Remembering Kirk Myers-Hill

This week, we lost one of the great ones. Not one of the good ones. One of the great ones.

Kirk Myers-Hill embodied the essence of #BlackBoyJoy. Kirk embodied the body and soul of all that we aspire to be. #BlackBoyJoy is acknowledging the struggle, building esteem and claiming that space for Black boys to feel happy, proud of who they are and free.

For so many of us – especially Black folx within the HIV response, we were already navigating incalculable losses with the passing of Dr. Dawn Smith and Janet Cleveland. These public health giants were not simply work colleagues – they were family.

These were the people who saw each of our struggles often before we even recognized them ourselves. These were the people who ensured that we know each and every day that we are the descendants of royalty who deserved to own the space of where we roamed. These were the people that demanded that we not just feel happy but feel and exude indescribable joy upon recognizing who we were, who we are, and who we dare to be.

Kirk Myers-Hill poured into the hearts & souls of all that met him. He unapologetically and joyfully loved on the very people who were deemed unlovable in their own communities and/or in society at-large. Specifically Black gay/same-gender loving men and transgender/gender nonconforming people.

For those of us who were blessed to know him well, we saw what unapologetic, energetic, and expansive love looked like. Every photo, loud laughter, or boisterous hug was sure to include his chosen family of Tam, Darwin, P.J. or Keisha. And most of those photos included all of them and more.

We saw what manifest love could like between two phenomenal Black men. The Myers-Hill Wedding was not just an event, it was an experience that continued on for ages. Black gay love is the New Revolution. Kirk and Ricky allowed us to share their love. And that Revolution was televised…and tweeted, reeled, and IG’d.

And for those who have known Kirk since his earliest days, his loyalty and unmatched love shone. Shone unabated. Shone unhindered. Shone gloriously. He spoke often and loved constantly on his biological sister Michelle Myers-Stephens whom he just recently was able to witness her nuptials.

Earlier this year, Kirk worked tirelessly to ensure that a park in the Queen City area of South Dallas that would be renamed for his beloved late mother, Ms. Irene H Trigg-Myers, would embody all that she was. The name reflected his love for her and for Community by naming it Prosperity Park giving honor not only to her but to the organization, Abounding Prosperity, that he built and reformed in the likeness of #BlackBoyJoy.

We thank you for the opportunity to get to know you. And to know you was to love you, Mister Kirk Myers-Hill.

– Ace Robinson, CEO, PCAF

Braidwood vs Becerra

In the case of Braidwood vs. Becerra, US District Judge Reed O’Connor dropped another hurdle in the war against HIV prevention. He ruled that the Religious Freedom Act gives businesses the right to deny paying for health coverage for HIV PrEP and STD services targeting gay men. He went further to halt all prevention coverage that was approved by the US Prevention Services Task Force. The next day, the Biden administration filed a notice to appeal at the 5th circuit court. Since this is the same court that was used to overturn Roe v Wade, I worry what this court will say. If history is any indication, HIV PrEP and the US Prevention Services Task Force are on their way to the Supreme Court.

Immediately, I called the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to discuss next steps. This is a humble brag, but it is important for our movement to know that NMAC and many other DC colleagues have the juice to not only call but also get answers. The day after the ruling, the Partnership to End the Epidemics zoomed with AIDS Czar Harold Phillips and Christen Young, Deputy Director, Domestic Policy Council for Health and Veterans.

Here are top line messages regarding Braidwood:

  • This case is yet another attack on the Affordable Care Act – which has been the law of the land for 13 years. As you know, the Supreme Court has upheld the legality of the ACA three times.
  • Because of the ACA, 150 million Americans have access to free preventive care like cancer and heart disease screenings. Sixty percent of people use a preventive care service under the ACA every year.
  • After the Roe/Dobbs ruling, this is another example of a step backwards – with a right to health care being taken away … this is yet another attack on the ACA from the same judge who declared the whole ACA unconstitutional — and the plaintiffs are represented by the architect of Texas anti-abortion bill.
  • The ruling harms the communities most impacted by the nation’s ongoing health disparities and the HIV epidemic – especially Black and Latinx communities that comprised 47% and 24% of new HIV infections in 2020, respectively.
  • The implications for these communities’ health and quality of life with decreasing PrEP access means more HIV infections, each of which is associated with $500,000 in lifetime medical costs.
  • Preventive care saves lives, saves families money, and protects and improves our health.
  • This case gets between patients and their doctors. It’s yet another attack on the ability of Americans to make health care choices free from political interference.
  • Efforts to undermine this requirement are wrong and backwards. The Administration will continue to fight to improve health care and make it more affordable for hard-working families, even in the face of attacks from special interests.

