmation of Deb Haaland as Secretary of the Interior, the first American Indian confirmed to a Presidential cabinet position.

“Secretary Haaland’s confirmation is a wonderful milestone for the indigenous communities of the United States,” said Paul Kawata, Executive Director of NMAC. “For the first time ever, American Indians will have a voice at the highest levels of federal power. The American Indian and Alaska Native communities continue to be affected disproportionately by HIV and we look forward to working with Secretary Haaland to ensure that those communities are a vital part of the federal plan to end the HIV epidemic.”

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.

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Leadership Matters

I’m getting my COVID vaccine today. Words cannot adequately express my gratitude. The vaccine means I get to live. I get to survive another pandemic. I sobbed when I got the news. However, I am also painfully aware of my first world privilege. As the HIV movement did after the International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa, we must now stand in global solidarity for Covid vaccines for the world. NMAC is truly thankful to Congress and the President for the $3.5 Billion for the Global Fund and $250 million for PEPFAR that was part of the American Rescue Plan Act. As we tested the COVID vaccine using the HIV vaccine infrastructure, we will now use the international HIV infrastructure to address COVID worldwide.

Leadership Matters. As we are seeing first hand, leadership matters when working to end a worldwide pandemic, leadership and money. The same is true for ending HIV. Are you the leader our movement needs to end the HIV epidemic? Ending HIV requires tens of thousands of leaders. However, they may look very  different. The HIV community is not exempt from the hopes/tensions the country feels about race and Black Lives Matter. It’s the struggle for the soul and future of America. COVID showed the need for better, different, expanded healthcare infrastructures. Not just health services, but as HIV taught us, much-needed wrap around services like housing, mental health and food security. Our movement needs to build and support agencies that not only end HIV, but also address the multitude of challenges facing our community. COVID shined a spotlight on the lack of healthcare for too many. Agencies need to expand their mix of services to address multiple needs in our diverse communities.

Communities have diverse needs. They can’t and won’t go to multiple agencies for different services. After COVID, community expects to get services virtually, yet the digital divide is real. Getting an appointment for a vaccine depends on access to technology, yet too many in our communities do not have this access or speak English as a second language. Consumers want agencies that provide a multitude of services, in multiple languages. Organizations must be prepared for change. Some of us are dinosaurs and don’t want to adapt, but we won’t have a choice. The world is changing and there is a right and wrong side in history. To be clear, I’m not saying all older executive directors need to resign, but they do need to look at the role they are playing in fighting or maintaining systems that oppress too many. I believe COVID has changed more than where we work, it has changed what we value and who we want to be. Like so many, I made a pact with God that if I survived COVID, I would be a better person. I would fight harder for my community and not be afraid to ask for grace.

COVID also highlighted our differences. Some people always wore a mask, others usually, and too many never wore a mask. Sound familiar? Substitute condoms for masks and it’s the identical question. We’ve learned how hard it is to get everyone to wear masks and condoms. Yet we can’t give up on either. Until everyone gets the vaccine, we need them.

Thank you, Mr. President for your words about the potential for a more normal 4th of July, for letting me dream. After my vaccine, I look forward to watching the fireworks on the national mall. We still do not fully understand the changes that are about to happen in our world. It seems impossible to go back to the way things were before COVID. How life will change depends on our ability to absorb and integrate the lessons of COVID, the lessons of Black Lives Matter, and the lessons of losing everything. COVID exposed the inequities in the world and hopefully we can no longer look away. As we have seen, access to healthcare is not a luxury, it is a core value for all Americans. Now we understand the need to improve the healthcare infrastructure for all communities. Like the world used the infrastructure for HIV vaccines and the Global Fund, maybe it’s time to use the domestic HIV service infrastructure to buildout our COVID services. Healthcare by itself is not the solution. Domestic HIV services documented the critical importance of wrap around services like housing, mental health and food security. How do we take the lessons learned from HIV and use it as the foundation to build the healthcare infrastructure needed in America after COVID?

Yours in the struggle,
Paul Kawata
NMAC

Paul Kawata

 

 

 

 

 

Statement of Support for HHS Secretary Nominee Xavier Becerra

NMAC, formerly the National Minority AIDS Council, strongly supports the confirmation of Health and Human Services nominee Xavier Becerra.

“We applaud President Biden for nominating a person of the strongest character and a history of fighting for minority health equity, Xavier Becerra,” said Paul Kawata, Executive Director of NMAC. “Attorney General Becerra has a long record of expanding healthcare to minorities and fighting for vital federal funding to end the HIV epidemic.  As President Biden recommits to ending the epidemic, the Secretary of Health and Human Services will be critically important to not only delivering results, but to ensure those who don’t have access to healthcare will not be forgotten.”

“I’ve had the great pleasure of working with then-Congressman Becerra,” said Joe Huang-Racalto, Director of Government Relations and Public Policy for NMAC. “His forward-thinking and defense of those who have no voice, makes him uniquely qualified at this critical time. Aside from executing President Biden’s promise to end the HIV epidemic, Mr. Becerra must rebuild trust among the minority communities. NMAC looks forward to working with Secretary Becerra and we strongly recommend his swift confirmation.”

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.

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Statement of Support for Assistant Health Secretary Nominee Dr. Rachel Levine

NMAC, formerly the National Minority AIDS Council, strongly supports the confirmation of Dr. Rachel Levine as Assistant Health Secretary.

“We strongly support the nomination of Dr. Levine,” said Paul Kawata, Executive Director of NMAC. “In addition to Dr. Levine’s exemplary and impeccable credentials, she is an historic leader in the LGBTQ community. As Secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Dr. Levine led that state’s historic response to COVID-19 pandemic.  She has earned the highest level of respect among her peers and colleagues and President Biden. As the first Senate confirmed transgender American, Dr. Levine is shattering stereotypes and is giving long-overdue hope to transgender Americans. Those of us in the HIV field know the struggles LGBTQ Americans face – especially healthcare discrimination. As Assistant Secretary, Dr. Levine will continue to fight for access to healthcare for underserved minority communities. Her record of fighting for justice is strong and we know she will continue to pave the way for affordable healthcare for all Americans.”

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.

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