Statement from NMAC on White House Plan to End the HIV Epidemic

Following is a statement from NMAC Executive Director Paul Kawata on the new national HIV/AIDS strategy to end the epidemic:

“NMAC is very pleased by the White House’s new national HIV/AIDS strategy, particularly in its use of hard data to drive its tactics, recognition of the context of HIV prevention and care, and the willingness to treat HIV as an issue of social justice and equity.”

“Hard data is critical to an effective strategy to end HIV. Without knowing who is at risk, where they live, and what prevention and treatment approaches work, it’s impossible for any organization to reach those who most need to be reached. In an epidemic that has been marked by so many responses based on political ideology, this reliance on science is critical.”

“We are incredibly pleased that the administration recognizes that HIV care and prevention doesn’t occur in a vacuum. For those living with or at great risk of HIV, there are numerous other issues in their life that make HIV a low priority, housing being one of the biggest ones. The inclusion of numerous cabinet agencies in the new strategy, including Housing and Urban Development and Veterans Affairs, shows that this administration understands that ending the HIV epidemic is not just about medications and condoms; it’s about addressing the critical issues in a person’s life.”

“Finally, we are also very pleased to see that the administration will treat HIV as an issue of social justice and equity. That’s the reason NMAC was founded more than 30 years ago and continues our mission to lead with race today. We know that HIV thrives due to racism, stigma, and inequities in health care and our economic system. We believe that fighting HIV in the context of social justice and equity means that this strategy will be far more effective than previous efforts.”

A Love Letter to the Women of NMAC

I usually don’t share internal issues at NMAC; however, recently I had the pleasure of promoting Kim Ferrell to be NMAC’s Deputy Director for Operations, Alison McKeithen was promoted to be Assistant Director for Conferences, Shanta Gray was promoted to Senior Registrar and Meeting Planner, and Gabriella Spencer was promoted to be the Associate Program Manager. Women (cis & trans) are the heart and soul of NMAC. In a few weeks many of you will be at the 2021 United States Conference on HIV/AIDS and it is important to know who really makes things happen. Women make NMAC a force of nature and this is my love letter to them.

Women have always played a critical role at NMAC. Two of NMAC’s founders include Rashidah Abdul-Khabeer (formerly Hassan) and Sandra “Ms. Mac” McDonald. According to the African American AIDS History Project “Rashidah has spent most of her life in Philadelphia, where she grew up amidst the social change and political ferment of the 1950s and 1960s. She began to volunteer with Philadelphia AIDS groups, which were primarily oriented toward white gay men, and became frustrated with their apparent unwillingness to develop specific outreach and education efforts for African Americans. In 1985 she founded Blacks Educating Blacks About Sexual Health Issues (BEBASHI), one of the country’s first black AIDS service organizations.”

Sandra Singleton McDonald, affectionately known as “Ms. Mac” is President and Founder of OUTREACH, INC., the first minority community-based organization established in Georgia to provide HIV/AIDS and drug treatment and prevention services to African American communities. Established in 1986 out of the trunk of her car, the agency has served more than 6,500 clients for over 30 years. Sandra has also consulted with theNational Football League, National Basketball Association, and the National Basketball Players Association.

Some amazing women of historical note have been on our board including NMAC’s Honorary Board Chair Patti LaBelle. Ms. Patti was part of NMAC’s HIV treatment education campaign on PCP. She lent her voice, talent and money to help build NMAC. The legendary jazz singer Nancy Wilson joined our board in 2005. Her concert to celebrate NMAC ‘s 20th Anniversary is still on YouTube.

Mrs. Coretta Scott King attended both USCA and our Community Planning Leadership Summit. It was at the USCA in Atlanta that Mrs. King hosted a reception where the Civil Rights Movement saluted the HIV movement. She brought icons from her struggle to the Opening USCA reception in order to build bridges and understanding about the linkages between our movements. Mrs. King brought a voice of love and compassion for people living with HIV/AIDS at a time when too many other leaders had turned their backs.

Sometimes the rap on NMAC becomes about me and that is wrong. The agency is too diverse and too strong to be minimized in that way. I hold up these women staff, board, and community advisory members so that constituents can better understand why NMAC is successful. Women have always played a critical role at the agency. While there is not enough space to share everyone’s story, here are just a small fraction of the women who make NMAC the agency our movement needs to end the epidemic.

I want the world to understand who has the real power at NMAC and it’s not me. I am so grateful to stand with these women. Their support and critique make me a better leader. NMAC would not be NMAC without them.

 

Yours in the Struggle,
Paul Kawata

 

 

 

 

 

Paul Kawata
NMAC

NMAC Capitol Hill Champion Awards for Minority Health to be Held Nov. 30

NMAC will present its second annual Capitol Hill Champion Awards for Minority Health on Nov. 30 at 7:00 PM ET. The ceremony will honor U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge with the Elijah Cummings Award for Minority Health Equality and Congresswoman Maxine Waters with the John Lewis Good Trouble Award. District of Columbia Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton will also speak. To attend this free event, register at https://rb.gy/1tujzd.

