NMAC Announces Covid Safety Protocols for 2022 Biomedical HIV Prevention Summit

NMAC has announced Covid safety protocols for the 2022 Biomedical HIV Prevention Summit in Chicago April 20 and 21:

All conference attendees must be fully vaccinated. Fully vaccinated for the Summit means that registrants have received both shots and a booster if the second shot was received more than six months prior to the conference.  Registrants must upload their vaccine card no later than Friday, April 8 to https://hosted-pages.id.me/health/2022-biomedical-hiv-prevention-summit. If we do not receive vaccine credentials by this date registrants will not be allowed entry to the conference.

Masks are encouraged but not required in the Summit conference space (plenary ballroom, foyers, workshop rooms, exhibit space). For updated information on the City of Chicago’s mask requirements, visit their website – https://www.chicago.gov/city/en/sites/covid-19/home.html.

“We want to make sure that the 2022 Biomedical HIV Prevention Summit is as safe as possible for attendees,” said Paul Kawata, Executive Director of NMAC. “While there is no absolute guarantee, we want to take every reasonable precaution to prevent Covid transmission during the Summit, particularly for our attendees who are living with HIV. These protocols are based on guidelines recommended by the CDC and by requirements posted by the city of Chicago.”

National Women & Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

March 10 is National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. On this important day, NMAC stands in solidarity with women (cis and transgender women) living with HIV and the women working to end the HIV epidemic in America. They make NMAC a force of nature and this is my love letter to all the women in our movement. As a cisgender man, I will never fully understand what it means to be a cisgender Women or a Women of Transgender experience, but that does not mean I can’t stand in solidarity and support all women. Their stories are the fabric of our movement, both as people living with HIV and as the care and service backbone of our work. Portions of this e-newsletter were published last November, but on #NWGHAAD I wanted to update.

Women have always played a critical role at NMAC. Suki Terada Ports is not only my mother in the movement, she is also one of the founders of NMAC. Like many mothers, she drives me crazy, and I am inspired by her courage to stand up and speak her truth to power. Suki always reminded me to stand up for women. She was on the board of WARN (Women’s AIDS Resource Network) and Iris House. She was also the reason I fight so hard against the label of “other.” Suki understood the importance of counting American Indian, Alaska Natives, Asians, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islanders in HIV epi profiles. Recently Suki received the Emperor of Japan’s Order of the Rising Sun, Gold, and Silver Rays. Suki is so much more than these words, Suki is the mother to many women, American Indian, Alaska Natives, Asians, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islanders leaders. She gave me the courage and acceptance that was not given by my family.

A Social Worker by profession, Marie Saint Cyr was the founding executive director of WARN (Women’s AIDS Resource Network) and Iris House and a founding NMAC board member. Marie was a fierce advocate for her communities, particularly Haitians and women. She went back to Haiti after the earthquakes to help rebuild her country. At NMAC board meetings, she was always the voice of reason and the person who wanted to make sure that NMAC’s work benefited the communities most in need. I’ve lost touch with Marie. Please forward this e-newsletter to her, tell her I miss her and would love to talk. That’s the thing about this work: there are some amazing people who come in and out of your life. While I want to hold them close, I also understand that she has her path. Even if we are apart, she continues to shape NMAC’s fight to always prioritize community.

Rashidah Abdul-Khabeer (formerly Hassan) 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. She is also a founding NMAC board member.


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 the National Football League, National Basketball Association, and the National Basketball Players Association. She is also a founding NMAC board member.



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.

Women play a central leadership role at NMAC and within our movement. 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. Here are the women at NMAC. We are a better agency because of their leadership.

I am so grateful to stand with these women. They are the heart and soul of NMAC and our movement. Thank you.


Yours in the Struggle,

Paul Kawata






Paul Kawata

When I Get Scared

When I get fearful or scared, my go-to response is usually anger. Right now, there are many scary things. As a result, I’ve spent a good portion of the last two years very angry. And just as we were about to stop wearing masks, Russia invades Ukraine. Any joy for this next phase of COVID was replaced by concern, helplessness, and astonishment.

The invasion is just the latest in a series of challenges that are outside of our control but directly impact feelings of safety. I worry and wonder about what matters. How do you know the right path when everything seems wrong? While I am strong, after COVID, Black Lives Matter, police killing of Black men, violence against Asians, particularly older Asian women, Jan. 6th, inflation, masks, vaccines, boosters, climate change, wildfires, killing of transgender women, Afghanistan, affirmative action, abortion, Supreme Court nominations, don’t say gay, books being banned, and the constant battle for the soul of our country, I am also fearful, exhausted, and over it.