The 2023 Biomedical HIV Prevention Summit honors the diversity of the communities highly impacted by HIV. Next week over 1,300 leaders will gather during this politically difficult moment. Governors, state legislatures, and other governing bodies are going after HIV prevention or the communities we need to reach. NMAC works to create a “safe space” that celebrates the people who are weaponized without their consent. Our job is to give traumatized people a place where we see them. The Summit is NMAC’s thank you to the HIV movement for their leadership to end HIV.

This year’s meeting focuses on sex. Since HIV is primarily sexually transmitted, our work needs to reach these/our communities for HIV testing, PrEP, PEP, and/or treatment. Sex continues to be a taboo subject with too many layers of shame. We live in a world where the people who hate us are using LGBTQ sex to scare their base by calling us groomers of children. While we know it’s untrue, we ignore their lies at our peril.

Does the current political environment impact our HIV prevention efforts? While I want to say no, the reality depends on where you live. Right now, HIV prevention cannot ignore these political challenges. The Summit will be NC-17 and children will not be allowed into the space.

Summit Talking Points

  • Tennessee. The Tuesday plenary focuses on TN and beyond. It is also an opportunity to introduce Toni Newman in her new role building the Coalition for Justice and Equality Across Movements. Given what is happening in Texas and TN, we need this effort.
  • Braidwood. NMAC was very disappointed but not surprised by Judge O’Connor’s opinion. Unfortunately, that pushes the case to the 5th Circuit where we are likely to lose. From there it is on a path to the Supreme Court.
  • Attacks on the Transgender Community and Drag Queens. NMAC stands in solidarity with all the communities highly impacted by HIV. The attacks against the transgender community and drag queens are mostly a “look over there” strategy to strike fear in their base. This year’s Summit will have the “look over there” RuPaul’s Drag Race season 7 winner Jaida Essence Hall.

The trauma we feel is real. It’s hard to be transgender or a drag queen in America. It’s hard to be someone living with HIV, a person of color, LGBTQ, a woman, immigrant, non-binary, or undefined. We are all being weaponized against our will. It’s time to have real conversations about the future of HIV prevention, particularly since HIV PrEP is being used to take down the ACA. This is not the first time they’ve come for us. We walk in the footprints of heroes.

Protests are part of the legacy of the HIV movement. Our meetings are the training ground for future activists and NMAC supports the right to protest. If there are protests, please do not intervene. Call conference staff or go to the conference office. Kindly email me in advance about any protests ( so we can coordinate disruptions.

Being Safe
HIV taught our movement that safety is relative. COVID is not over. NMAC encourages everyone to wear masks. However, they are optional. Our COVID policy is the same as last year. COVID tests will be available in the conference office. If you feel sick, please quarantine in your hotel room, and call the office for a test. Do not leave your room until you test negative. Conference staff are here to provide support as needed.

You will need to verify your COVID vaccination status to be admitted to the Summit. There will be NO exceptions. You can upload your vaccination card here.

Mobile App
You can now download the 2023 Summit mobile app. It has the full agenda for the Summit along with all the info you need to navigate the conference. Search for “2023 BHPS” in the App Store and the Google Play Store and download to your phone.

Program Book
The Summit Program Book is available for download on the Summit website. There will not be a printed program book but there will be a limited number of printed agendas available at Registration.

I look forward to seeing everyone next week. HIV prevention is caught in the crosshairs of the culture wars in America. We have a huge job to not only work to end the epidemics, but also to be warriors in the fight for our right to exist.

Yours in the Struggle,

Paul Kawata

Paul Kawata

NMAC Statement on Biden Administration’s Appeal in Texas PrEP Court Case

N.M.A.C. Leads with Race

April 3, 2023 – The following is a statement from NMAC Executive Director Paul Kawata on the announcement that the Biden administration has appealed a federal district court ruling that would allow some private insurance companies to avoid covering preventive medical care, including HIV-prevention medication, to employees.

“NMAC applauds the Biden administration for appealing U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor’s dangerous ruling last week that put access to life-saving HIV-prevention medication – as well as other preventive measures, like cancer and heart screenings – in jeopardy for millions of Americans. If allowed to stand, the ruling would have a catastrophic impact on vulnerable communities most impacted by the ongoing HIV epidemic, especially Black and Latinx communities in southern states, which the CDC has described as the epicenter of the nation’s HIV epidemic.