“For our second annual Capitol Hill Champion Awards, we are greatly honored to recognize Secretary Fudge and Congresswoman Waters for their long commitment to people living with HIV,” said NMAC Executive Director Paul Kawata. “‘Over the course of their careers in public service, they have proven themselves to be tireless champions for those living with HIV and communities facing discrimination and inequities. We are grateful for their leadership and look forward to continuing to work with them to end the HIV epidemic.”

“NMAC wanted to thank and honor Secretary Fudge and Congresswoman Waters for all they have done against tremendous obstacles,” said NMAC Director of Strategic Partnerships and Policy Joe Huang-Racalto. “‘Like the people we serve, the Secretary and the Congresswoman have directly faced prejudice, discrimination, and being dismissed or underestimated. That has made them vital champions for communities that bear the greatest burden of HIV. We are very happy to thank them for their years of work.”

Thanks to Premiere Sponsor Merck for their support of the Capitol Hill Champions Awards.

Yours in the Struggle

“Yours in the Struggle” is how I close correspondence. The phrase is more than words, it’s an homage to my friend and partner in crime, Michael Hirsch. I moved to Washington, DC in 1985 to fight an epidemic that was killing my family and friends. To this day, I am not sure why they chose me, a 20-something kid from across the country who knew nothing of politics. The serendipity of life meant that I had to find the courage to leave the comfort of home (Seattle) and jump into the abyss of Washington.

Michael was one of the first persons to take me under his wing. He was the quintessential New York activist: outrageous, maddening, and fun. He was also the first executive director (ED) of the New York People with AIDS (PWA) Coalition and the first ED of Body Positive. While at Body Positive, Michael came up with the wild notion of peer provided services. His model using consumers changed the nature of HIV services.

Michael used to come to board meetings and infused while doing business. He always wanted to remind us that HIV was about real people with real problems. It was because of Michael that I got accepted into the PWA community. He insisted I attend organizing meetings that would later become the National Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA). In those days, we didn’t have email. Michael would write these long diatribes about life, the movement, his frustrations, and joy. They were intimate letters between someone who was dying and someone who would remember. In many ways, they were the culmination of his life. He would close each letter with “Yours in the struggle.”

The call from the hospital. A stranger telling you to come quickly because your friend is about to pass. When I got the call for Michael, I was in Washington and needed to rush to New York. I remember hopping that shuttle and praying that he would hold on so I could say goodbye. The taxi ride from LaGuardia to Saint Vincent’s was one of the longest in my life. As I rushed down the hall, I saw Michael’s mother and sister sobbing. My heart sank. I thought he was gone. Just then Rona Affoumado came up to me and said “Oh God, you just made it. The family has just decided to pull the plug.” I wasn’t too late. Rona escorted me into Michael’s room. It was all pumps and whistles from the many machines trying to keep him alive. It had that funny smell, the smell of death. Michael had been unconscious for the last 24 hours. The morphine had stopped the pain and allowed him to sleep. As they turned the machines off, there was an eerily silence. I held Michael’s hand and told him how much I loved him. Just then, his eyes opened, and a single tear rolled down his cheek… and then he was gone. The nurse would later tell me that his opening his eyes was probably just a reflex, but to me it was a sign. It was Michael saying goodbye. I close my letters and emails with “Yours in the struggle” to honor his life and the lives of so many that we lost.

Our work has moved so far from those early days. While we talk about patient centered services, the reality is far more “medical model.” Why have so many people living with HIV fallen out of care and services? The Biden/Harris plan to end the HIV epidemic must prioritize retaining people in HIV services. I believe that starts with Michael’s radial notion of peer provided services. Our movement needs to prioritize hiring people living with HIV to deliver HIV services. They have a unique understanding of the stigma and discrimination that continues to challenge too many living with HIV in America.

Yours in the Struggle,
Paul Kawata 

 

 

 

 

Paul Kawata
NMAC

Paul Kawata’s Fashion

This week we were to gather for the 2021 United States Conference on HIV/AIDS. While it was right to pivot to a virtual meeting, I’m still disappointed that we don’t get to see each other. Back in May, NMAC was very confident that we could meet in the fall, but the Delta variant kicked our ass. Hopefully we can meet in the Spring of 2022 (look for an announcement).

It would seem disingenuous to not state the obvious: with no in-person USCHA there’s no Paul Kawata fashion, no gaudy over the top jackets that can be spotted across the room. In the early days, there was a method to my madness. I used fashion to stand out from the crowd. DC has a very strict dress code of blue or grey suits. Everyone looks the same and very heterosexual. My clothes screamed “gay” and, back in the ‘80s, that was radical.

Because of my work in the movement, I was lucky to sit at the feet of one of the last great social doyennes of New York, Mrs. Judith Peabody. Judy committed her life to taking care of her friends who were dying of AIDS. With her Peabody pedigree and old family money, she forced open the doors of “social” New York. Her world did not want to talk about HIV. Judy’s actions raised a lot of concerns because “women of a certain social standing” did not hang with people like me. We bonded over too many friends who died too soon.