A news program showed people in Kyiv learning how to make Molotov cocktails while they randomly handed out guns so people can fight back. Could I be that brave? One month ago, the people of Ukraine had no idea of Putin’s plans or how their world would be turned completely upside down. Thanks to cell phones and the internet, the revolution will all be broadcast in real time. These videos will shine a light on the atrocities of war. The whole world is watching.

I’m not a particularly religious man, but I find myself calling out to God. Help me to understand the lesson in all this suffering. What can I do right now to make it a little better? Sometimes it feels like we are just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Then I remember the darkest days of the AIDS epidemic. There was a moment when we were heroes. There was a time when we had to make life or death decisions and learn to live with the consequences, no matter how painful. If you are able, now is time to help people living with HIV in Ukraine.

Naina Khanna posted this important message about how you can help:
Coalition PLUS is supporting its member in Ukraine, “CO 100% LIFE” (former Ukrainian network of people living with HIV/AIDS). We have been working with this organization for many years and they have been doing amazing work in the region and they have been preparing for this situation so they could act fast when it happens.

100% LIFE is currently trying to:

  • ensure continuity of care and ARV supply,
  • adapt their medical centers to care for war wounded, in particular in Podol and Oboloni districts of Kyiv,
  • mobilize global partners, inform and alert to the risks of health system collapse. They have launched an appeal to the UN Security Council and you can endorse it by signing the following Google Form: Appeal to the UN Security Council.

You will find more information on their Facebook page that is regularly updated.

100% LIFE currently has huge needs for financial support. Coalition PLUS has sent a first donation of $20,000 and we wish to send more money. If you want to support them financially you can find their banking details below and this means of support should be prioritized to ensure quick transfers.

We know some organizations and people struggle to send money to Ukraine due to banking restrictions (which is intolerable) or would be more comfortable if the money is to transit through another organization. We have therefore offered 100% LIFE to help with the fundraising. Small donations by card/PayPal can be made on Coalition PLUS donation webpage (https://don.coalitionplus.org). And bigger donations can be sent to Coalition PLUS bank accounts and I can provide all the information you need to make a transfer. Coalition PLUS can arrange to send the money to 100% LIFE as soon as we have your commitment to give without waiting for the transfer to be made so we can act fast.

All funds will be targeted to this operation. There will be no admin fee taken by Coalition PLUS and we can provide all necessary documentation to reassure you on the traceability of funds and to demonstrate the money has been sent to 100% LIFE.

Finally, there will be many other needs, in particular for refugees at the Ukrainian border and in European countries that will need to be supported and supplied in ARVs. Therefore if you hear of any initiative, please let us know and we will try to see how to participate and support. It is in these moments of crisis that the importance of networks and community solidarity must be most strongly expressed.”

Banking details
100% LIFE bank account (official name: Charitable Organization Ukrainian network of PLWHA)

IBAN                                         UA 49 380805 00000000 26006609414
BIC/ SWFT CODE                     AVALUAUKXXX
Bank name                               Raiffeisen Bank Joint Stock Company
Address of bank branch         Leskova str.9, Kyiv, 01011, Ukraine

Account Number                    890-0260-688
Bank name                              The Bank of New York Mellon, New York, USA
Currency                                   USD
SWIFTcode                               IRVTUS3N

Short name: CO  «100 PERCENT LIFE»
Registration number: 21721459
Legal address: 87-А building V, Mezhyhirska St., Kyiv, Ukraine 04080
In details please indicate: Charitable Aid”

I know these are tough times for everyone. Thank you for your consideration. Please know you are not alone.


Yours in the Struggle,

Paul Kawata






Paul Kawata

The Challenges of Leadership

Larry Kramer at podium with The Village Voice Logo on the front

I had a difficult if not contentious relationship with Larry Kramer. His last words to me were “fuck you.” I carry them as a badge of honor. As a leader in the fight to end the HIV epidemic, my job is to speak out against injustice and to fight for the communities hardest hit by HIV. I hope I can make Larry proud as we move to the next critical phase of our work, but I doubt it.

What does leadership look like as we fight to end the HIV epidemic by 2030 while also learning to live with COVID? Obviously, we all play different roles. Federal leaders and health departments face internal restrictions that are not the same for community. Community leaders have a responsibility to tell their truth because not everyone gets invited to the table. I always tell my staff that, when they get invited, they must speak-up, not with their voice, but with the voice of community.