“It’s unfathomable that millions of Americans could have their access to preventive care stripped away by one radical judge, with no medical background, on the basis of alleged violations of the plaintiffs’ religious liberty. The Constitution cannot be weaponized to justify the suffering of Americans – especially on the basis of religion. The Biden administration recognizes that, and we commend their swift move to appeal this decision. We hope that a federal appeals court will overturn this cruel and ill-conceived ruling.”


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: 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.

Fighting for Older Americans Living with HIV

Last week Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) sent a letter to the House Appropriations Committee asking the Administration on Aging to study how to better target Older Americans Act funding in support of older adults living with HIV. NMAC thanks the Congresswoman for this important next step in the evolution of funding to care for people living with HIV/AIDS.
When I came to Washington in 1985, I never imagined our movement would be fighting for services for people who are aging with HIV. Working on this issue with many activists, especially older Americans living with HIV, brings so much pride.

Yours in the Struggle,

Paul Kawata

Paul Kawata

Finding Myself

I’m not going to lie. The pressure of work, especially what’s happening in Tennessee and Texas, has taken its toll. Communities highly impacted by HIV are weaponized as part of the fight for the soul of America! The extreme right is passing laws, turning back funding, and working the courts to codify religion’s right to discriminate and they’re winning. “It’s against my religion” is now legal justification to bully, discriminate, and deny access to services like HIV PrEP.

During COVID I got addicted to vacation porn, specifically travel to Japan. This month I got to run away to remember who I am and why I still need to fight. In Japan I am tall. In Japan I am butch. You might laugh, but America stigmatizes me as short and effeminate. So many of the communities highly impacted by HIV are minimized because of the color of our skin, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Our lives are under attack. We are being used to scare people to the polls.

Civil rights, voting rights, women’s rights, abortion rights, gun control, same sex weddings – we’ve changed the world and that’s why they’re fearful. This is not the America of their youth. How far are they willing to go to stop change? For me there is no choice. I can’t go back into the closet. I will not go quietly into the night. I will rage against the dying of the light.

America is in for difficult times with lots of trauma. Their “look over there” strategy makes us the totem that gets their base to vote and give money. It is very expensive to run for President and there are some very deep pockets who want to take America back. Their “hit” list includes abortion, affirmative action, critical race theory, immigrants, guns, HIV PrEP, transgender youth, drag queens, and core HIV prevention funds. 2023 is just the opening salvo of message testing for the next presidential election. Imagine how these actions will traumatize clients, co-workers, and friends.

Normally I don’t talk about my breaks, but it felt important to share my process for healing as our movement gets ready for the fight of our lives. After 34 years as the Executive Director of NMAC, I’ve come to understand that HIV is a marathon and not a sprint. Like so many, I prioritize others and wonder why I am exhausted and tired.

This picture was taken in Tokyo at the teamLab*Planets exhibit. It’s a total immersive experience that lets you see the world in new and different ways. Sometimes it’s important to get out of the day-to-day grind and gift your mind and body with rest and the joy of travel.

I look forward to seeing everyone at the 2023 Biomedical HIV Prevention Summit. Approximately 1,300 attendees will come together to discuss the future of HIV prevention in America. Not only will the Summit update the core HIV prevention tools, but it will do a deeper dive into the political realities facing our work. It’s not enough to end the HIV epidemic by 2030. Now we must do it in a world that hates the communities we serve, a world that hates us. Thanks to the NMAC board and staff for allowing me time off. By sharing my trip, hopefully I’m practicing what I preach. Not only do we need to take care of people living with HIV, but we also need to take care of ourselves. Leaders are no good to our movement if we work to the point of exhaustion and burn-out. I return ready for the next fight!

Yours in the Struggle,

Paul Kawata

NMAC Statement on Federal Ruling Limiting Access to Preventive Medical Care

N.M.A.C. Leads with Race

March 30, 2023 – The following is a statement from NMAC Executive Director Paul Kawata on a federal district court ruling that would allow insurance companies to avoid providing preventive medical care, including PrEP medication, to their employees.

“Today’s cruel and reckless ruling by U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor senselessly strips away access to preventive care like cancer screenings and life-saving HIV prevention medication for millions of Americans. The ruling deals a particularly cruel blow to the communities most impacted by the nation’s ongoing health disparities and the HIV epidemic – especially Black and Latinx communities that comprised 47% and 24% of new HIV infections in 2020, respectively. It cannot be allowed to stand, and we are calling on the Biden administration to appeal it immediately.