Judy showed me how fashion was more than pretty clothes. Her outfits sent messages of love and acceptance. She didn’t just wear Bill Blass to the Met Ball, she also wore Bill to Harlem where she volunteered at Harlem House. She wore Bill to her HIV support group for care givers at GMHC. Her fashion made people smile. The designer clothes, jewelry, and big hair brought joy and beauty everywhere she went and to everyone she touched. Judy once told me, “I am who I am wherever I am. I dress this way to go to the ballet and to Harlem.” Judy was my Auntie Mama. She introduced me to a world that was larger than I could have imaged. My over-the-top jackets are an homage to Mrs. Peabody.

Hopefully, this story made you smile. There really was a time when I was fun. I know it seems impossible now, but I swear to you, I used to be fun! I saw myself as an Asian Joan Crawford. If you don’t know who she is, look it up and get out of my face. Can you tell I’ve been watching and re-watching RuPaul’s Drag Race?

Missing people is hard. When I say I’m a little gutted, I mean it. I worry that COVID makes our work impossible. Okay, I said it. We are falling behind and our efforts to end HIV have stalled. It’s not our fault. Who could have foreseen COVID? While I understand the need to prioritize, I worry that HIV, STDs, and Hepatitis are going unchecked. It’s time to figure out how to live with COVID while ending multiple epidemics.

The Biden/Harris Plan to End the HIV/AIDS epidemic will be released around World AIDS Day. While NMAC has not seen the plan, our hope is that it will lead with race. I’m looking for a plan/challenge that is bigger than I am, something that will take teams of experts and community working together to solve, to be excited about the future and our work to end HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Back in the day, it was scandalous when I wore a purple jacket and no tie to meet President Obama. In a sea of uniformity, I stood out like the flower I am. Due to COVID I’ve not been shopping in a long time. In fact, I’m living in sweatpants. I don’t think I will ever wear slacks again, let alone over the top jackets. Recently I purchased my first pair of comfortable shoes that are not cute. They look like grandpa shoes, but I guess I am getting to that age. Thanks to the filters, I look young and refreshed on my zoom calls. The reality is far less attractive. Please be kind the next time you see me.

While not in-person, I look forward to seeing everyone virtually at the 2021 United States Conference on HIV/AIDS. There is still time to register. What else do you have to do? This year’s meeting directly follows the release of new EHE plans. It will be an important time to restart our efforts to end the epidemics of HIV, STD, and Hepatitis and to fight like hell for the living while never forgetting the shoulders we stand on.

Yours in the Struggle,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paul Kawata
NMAC
*This picture of me and Judy was taken at a dinner that we hosted at the Library of Congress. The HIV community came together to celebrate the election of President Bill Clinton. Larry Kramer would protest at the dinner, but that story is saved for later.

 

Dating Apps, Shame, and Stigma

It’s a mess out there. If you’ve been on a dating app recently, you probably know what I’m talking about – the deluge of unrequested photos, trying to string along a conversation from one-liner responses, the made-and-broken plans to meet up. Then, of course, we have the toxicity. People ghosting. People, under the guise of near anonymity, saying racist or stigmatizing things that they might not in the light of day. The constant judgement of one’s face or body as good, or good enough, or not quite either.

What exactly, though, does any of this have to do with our work at NMAC? More than we thought, it turns out. According to the researchers who penned NiceAF, a recent report sponsored by Building Healthy Online Communities (BHOC), consistent negative experiences on dating/hookup apps can actually increase a person’s chances of acquiring HIV. From the report: “Yale University researchers, John Pachankis and Charles Burton, found that for some gay and bi men, being repeatedly rejected by other gay and bi men online is associated with greater risk for HIV and symptoms of depression and anxiety.”

In NMAC’s Treatment division, we often talk about identifying gaps in knowledge that need to be filled. Right now, we have the tools at hand to end this epidemic: effective HIV treatments, PrEP, PEP, and condoms. In this movement, we need to do a better job of understanding how to better empower people, especially queer people of color, to utilize these tools according to their own needs. Treatment and adherence education is a big part of that, as is advocating for structural change at every level of power.

And yet, there’s still another factor to address, a deep and nebulous one, before we can finally end the epidemic. That, of course, is figuring out how to lessen the levels of shame and stigma in queer communities, especially around HIV. On one level, the fact that there is still so much shame and stigma is understandable, given all the ways that the white supremacist heteropatriarchy signals to queer folks of color that this world was not made for us.

We would be remiss to ignore, however, that part of this shame and stigma is perpetuated by our own communities. Perhaps researchers are picking up on something that folks have intuitively felt for a long time: many of us expect this kind of stigma from straight people, but the effects can be deleterious after consistently hearing it from those we might be counting on.