Last week I got an invite from Dr. Laura Cheever, the administrator of HRSA/HAB, to talk about HRSA’s plans to end the HIV epidemic. That is leadership: to reach out to community before they ask for a meeting. To all the health departments and federal leaders, community expects to be at the table and part of the solution. We want our input to be valued and acted upon. Too often community is seen as an afterthought, something to be managed. Believe it or not, we can tell the difference. Thank you, Dr. Cheever.

I also want to thank Rita Harcrow from HOPWA/HUD for taking the time to discuss their EHE efforts. As I mentioned, NMAC was really pleased that HUD was at the table. We believe housing is core to our efforts to end the HIV epidemic. Our ability to safely house and provide quality medical care and mental health services PWHs is key to our EHE efforts. Along those lines, we hope that HOPWA/HUD, SAMHSA, and HRSA/HAB will consider collaborative funding arrangements so these services can be better integrated.

We remind our federal partners that we are looking for syndemic solutions. Our vision is to end the HIV, STD, and Hepatitis epidemics. That requires collaboration across federal departments and agencies at a level that is unprecedented. Some of you are working together, but there are key players missing. Isolation that leads to depression means that mental health services are essential for many people living with HIV. How will plans incorporate this essential service? Agency plans are due to the White House sometime in March. Now is the time to speak up.

It’s more than being invited to the table. We also want to see community in senior leadership positions. Too frequently there is diverse community representation, except for the government employees. While I am very grateful to Dr. Levine, how many transgender leaders hold government jobs? How many people living with HIV? How many people from the communities hardest hit by HIV? From my experience, way too few. It is not a matter of affirmative action; it is the understanding that representation matters.

The main difference between me and Larry is how we approached these inequities. Larry hated injustice. He hated a world that treated him like a second-class citizen. His anger was his motivation to change the world. For me it’s about love. I love my constituents. I love people living with HIV. I love people who take the risks to be their true selves despite what society tells them. They are my motivation to fight. They are the reason I’m still here after all these years. The privilege of getting old is you don’t care anymore what people think of you. I have earned the right to say some difficult things and like NMAC’s founding board chair Craig Harris said in 1986 at the closing APHA plenary on AIDS, “I will be heard.”


Yours in the Struggle,

Paul Kawata






Paul Kawata

Come to USCHA in Puerto Rico

I’m writing to invite you to the 2022 United States Conference on HIV/AIDS to be held in San Juan, Puerto Rico October 8-11 at the Convention Center. This meeting is NMAC’s love letter to the people of Puerto Rico. Between HIV, bankruptcy, Hurricane Maria, and COVID, it’s been very difficult. You may recall we were originally scheduled to be there in 2020.

NMAC (National Minority AIDS Council) is going to San Juan to:

  • Highlight HIV challenges in the Latinx community,
  • Bring much needed economic development to Puerto Rico,
  • Experience a city where English is the second language, and
  • Lean into Puerto Rican culture as a lesson on cultural sensitivity.

The 2022 conference theme is Luchando Por Nuestras Vidas (Fighting For Our Lives). It honors our past and speaks to the future. Unfortunately, luchando por nuestras vida is what too many of us do daily. We are all connected in our fight for a fair and just world.

Registration is now open. To be part of the conference block of rooms, you must register first. Early bird registration fees are $490 for NMAC members and $625 for non-members.

The scholarship section is live.  NMAC has committed to double the number of A&B scholarships. The majority of scholarships will be given to people living with HIV; however, there are never enough funds to cover all the need. NMAC will be transparent with our decisions and important demographic information will be shared in our newsletter.

Language Justice
The 2022 Opening Plenary will be in Spanish with simultaneous English translation. To end the HIV epidemic by 2030, NMAC believes our movement needs to not only understand, but also celebrate the cultures of the communities hardest hit by HIV. Latinx Gay men have surpassed White Gay men in the number of new cases of HIV. They are second in numbers only to Black Gay men in a race that nobody wants to win. We are going to San Juan to give attendees an immersive experience of the culture, music, food, and values of Spanish speaking communities.