“Access to preventive care shouldn’t depend on a single radical judge who is far outside the judicial mainstream. This is a literal life-and-death issue, and allowing the decision to remain in place will increase the number of Americans who suffer — and potentially die — from preventable illnesses because of other people’s religious beliefs and anti-LGBTQ+ bigotry. That notion couldn’t be more deeply un-American.

“NMAC has worked for decades to advance treatment, prevention, and advocacy on behalf of communities of color impacted by HIV and other diseases, and we will continue to fight for the lives of those at the highest risk of infection and illness. We hope the Biden administration will appeal the decision and stand up to out-of-touch judges in order to protect the most vulnerable among us.”


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: 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 Importance of Trans Visibility

The Importance of Trans Visibility

Toni NewmanEach year on March 31, the world observes Transgender Day of Visibility (TDOV) to raise awareness about transgender people. It is a day to celebrate the lives and contributions of trans people, while also drawing attention to the poverty, discrimination, and violence the community faces.

In 2023, over 300 anti-LGBTQ bills have been filed so far, with over half specifically targeting trans people, particularly youth. This follows 2021 as the most anti-LGBTQ legislative session in history. This hypervisibility typically comes at the expense of trans people who are demonized and scapegoated by politicians and in media.

As a transwoman with 30 years of lived experience, it is important for me to honor those who have passed before me and honor those who are still with us. We are trying to live our authentic lives and be who we want to be. That’s why we are asking everyone to stand with us on Transgender Day Of Visibility.

-Toni Newman, Director of the Coalition for Justice and Equality Among Movements

Visible and Free
Lauren Miller, Health Equity Program Coordinator

Lauren MillerI remember the day I placed my feet on the campus of Benedict College. My pink Mazda 3 was loaded to capacity with all the things I would need that semester. I was nervous; not sure what people would think about me being transgender or how folks would react and if they would know. The year was 2010 and, although that’s not long ago, it was very different for transwomen during that time. Violence against transwomen was just being documented and folks honestly cared very little about our lives. And here I was right in the middle of it all. My heels clicked like the sound of a metronome slowly and stealthily across the campus yard. People spoke as I walked by, and I spoke back in my most polite Southern demeanor.

After going through all the registration hoopla – and if you ever attended a HBCU you know what I mean – I was instructed to visit the English Department and meet my new Professors. Dr. Batten was standing outside the door of her classroom. She saw me and I saw her. As I got closer, she stopped me and whispered, “You look scared and you shouldn’t be because they are going to love you here.” Her Hawaiian accent made me feel so calm and so secure. A part of me wondered how she knew, and the other parts didn’t care. I just wanted to be safe. Living in stealth was a very safe place for me as a young transwoman living in a world that hasn’t learned to accept me yet. Dr. Batten would be my safe space and refuge for many years. She was one of the only people whom I could talk with openly. She was like a mother to me (I hope that wherever she is that she is alive and well. )

I matriculated through Benedict College with ease and in my Junior year decided I wanted to join a Greek letter organization. All of my dorm mates were choosing between AKA and Delta. Times were changing so quickly; by 2015 most Divine Nine organizations had barred the participation of transwomen. It was suggested by my housemates to join a Co-Ed organization. It wasn’t hard to convince me; the promise of cute boys was enough. Alpha Phi Omega welcomed me with open arms and then the unthinkable happened.

I’m not really sure how or why but a rumor started to circulate around campus that I wasn’t born a woman. Me being stealth allowed my boyfriend and I to live our lives and love openly. We often walked around campus holding hands. The bedroom was the only place we revealed our true secrets. When he got the call from some of his friends whom he played football with, the look on his face and tears that subsequently followed told me all I needed to know. I was exposed and no longer safe. (He left school that day and moved back to Atlanta and we haven’t spoken since.)

When I arrived to the campus security gate, I was advised by the guard to visit the Campus Police. They advised me of the rumor that was circulating around campus. Their question was simple and direct: “Are you a man or a woman?” With tear filled eyes I whimpered out, “Woman.” The police were relieved by my response or so I thought, and they allowed me to go. In retrospect I often ask myself how would it have been if I said the former? What would have happened to me?