At the root of our work in Treatment is really thinking about the ways that we, particularly queer folks of color, relate to one another and to tailor adherence and prevention education programming to those lived realities. One thing that we are learning more and more about, thanks in large part to the work of activists/researchers (like those at BHOC), is that the stresses queer communities of color experience are complex, and our interventions need to be nimble enough to respond. It’s one of the reasons we are so passionate about our Gay Men of Color Fellowship, and the innovative work they do to share life-changing information with their social networks in a culturally competent way. It’s this kind of work, an assurance that there is a supportive community out here, that motivates us each day.

Jonathan Ayala
Program Coordinator – Treatment Division

Sharing My Pain

Over the last few months, I’ve had several significant losses. Normally, I would keep this personal information private. I shared my pain because too many of us are hurting. You are not alone. The world is crazy right now and it can feel overwhelming. I spoke my truth to shatter the stigma and discrimination that too often follows PTSD and depression. It is also my pathway to healing.

Thank you for all the kind messages of support. Reading your emails helped to feel less alone. Until I admitted there is a problem, it was difficult, if not impossible, to figure out solutions. Right now, it’s particularly challenging with so many unknowns. Is it me or is the whole world going crazy? Probably both. Even if you are perfectly fine, it is important to understand that colleagues, friends, and family are hurting. Empathy is critical, yet it is hard to be empathetic when the world feels upside down.

Just to be clear, I am not a therapist, but I do have one. I get one hour every other week to talk just about me and my fears. This is a privilege that is not available to most people and that needs to be fixed. I’m transparent about therapy to dispel the stigma and fear surrounding this topic. I grew up in a world where depression was viewed as a sign of weakness. Only rich White people had psychiatrists. I feel pain because I am a person of color living in America. Buck up and get over it. As a result, I spent too many years not addressing the elephant in the room. I’m in pain. The early days of the epidemic had taken their toll. I never took the time to reconcile what happened to me and my friends and to weep for all that was lost. There was a whole generation taken too soon.

Here I am, 40 years later, and I can still recall the deaths of too many people. The hospital rooms that had that awful antiseptic smell. The nurses who became my best friends as they made up a bed so I could stay in the hospital rooms of friends. Colleagues who died too quickly so friends could not say good-bye. Friends who lingered too long in pain, fighting for every breath. I was a kid in my 20s when the epidemic started, too young to understand the enormity of what was happening to me and my friends. Too naive to be afraid, I just wanted to help.

I share my story because COVID, Black Lives Matter, Climate Change, Abortion Rights, the Jan 6th Insurrection, and Immigration are creating another generation of people living with PTSD and depression. There are too many reasons to feel awful. The pain is real, and it may not go away for a long time. While I don’t regret what I had to do during those early days, I wish I had started therapy and building my pathway to healing much sooner.

For too long we’ve lived with the false paradigm that leaders must have it all together. It’s time to tell the truth: leaders can be great and fu**ed up at the same time. More importantly, there are people and medications that can help you manage the pain.

I did nothing wrong because I survived the early days of the epidemic. The pain and loss I experienced was real. I love and miss more people than I can remember. The world was awful during those early days. The fear and vitriol were real. I cannot unsee what I experienced. I can build a pathway to healing that starts with me sharing my story.

I am wounded. It is what it is. Sunshine is my pathway to healing. Too many from my generation are part of the walking wounded. Too many from this generation will soon join us. These are traumatic, fearful times. There are real reasons to be sad and afraid. Leadership can also be about telling the truth and helping the next generation move beyond the pain.

 

 

Yours in the Struggle,
Paul Kawata
NMAC

ESCALATE and ELEVATE Training Applications Now Open

NMAC’s ESCALATE (Ending Stigma through Collaboration and Lifting All to Empowerment) and ELEVATE (Engage Leadership through Employment, Validation, and Advancing Transformation and Equity) programs have opened new applications for trainings in 2021 and 2022.

ESCALATE trains and empowers participants to recognize and address HIV stigma within every level of the Ryan White HIV AIDS Program. Training is available for both individuals and organizations.

ESCALATE’s first four trainings of the second year of the program will be on the following dates:

Nov. 15-19: Indian Country (application deadline of Oct. 22)
Dec. 13-17: Open (application deadline of Nov. 1)
Jan. 18-22: Open (application deadline of Dec. 13
Feb. 14-18: Puerto Rico, conducted in Spanish (application deadline of Jan. 2)

To apply for an ESCALATE training, visit TargetHIV.org/ESCALATE.

ELEVATE builds the capacity of Persons with HIV (PWH) to be meaningfully involved in the planning, delivering, and improving of Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program services.

ELEVATE’s first three trainings will also each focus on a specific population:

Nov. 1-5: MSM (application deadline of Oct. 15)
Dec. 6-10: Latinx, conducted in English (application deadline of Nov. 15)
Jan. 10-14: Cisgender women (application deadline of Dec. 15)

To apply for an ELEVATE training, visit TargetHIV.org/ELEVATE.

NMAC will host an informational webinar on the ELEVATE program on Tuesday, Oct. 12, at 2:00 PM EST. The webinar will be available at https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85201291224.

ELEVATE is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $799,201.00 with 100 percentage funded by HRSA/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA/HHS, or the U.S. Government. 