Economic Development
Local businesses, especially those friendly to community, need our support and shipping to Puerto Rico can get expensive. NMAC is asking sponsors, exhibitors, and attendees to purchase locally when possible. Instead of shipping printed materials, NMAC will use local printers. Look for a list of vendors who are friendly to community to be posted on our website. If you need temporary help while in San Juan, NMAC is working with local CBOs to identify people living with HIV, particularly people with trans experience, to be hired as temporary help. As part of our fight for economic justice, temporary help will be paid at least $15 per hour. USCHA has a huge economic impact. According to the San Juan Convention Bureau, the meeting will provide jobs to over 1,000 people for over one month.

Puerto Rico Convention Center

The 2022 meeting will be at the Puerto Rico Convention Center. To be honest, I am not the biggest fan of convention centers. They can be too large and impersonal. However, it was the only space that could accommodate the meeting. At least this center is warm and inviting. No chicken lunches here. You can look for tostones, empanadillas, or mofongo. Music in the hallways will feature Puerto Rican artists including Bad Bunny, Luis Fonsi, Marc Anthony, Jennifer Lopez, and my personal fave Ricky Martin.

Hotel Accommodations
Multiple hotel blocks will be available for attendees. You must register to gain access to the official conference hotels. Rooms will be set aside in advance for scholarship recipients.

Most attendees will stay in one of two hotels. The Sheraton Puerto Rico is the host hotel and is located next to the convention center. Rooms at the Sheraton are $189-$229 per night (plus taxes). We also have a block at the Caribe Hilton. Rooms at the Hilton are $204 per night (plus taxes). The Hilton is located on the water a little further from the convention center. Buses will be provided. Hotel rooms are limited, so please register early.

COVID Protocols
NMAC is closely monitoring the conditions. All attendees are required to upload proof of vaccination one month in advance of the meeting. This information will be collected online and there are no exceptions because the space does not have the capacity to separate the vaccinated from the unvaccinated. Thirty percent of the attendees are people living with HIV and our movement has a responsibility to their health and wellbeing. NMAC will follow all local ordinances so there may be additional protocols. Unfortunately, NMAC does not have the capacity to do both an in person and virtual USCHA. Like everyone, we are trying to figure out how to live with COVID.

I’ve missed everyone. It’s been too long. Hopefully we can hug, laugh, and cry together again. We are more than a faceless movement; we are a family. A slightly dysfunctional family, but a family nonetheless. When the International AIDS Conference went to South Africa, there were plenty of skeptics. I hope this meeting can do for the domestic fight what going to South Africa did for our international efforts.

Gracias. See you in October.

Yours in the Struggle,





Paul Kawata

The Summer of 1978

It was the Summer of 1978. I was a teenager coming out while spending my break working in San Francisco. This is my journey. Being a gay man/boy in the ’70s felt like being part of a revolution, to be in the vanguard of LGBTQ folks fighting to live our lives completely out of the closet. Back then Gay sex was our “fuck you” to the establishment.

The late ’70s was the height of the lesbian separatist movement. Yes, there was a time with some members of the lesbian community worked to create a world that did not include men, particularly straight, white, cisgender men. Gay men started building our own safe communities that included bars, restaurants, and bathhouses with an explosion of new businesses, jobs, and opportunities. It was the beginning of the community-led infrastructure that would serve as a critical foundation after AIDS. There was little to no awareness of issues impacting people of color. I was often an anomaly in a sea of White people. However, it’s not fair to use a 2022 lens on the ‘70s.

Gay men were divided between those fighting for acceptance by straight society versus those who wanted as much sex as possible. It was the heyday of bathhouses, backrooms, and glory holes. Honestly, it was lots of fun. 1978 was my summer of firsts. Going to my first gay bar, dancing with another man, marching in Pride, and my first real passionate kiss. He was the president of my fraternity, and I was in love.

This photo was taken at San Francisco’s Pride Parade. Published on the cover of the San Francisco Chronicle, it was how I came out to my Asian family and friends. As you can imagine, my mother was horrified. 1978 was also the summer I met David Goodstein (publisher of The Advocate), Jim Hormel (philanthropist), and Rob Eichberg (therapist and creator of National Coming Out Day), three men who changed the course of my life. They helped me see that being gay was about more than sex. My life did not have to be lived in the shadows of a closet. I could be the outrageous gay man I wanted to be. That was a revelation, completely contrary to all my Japanese upbringing. They helped me understand the importance of committing my life to something bigger than just me. Being gay was a gift and not the burden I was feeling.