I headed to my class trying to keep my composure while also wondering who around me knew as well. Needless to say my day went by uneventful for the most part. That evening my organization had a meeting scheduled. We were practicing for our Coming Out Ceremony where we would announce to the whole school that we were members of Alpha Phi Omega. I stepped in line with the other members but when the Dean of Pledges arrived, I was asked to step out of line and go home. I was simply told that my membership card wasn’t in and wouldn’t arrive in time for the Show. I didn’t think much of it even though the events that had occurred that day should have raised the alarm.

A week or two later everyone seemingly forgot about me, especially because President Obama was coming to Benedict and they told us the Secret Service was on campus. We were all too concerned with trying to figure out if the new cute boy in class was actually a double agent. I mean it was too obvious. He was super built with a Mario Brothers mustache. One of the members of my organization stopped me in the hall and told me we would be having a meeting that night and I should attend. I was happy and nervous at the same time. I really didn’t know what to expect but I’ve always been brave so I knew I would be there. As I walked into the senior parking garage where the meetings were being held, I noticed everyone busy spray painting their boots with their line numbers. Blue and gold paint was everywhere. The president of the organization greeted me with a big hug and told me to go get my boots and join in and that she had something to discuss with me when I returned.

When I returned to the parking garage I walked up to our President and asked her what was going on. In her hand she held two white membership papers but before she handed to me she said, “We were told by some of the other members that you were transgender and wanted to make sure you could still be a member. So I contacted our head office and I let them know the situation. I have two membership cards but I can offer you only one.” She held up the membership card and continued, “This one lists your gender as trans and this one as female. Which one do you want? It’s up to you.” Without a second thought I grabbed the one that said transgender and placed it in my pocket and joined my organization members in rehearsing. It was genuinely the first time I felt valued and like a real person.

In my Senior year of college I would ultimately win the position of Treasurer for Alpha Phi Omega. I ran for president of the NAACP for my school and won, along with International English Society, and Fall Fashion Show Planning. I competed in in the Black and Gold Pageant and performed one of my poems for the talent show. I received the highest marks of any student ever for my senior thesis – 130 out of 100. I blossomed and grew because I was allowed and appreciated for my visibility. And once I could be visible and be free nobody could take my power away.

National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

I will never fully understand what it means to be Native American/Alaska Native in America, but that does not imply I cannot stand in solidarity with Native people and support their struggle for justice and equality.

In a world with decreasing resources and increasing demand, Native Americans often get categorized as “other” for funding and epidemiological purposes. “Other” is just another way to erase or minimize the importance of their communities, culture, and lives.

In the hierarchy of oppression, resources go to those most in need. Often that leaves “others” with scraps. Make no mistake, the system is set up so that we fight each other rather than the people who make these rules. It is in their interest to keep us in competition with each other and not them. If we ever figure out the way to unite, we could be an unstoppable force.

On this National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, all the communities highly impacted by HIV are all being weaponized as “others.” The extreme right is attempting to use this fear to take back power and control of the courts, legislative bodies, and executive offices and to divide American so that women, people of color, and LGBTQ communities are minimized and marginalized. The reality is that our communities and the people who love us are the majority of Americans, the unstoppable force that scares them into action.

This year is just the opening salvo. They are “message testing” to understand how far they can push the hatred of “others” as their pathway to the presidency. Next year will be a dog fight of the worst kind. Affirmative Action will be the next to go. The courts will also look to outlaw mifepristone or misoprostol. These actions are the upshot of decades of planning, and I am worried. In their reach for power and control, they are splitting our country along lines of race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and guns where a lie can be made to look like the truth. We’re not going without a fight, but they must know that. America does not deserve the years of suffering this struggle will generate. Today is also a call for peace.

Thank you to everyone attending this year’s Biomedical HIV Prevention Summit. Over 1,000 folks have registered or received scholarships. At this meeting our movement needs to talk about the future and get ready for a couple of brutal years where our lives and those of our clients become the targets for their pathway to power and control of America.

Yours in the Struggle,

Paul Kawata

Paul Kawata

A Letter to Walgreens

N.M.A.C. Leads with Race

Stefano Pessina
Executive Chairman
200 Wilmot Road
Deerfield, IL 60015

Dear Chairman Pessina,

Walgreens’ decision to not dispense abortion pills in 21 states, including four states where it remains legal, put the company in the middle of America’s war on women. The fight will not be limited to mifepristone or misoprostol. People living with HIV and/or on PrEP want pharmacies that share their values. This decision says Walgreens knows better than its customers, their physicians, or even the FDA.