ESCALATE is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Minority HIV/AIDS Fund (MHAF) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $1,640,827. 100 percentage funded by HRSA/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA/HHS, or the U.S. Government.

2021 Gay Men of Color Fellows

Social Media Influencers PrEP Campaign

The Gay Men of Color Fellowship is based on a strong social media-based campaign informed by its members. Fellows are trained around biomedical prevention and provided with social media packages to startup their “biomedical prevention influencer” status. The campaigns seek to increase awareness around PrEP, PEP and TasP for men who have sex with other men. Fellows will also develop Facebook live events and to conceptualize social media posts around three thematic blocks: (1) Biomedical prevention basics, (2) Sex, desire, and pleasure, and (3) PrEP, PEP and Treatment adherence.

En Español

 

Adrian Parra

Adrian is a non-binary, Latinx, HIV+ individual who uses they, he, and she pronouns fluidly. They have been serving as the Executive Director at Youth OUTright WNC since January 2018. Adrian feels honored to build power with the LGBTQIA+ youth of WNC, cultivating a culture of consent, equity, and compassion. He prioritizes self-determination and facilitating intersectional and intergenerational dialogue within their youth organizing. She comes to social justice work from a background in fine art photography and printmaking and celebrates creative approaches to organizing for Justice. Outside of youth organizing, you might find them on a hiking trail chasing waterfalls with their pup DandyLion, or dancing in their living room to anything from clarinet to dubstep.

 

Alexi Díaz

Born in Aibonito, PR, Alexi has a BA in Accounting from the University of Puerto Rico and a Law Degree from the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico. He was a member of Homoerotica, a group of LGBTQ+ writers. In 2012, he moved to Miami where he served as a volunteer for SAVE Dade, Latinos Salud, and the non-profit Prevention305. Since publicly disclosing his HIV status in 2017 and moving back to San Juan, he has been actively advocating for people living with HIV on the island. He has been a volunteer for the SEX Team since 2018. In 2019 became a founding member of CAMPoz, a collective of artists living with HIV that use their art to educate and reduce stigma. In 2020 he also co-founded Convihvir a social media/web-based platform to educate about HIV care, treatment, and prevention but mostly to eliminate stigma. In 2020 he also joined NMAC’s Latinx CAP. He was also featured in BuzzFeed and as part of the Latinx Institute at USCHA that same year.

 

Andrés Acosta

Andres Acosta is a Colombian-American first-generation immigrant. He is a veteran of the United States Navy having served on board the USS Essex while stationed in Sasebo, Japan. Upon his return to civilian life, Andres attended the University of Central Florida where he earned a bachelor’s in industrial/Organizational Psychology. He works at Heart Of Florida United Way as the program coordinator for the Central Florida HIV Planning Council, where he uses his skills to guide and train the council members in charge of overseeing the Ryan White System of Care for the Lake, Osceola, Orange, Seminole, and Brevard counties. He is the community relations manager for the Contigo Fund, the largest funder of LGBTQ issues in Central Florida. Andres is also the program manager for the Maven Leadership Collective, which consistently invests in talented queer and trans social impact leaders of color and allies to create more resilient communities. Andres served as the chair of the Community Advisory Board for the phase 3 HIV vaccine (HVTN 706 Mosaico) trials at Orlando Immunology Center. He also sits on the board of directors for Peer Support Space and is the chair of their advocacy committee.

 

Bill Le

Bill is a PrEP Education Specialist for an NIH-funded research study, PrEP-Talk, at APLA Health. His research interests are working with YBMSM (Young Black Men who have sex with Men) and their friends to learn more about PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis). He graduated from the University of California, San Diego with a B.A. in Critical Gender Studies, in addition to completing the post-baccalaureate program in Psychology & Social Behavior at the University of California, Irvine. His passion for implementing evidence-based research interventions for gender and sexual minorities is increasing preventative health and education for the LGBTQIA+ community.

 

Bryan Ellicott

Bryan Ellicott is a Program Coordinator who works with all staff to both maintain and grow the Princess Janae Place. Bryan believes in the mission of Princess Janae Place because he knows what it is like to be a transgender person who believes that everything is set up for them to fail. The mission of Princess Janae Place is a deeply personal one. Bryan has come to Princess Janae Place, and helped take the process and organization to the next level. Every day, Bryan has found a new way for Princess Janae Place to grow and do things better for our clients and the TGNCNBI community especially those who are HIV+ or at risk of becoming HIV+.
In 2017, Bryan Ellicott was honored by Gay City News Impact Awards for his courageous work in suing the New York City Parks Department for discrimination against Transgender New Yorkers who wish to use public pools. Bryan holds a Bachelor of Science in Political Science/ Public Administration from the City University of New York – College of Staten Island in the Class of 2012.