AIDS completely changed the LGBTQ narrative. After my summers of love in San Francisco, I moved to Seattle for dental school. One fateful day, I read an article in the New York Native by Larry Kramer. It turned my life and the lives of people I loved upside down. Our community had to grow up and we had to do it quickly. Hard core lesbian separatists became caregivers for too many gay men. We came together because the world, particularly people in power, did not care about anyone with AIDS. There was no room for our sick. Many White gay men who thought they were being accepted into the larger society were in for a very rude awakening. For the first time they were treated like second class citizens and it made them mad, something very familiar to people of color.

I’m sharing my memories to remind us of who we were and the challenges we’ve overcome, to remember our courage, power, and strength in the face of adversity. In our many and various iterations as people of color, people living with HIV, LGBTQ, women, drug users, and sex workers, we faced what seemed insurmountable and survived; however, there are still too many causalities. As I look back from where I started, I am amazed what this little scared Japanese boy created. Our journey is not over. We still must end the epidemics of HIV, STDs, and Hepatitis, to commit our lives to something bigger than ourselves. And to look back to a life well lived.

Yours in the Struggle,

Paul Kawata






Paul Kawata

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

On this National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, NMAC remembers and honors the African American leaders who envisioned, built, and fought to create NMAC. Too many are gone and we don’t have photos of everyone. This year is our 35th Anniversary. We are here because, in 1986, Craig Harris, a founding board member for NMAC, stormed the stage and took the microphone at the APHA plenary on AIDS and declared “I will be heard!” As a Black gay man living with HIV, his rallying cry became our raison d’etre.

Don Edwards
NMAC’s Founding Executive Director

African American Members of NMAC’s Founding Board

Current African American Board Members

African American Staff

African American Community Advisory Members

NMAC is NMAC because of these leaders. Our history includes people living with HIV, ministers, gay men, lesbians, transgender women, transgender men, researchers, and executive directors, all fighting for justice for people of color within the HIV movement. They make NMAC a better agency and we are blessed and honored for their leadership.

Yours in the Struggle,

Paul Kawata






Paul Kawata

Our Fight for Justice

The HIV movement has always been part of the struggle for civil rights. Back in the ’90s, NMAC worked with Mrs. Coretta Scott King and the King Center/The Center for Nonviolent Social Change to bring leaders from the Civil Rights movement together with the HIV movement. Mrs. King uniquely understood the importance of including our work as part of the larger struggle for justice in America.

As America celebrates Dr. King’s birthday, here is what NMAC is doing to keep his dream alive. In 2022, we will work to realign a portion of the Minority AIDS Initiative (MAI) back to its original congressional intent. NMAC will work with Ryan White Part A, B, C, and D grantee to address HIV stigma in the HIV workplace. The United States Conference on HIV/AIDS will highlight the struggle of the Latinx community when we meet in Puerto Rico. We will continue our fight for people over 50 living with HIV by expanding our efforts to bring their critical voices to Congress.  NMAC will work with the White House to review standards of HIV care, especially geriatric services. Look for a special announcement about a new program for Black Women.

As we work to end the HIV epidemic, HIV stigma continues to create barriers. Only half the people living with HIV are retained in HIV care. It is incumbent to build HIV services that work with and for the communities hardest hit by HIV. While there are many types of HIV stigma, NMAC looks at stigma through the lens of race. We believe race plays a critical role in the HIV stigma that impacts too many PLHIV. Until we address race and its impact on our work, we will never end the epidemic.

For Part A, B, C, or D grantees and their subgrantees, NMAC is offering free trainings (virtual or in-person), technical assistance, and learning collaboratives to address HIV stigma in the HIV workplace. Apply at TargetHIV.org/ESCALATE. Our work faces unique issues because so many employees are also living with HIV. Not only do we need address HIV stigma in our services, we must also be responsive in our workplace. This effort is a first for NMAC. Typically we would not work with specific Ryan White funded parts. However, it’s part of our HRSA cooperative agreement and speaks directly to our mission to urgently fight for racial justice and health equity to end the HIV epidemic in America. I know everyone is busy and overwhelmed with COVID, but I’m inviting Part A, B, C, and D grantees to work with NMAC to reduce HIV stigma in the HIV workplace. Please email Ken Pettigrew for more information.