Corporations need to understand the complexities of stepping into the culture wars. This decision sent messages to multiple communities that we don’t matter. The HIV community stands with reproductive health because we are all being demonized for political power and control. I’m not sure who thought this was a good idea, but they were wrong. Just look at Disney. They are in a war with Governor DeSantis where everyone loses.

This struggle only further divides your stores from the communities they are supposed to serve. Now consumers must add this new information about Walgreens into their calculus when choosing a pharmacy. Companies making money from HIV or the communities highly impacted by HIV need to connect the dots and understand the commercial consequences of their actions. You can’t fly a rainbow flag in June and turn your back on community the other 11 months. Walgreens went from an ally to just another company that doesn’t support the people who shop in their stores.

Please reconsider. Wait until after the Supreme Court rules. Walgreens jumped the gun and this position will impact the company’s bottom line. What does it say about a pharmacy that will no longer dispense physician prescribed FDA approved drugs? These are decisions that should be left to customers and their doctors. What was Walgreens’ senior team thinking? Please share the calculus because customers and employees want to understand. This decision puts your stock price, senior staff, and employees at risk.

Yours in the Struggle,

Paul Kawata

Paul Kawata

Disney Steps Into It

First, they came for women seeking abortions. Since I did not need an abortion, I did not say anything. Then they came for transgender youth. My kids are not transgender, so I did nothing. Then they came for drag queens. Really?? While I love drag queens, this seems like a diversion. Then they came for me, gay men, and I’m worried about who is left.

If you feel like something isn’t right, you’re not alone. Our communities are under attack in America’s courts, state legislatures, and governors. This is the culmination of 50 years of planning. The word “woke” is really a dog whistle. It says the world is changing and you may not like the direction. “Woke” now divides America along lines of race, gender, gender identity, whom you love, and the right to bear arms. It leaves a two-class society where one side decides how everyone else can live, work, love, own guns, and have access to healthcare.

Tennessee is ground zero in the fight. Not only has the Governor turned back core federal HIV prevention funding, but he also signed state bills that would ban gender-affirming care for transgender youth and restrict drag performances in public. These actions are coordinated, and our movement needs to be worried about other states.

Texas’ 88th Legislative Session has 3,605 house bills and 1,610 in the senate. Getting through these bills takes time, money, and cooperation between state and national activists. While there are some good bills, an initial review showed multiple pieces of legislation targeting communities highly impacted by HIV. We need to monitor what gets out of committee. The number of bills makes this task overwhelming.

The Weber Standwick Collective recently invited me to speak to some of their corporate clients. I talked about Disney and how the CEO got caught flat footed. The old days of staying neutral are gone. The culture wars are here and companies must choose a side. In the case of Disney, the CEO tried to be neutral, but that got him in trouble with employees. Talent is a key factor for how companies are valued. Disney’s staff, particularly their creative teams, want their employer to share their values. The CEO overcorrected into a war with Governor DeSantis. In truth, the governor was looking for a fight. Ultimately, the CEO lost his job, and Disney’s stock took a huge hit. In this upside-down world, these decisions have real financial consequences.

Corporations understand their markets are at risk. The culture wars mean work force destabilization and chaos. Every CEO needs a strategy before their backs get pressed to the wall. Until the markets decide, at least in Tennessee, hundreds will lose their jobs, thousands will lose access to HIV prevention services, and an unknown number of American will get HIV because they were not educated about disease prevention.

Just because you live in a deep blue state, do not assume you are immune. Key to the 50-year plan was control of the Supreme Court. They are using the courts to legislate nationally on abortion, affirmative action, voting, student loan forgiveness, and gun control. I worry about the Texas case on HIV PrEP and the ACA. Their real goal is to destabilize the ACA by getting rid of the Prevention Task Force.
There are good people working hard to figure out solutions not only for TN, but also for the rest of the country. Given the political climate, it is a difficult needle to thread. How to work around the governor without escalating the fight? Disney showed the wrong way, can HIV do better? Like Disney, federal leaders cannot be neutral. You tried last time with the DEBBIs and EBBIs. Our movement spent too much time and money on programs that tried to placate conservatives but could not be scaled at the levels needed to end the epidemic. HIV testing, PrEP, and PEP are the best HIV prevention tools, but they require cooperation and collaboration from the communities hardest hit by HIV. Like Disney employees, HIV prevention, care, and treatment must share the values of the communities we need to reach. For HIV that means gay/bi men, particularly gay men of color, the transgender community, and Black women.

Yours in the Struggle,

Paul Kawata

Paul Kawata