 

Christopher Walker

Christopher Walker is a project coordinator II at Education Training and Research (ETR )with six years of experience working in HIV/ STI prevention. Currently, he coordinates and provides logistical support for several projects on the HIV, Sexual & Reproductive Health services team at ETR. His career began in college while attending the University of Memphis. During his time there, he worked with several campus organizations assisting them in creating on-campus HIV/STI testing events and educational forums on cultural inclusivity. Shortly after graduation, he moved to Dallas, Texas, and took his learned skills to the non-profit world. He was a field supervisor for the CDC-funded National HIV Behavioral Surveillance and has experience working directly with marginalized communities. He has a Master’s in Public Health from the University of Texas School of Public Health. With a passion for advocacy, he aspires to fight disparities faced by individuals who lack access to equitable healthcare and education. In his spare time, he is a proud board member of the House of Rebirth, a transitional living space for transgender women of color, Momentum Health a non-profit organization focuses on creating community-based solutions for at-risk youth and cast member of three podcasts that tackle social justices issues through innovative ways, “BlaQberry View”, “What does it take to End it”, and “CommuniTEA”. Living by the motto “People helping people helping people” and fighting for what is right, he wants to make the world a better place for all.

 

Christian Sandate Estrada

Christian Sandate Estrada (he/him) was born in Mexico and immigrated to Seattle, WA at the age of 12. Has worked for different non-profits/ASOs such as Entre Hermanos, GayCity Health, Hawaii Island HIV/AIDS Foundation (HIHAF), and Kumukahi Health & Wellness. He’s currently employed with Kumukahi Health & Wellness as a Prevention specialist & PrEP Navigator. Christian has a partner of 12 years and two wonderful but crazy dogs, named Dex and Lulu. He is a DACA recipient and has been so for the past 10 years. In his free time, Christian loves to spend time at the beach, hop on a plane to a different island, and hit the road in his truck.

 

Dwight Venson

Dwight Venson proudly serves as the Program Coordinator of Outreach, Linkage, and Engagement for the Gay Men’s Health Collaborative in Fairfax, VA. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Dwight received his bachelor’s in political science from John Carroll University. He is most passionate about issues impacting black queer communities and providing educational training around sexual liberation for black gay men. In his spare time, he enjoys the dramatic arts, creative writing, and developing (social) media content for his upcoming podcast brand “The Cleveland Hoochies.”

 

Ernest Brown

Ernest Brown has over 8 years working in the field of Public Health. Ernest also has extensive experience with working with young MSM’s of color and is currently serving on the SC HIV Planning Council as an active voting member. Ernest is also a member of the Positive Advocacy Committee working with individuals living with HIV. Ernest also has a vast social network which he uses to educate and inform people across all social media platforms about Safer Sex Practices and PrEP. Ernest continues to work to end the HIV Epidemic and is a strong advocate for U=U focusing on treatment as prevention, which he provides free HIV STI Testing services for young men of Color in Columbia S.C.

 

Ervin Gainer

Ervin Gainer was born and raised in Indianapolis, IN where he still resides. He attended Ball State University where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree. After finding out an HIV diagnosis in December of 2011, Gainer wanted to turn a negative into a positive by getting involved in STI/HIV work. He got his foot in the door at Bell Flower Clinic in 2013 as an Outreach Clinic Technician. Gainer later became a Disease Intervention Specialist (DIS) I in 2015 and was promoted to DIS II in 2018. Ervin parted ways with Bell Flower Clinic in January 2020 and joined Ryan White Services Department at Community Health Network in March where he currently works as an HIV testing/Outreach/Linkage to Care Specialist. A few fun facts about Ervin is that he loves musical theatre, has been to Europe, is a Disney Nerd, and loves horror movies. Oh, and a good cocktail!

 

J. Donté Prayer

J. Donté Prayer is the NC AIDS Action Network’s Health Access Coordinator and the founder of R.O.L.E Models. He is a native of Greenville, North Carolina but currently resides in Charlotte. Donté is a proud product of Elizabeth City State University. Prior to joining the NCAAN team, Donté was a Prevention Coordinator for a local AIDS service organization, focusing on community-based outreach and engagement, mobilization, health disparity education, counseling and assessment, sexual wellness, HIV and Hepatitis linkage to care, and other referral services including PrEP navigation. Donte’ served as the Chair of the Collaborative Council for Statusboiz and Statusgurlz, a University of North Carolina at Charlotte research study funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Minority AIDS Research Initiative. This $1.1 million project focused on HIV prevention for young African American gay/bisexual men and transgender women through culturally-based social networking. His involvement ensured the success of the project. Donté continues to serve on community councils, boards and planning bodies to eradicate the HIV disparity including the Black Treatment Advocates Network and the Ryan White Planning Body.

 

James Lewis

James Lewis, a native of New Orleans LA has worked in public health for 15 years with a community-based organization like Women with a Vision Inc., Tulane’s School of Public Health, and Brotherhood Inc. offering PrEP navigation and linkage to care services. He currently works for Tulane University in the School of Medicine as the Health Model’s Coordinator and is currently a board member of the New Orleans LGBTQ community center. James is also a male lead entertainer (Siaz FoXx) and competitor in the pageant community, he uses this platform to advocate for LGBTQ issues along with hosting a monthly Facebook live show called “Sip, Chat and Chew with The FoXx” in partnership with local agencies where the topics range from health inequalities, social challenges in his community, to being Sex and body positive. His message is simply, “the battle to end the epidemic will take soldiers that are willing to fight and sacrifice until the war is won.”

 

Manny Muro

Manny Muro is a Proud, Queer, Latinx man who was born and raised in Southern California. As a lifelong resident, Manny has a passion for serving the community that shaped him throughout his life. Manny is currently the Outreach and Education Coordinator for Radiant Health Centers which is Orange County’s largest provider of LGBTQ+ health and social services. Manny is working to eliminate stigma and overcome health disparities impacting the LGBTQ+ community. Manny also serves as the Chairman of the OC PrEP Coalition whose mission is to decrease HIV transmission rates by educating, empowering, and connecting individuals to biomedical prevention tools. Manny also held the title of Mr. Gay Orange County and is currently the Vice President of Orange County LGBT Pride where he works to strengthen the identity of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community within Orange County.

 

Omar Martínez González

Omar Martínez González is the LGBTQ+ Program Coordinator at the Multicultural AIDS Coalition in Boston, MA. In this role, he is working to build community and increase HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment services for LGBTQ+ people of color. He has also coordinated college access programs in Chicago and Washington, D.C., worked in and lobbied the U.S. House of Representatives, and did family immigration casework for a private immigration firm. As a gay, Latinx, DACAmented individual, he is passionate about bridging the access and success gap for underserved communities, advocating for social justice, and dismantling oppressive systems. Omar is a graduate of the Illinois Institute of Technology where he obtained his Bachelor’s and Master’s in Biology.

 

Richard Hutchinson Jr.

Richard Hutchinson Jr. is a Black Queer Liberationist, A public health professional, community activist, creative and social entrepreneur from Trenton, NJ. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism & Sociology from Rutgers University in 2012. Richard has been living with HIV since 2015, when he was 25 years old. Hutchinson is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Atlanta-based nonprofit social movement organization, He Is Valuable, Inc. (#HeIsValuable). The mission of He Is Valuable, Inc. is to identify, reinforce and celebrate the value of Black Queer Men and their communities as a way to address HIV and other health disparities/social justice issues that impact the lives of the Black Queer community. Richard has been working in the field of public health and HIV for 6 years. Since moving to Atlanta, Hutchinson has demonstrated a commitment to addressing HIV/AIDS and social justice issues regarding the Black LGBT community through community organizing amongst Black Queer and LGBT young people, advocacy for PLWHA, social marketing, and effective community outreach/engagement. Locally and nationally, he works as a public health consultant and facilitator/trainer with organizations like NMAC, Kaiser Family Foundation, and Morehouse School of Medicine. Richard’s transformative leadership and passions are centered on building collective community power, emotional intelligence, healing justice, growth mindset, and creative radical visibility.

 

Tarik Daniels

Tarik Daniels is an AfroQueer writer, performer, certified mental health peer specialist & HIV awareness activist. Tarik is the Founder and Executive Director of WhatsintheMirror?, a social movement that provides mental health awareness and suicide prevention through art and advocacy to communities of color. He is serving his second term as a City Commissioner for Austin’s LGBTQ Quality Of Life Advisory Board and Vice-Chair of the City of Austin’s HIV Planning Council. Tarik has written, directed, and produced several plays and released a novel, No Bonds So Strong in 2018, and hosts a black queer lifestyle podcast, What Works For Us. As a public speaker and storyteller, he uses his narrative as a person living with HIV to bring awareness to HIV and mental health stigma. He is the winner of the 2019 Austin Under 40 Awards in Arts & Entertainment, 2020 SXSW Community Service Award Honoree, & 2021 BEQ LGBTQ 40 Under 40.

 

Timothy S. Jackson

Timothy S. Jackson (he/him/his) works as the Director of Government Relations for AIDS Foundation Chicago (AFC). His work at AFC includes developing and managing the organization’s government relations activities specializing in HIV-related state legislative matters regarding appropriations, health care reform, HIV decriminalization, LGBTQ+ issues, housing, and addressing health disparities through a racial equity lens.
Prior to joining the Policy & Advocacy team at AFC, Timothy served as a Congressional legislative and constituent services staffer for nine years. During this time, he also served as Board President for Thrive Alabama—an AIDS Service Organization and Federally Qualified Health Center providing medical care and support service to people living with and vulnerable to HIV.

As a Black gay man living with HIV for nearly twelve years, Timothy’s career is centered on advocating on behalf of people living with HIV, amplifying the voices of those most impacted and addressing the effect HIV has on the communities where his identities intersect. Timothy is a national speaker and facilitator on the importance of self-empowerment through the creation of networks of people living with HIV.

Timothy is a member of the Chicago Urban League’s MetroBoard, the National Gay Black Men’s Advocacy Coalition, and co-chair of the Illinois Harm Reduction and Recovery Coalition. He was also selected as a 2020 Fellow in Families USA Health Equity Academy in System Transformation. Finally, Timothy is also the founder of The Promises Project, an online clearinghouse of HIV-related resources and media content for advocates and allies.
A native of Jackson, Mississippi by way of Huntsville, Alabama, Timothy received his BA in Political Science and History from Mississippi State University and holds an Associate of Arts degree in Liberal Arts from Holmes Community College.

 

Tommy Young-Dennis

Tommy Young-Dennis, born in Omaha, Nebraska, is a gay Black man, LGBTQ+ advocate, HIV activist, and educator. After being diagnosed as HIV+ in 2010, Young-Dennis turned his devastation into action. Within three months of his diagnosis, he founded an HIV+ support group for young adults, began volunteering at Nebraska AIDS Project, and dedicated his time to supporting and educating others living with the disease. In 2017, Young-Dennis joined the Nebraska AIDS Project (NAP) full-time as their Prevention and Outreach Specialist, where he does onsite testing, Linkage to Care, and focuses on providing resources and education to the Black, Gay, and same gender- loving men. (BGBM) community), a population disproportionately affected by HIV. Tommy was promoted to Outreach Coordinator in June 2020. Additionally, Tommy serves as one of the co-chairs of the National LGBT Juvenile Justice HIV sub-group which focuses on De-criminalizing HIV laws and those who are impacted by them.

In 2018 Tommy was awarded the Young Black Influential Award for his Advocacy. In 2021 he was also the recipient of the Kuwasi Balagoon award for his work related to HIV education and Outreach from Black and Pink the nation’s largest LGBTQIA+ Prison abolitionist organization.

Lanzamiento de la Fraternidad de Hombres Gays de Color de NMAC

Luego de meses de planificación, la Fraternidad de Hombres Gay de Color sobre prevención biomédica ha sido lanzada. El compromiso de les miembres me inspira [link to bios]. Es un privilegio poder amplificar sus voces según desarrollamos juntos esta campaña para las redes sociales.

Este programa es muy significativo para mí porque busca romper con los silencios. Como hombre gay nacido y criado dentro de un contexto colonial, los conozco muy de cerca. Me refiero a los silencios que se me impusieron. De la misma manera en que el poder político inhibe la autodeterminación de la isla, la normativa cultural en Puerto Rico se impone sobre mi cuerpo y mi sexualidad.

El motor de la resistencia al no conformar con la norma, ha sido para muchos de nosotros, el poder auto-empoderarnos y reclamar nuestro espacio y nuestras vidas. Resistir es informarnos, llenar los vacíos de una educación sexual ineficiente fundamentada en el miedo y la heteronorma. Me correspondió a mí resignificar mi sexualidad como hombre gay y aprender a disfrutar del placer sin reparos.

Nos encontramos en un momento histórico, donde los avances en la prevención biomédica nos dan la oportunidad de enfocarnos en el placer y no en el miedo. Desde el 2012, la PrEP(Profilaxis pre-exposición, por sus siglas en inglés) está disponible para prevenir el VIH. De igual modo, la profilaxis post-exposición, o PEP por sus siglas en inglés, puede ser tomada luego de un evento de exposición. Las personas que viven con VIH no transmiten el virus si su carga viral está no detectable; empoderándose de su estado de indetectabilidad para también enfocarse en el placer. Sin embargo, son las personas afectadas desproporcionalmente por la epidemia las que carecen de un acceso apropiado a estas nuevas tecnologías para la prevención.

Las personas de color hemos sido históricamente inhibidas de los procesos de toma de decisiones y a la equidad en el accesos a los sistemas de salud, impactando no tan solo nuestras experiencias de vida sino también lo más cercano que tenemos, nuestro cuerpo. A pesar de que la prevención biomédica ha avanzado, aún faltan espacios donde se hable para la comunidad desde la comunidad.

Bajo este fundamento es que se desarrolla la Fraternidad de Hombres Gays de Color. Aunque nuestras propias experiencias informan el trabajo que hacemos como parte de NMAC, reconocemos la importancia de proveer nuestras plataformas y su alcance a la diversidad de voces que compone nuestra comunidad. Desde la fraternidad se desarrolla una campaña de redes sociales fundamentada en sus 18 miembres. Se reconoce que son elles les expertes en sus experiencias y en cómo enfrentar los silencios, especialmente aquellos alrededor del sexo y el placer entre personas de color.

Desde el comienzo, les miembres han tenido la oportunidad de informar el desarrollo del branding, los temas a incluir y los visuales. Además de proveer un espacio para dialogar sobre las cosas que nos afectan como comunidad, el programa contiene varios componentes como entrenamientos, webinars dirigidos a nuestros constituyentes y oportunidades para extender sus redes, ya sea virtuales y personales.

Me siento honrado de contar con un grupo maravilloso de miembres con un compromiso y una pasión que me energiza. Abajo pueden encontrar algunos de sus trabajos. Si le interesa conocer más sobre la campaña siga #gmoc en todas las redes sociales. Para conocer más sobre cada uno de les miembres, presione aquí.

Damián Cabrera
Gerente de Programas- División de Tratamiento

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