NMAC is calling on Health and Human Services and the White House to bring a portion of the Minority AIDS Initiative back to its original congressional intent. Not all the money, but enough to start to provide racial justice to the communities in need. The impact of past funding decisions has decimated a once vibrant cohort of minority led HIV organizations. NMAC is calling for justice for the minority led agencies that closed when HHS changed the intent of the MAI. To be clear, justice is not equality. Justice is for communities who were disadvantaged because of systemic rules that minimized their value or contributions. The MAI is a clear example of funding that was set up for people of color only to be taken away when more money was authorized. I am very excited that Dr. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings has come on board as a consultant to lead our MAI efforts.

NMAC understands the complexities of using race as a factor in funding decisions; however, it is not impossible. Our fight for MAI justice is part of our commitment to keep Dr. King’s dream alive. HIV has an opportunity to impact more than our movement. Figuring out how to use race as a factor in federal procurement has ramifications way beyond our work. As we’ve seen with COVID vaccines, the HIV infrastructure can be used to build a better world.

Yours in the Struggle,

Paul Kawata






Paul Kawata

NMAC to Work With Dr. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings to Build Support for Minority AIDS Initiative

NMAC has joined with Dr. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings to build Congressional support for needed changes to the Minority AIDS Initiative (MAI) under the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program. Dr. Cummings will work with NMAC’s Strategic Partnerships and Policy division to advocate for improvements that are critical to the success of the federal plan to End the HIV Epidemic.

The MAI was created in 1998 in response to growing concern about the impact of HIV/AIDS on racial and ethnic minorities in the United States. It provides new funding designed to strengthen organizational capacity and expand HIV-related services in minority communities.

Dr. Cummings leads Global Policy Solutions, a policy firm that makes policy work for people and their environments. Her areas of expertise include health, social insurance, income security, education, women’s issues and youth civic participation.

A former adjunct professor in the Women in Politics Institute at American University, she has also served as the vice president of research and programs at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF), senior resident scholar at the National Urban League, chief of staff to former Congressman Charles Rangel (D-NY), professional staff on the House Ways and Means Committee, and as a CBCF legislative fellow in the office of former Congressman Melvin Watt (D-NC) among other positions.

“I’m delighted to work with NMAC to help them elevate the historic importance of the Minority AIDS initiative,” said Dr. Cummings. “We are now in the fourth decade of the HIV/AIDS crisis and black and brown people are a majority of all new HIV diagnoses. Because progress in prevention and treatment has been shamefully uneven by race and ethnicity, the racial equity strategy embedded in the original MAI remains a priority for the nation.”

“We are thrilled to be working with Dr. Cummings,” said NMAC Executive Director Paul Kawata. “‘Her expertise, experience, and familiarity on Capitol Hill will be a tremendous asset to NMAC as we work to make critical changes in the Minority AIDS Initiative. For the federal Ending the Epidemic plan to succeed, it must prioritize communities of color, as they still bear the biggest impact of HIV. Through increased funding of MAI and a return to its original mission to support HIV service organizations led by people of color, federal leaders can take a big step toward ensuring the plan’s success. That will be a big and potentially controversial step, so Dr. Cummings’s assistance will be a critical part of our efforts to make it happen.”

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.

WTF 2022?

I am at a loss for how to lead during what could be some of the difficult days. Six hundred thousand new cases of COVID per day. Too many friends are sick but luckily most are OK because they are vaccinated and boosted. It feels like everyone is going to get the Omicron. I remember that feeling during the early days of the AIDS epidemic. As a young gay man watching too many of my friends get sick and die, AIDS felt inevitable.  It was only a matter of time. Yet we didn’t give in, and we learned to fight back. What does COVID mean for the HIV community? How does our work fit into this new reality? How do you lead and work to end the HIV epidemic in the middle of the latest surge?

Here is what I am telling my staff: Scientists predict that the next few weeks will be some of the most difficult times we’ve experienced, with new cases regularly passing over one million per day. Personally, I think it’s impossible to get the real numbers because it is too difficult to get the necessary confirmatory tests. Between people who are vaccinated and people who got COVID, America might reach some type of “herd” immunity; however, that assumes there won’t be another variant. Right now, it is impossible to know what the virus will do.

Experts say that March could be the return to normal, but they also said that about the summer of 2021. This uncertainty makes everything difficult. Our movement needs a short-term strategy to manage the immediate challenges and a longer-term strategy that looks at ending HIV. In the short-term there is going to be lots of sickness, but hopefully not as many deaths. The HIV community must prioritize the health and wellbeing of people living with HIV, especially PLHIV over 50 who are immune compromised. It is impossible to know how many PLHIV are vaccinated. By my very imperfect calculations, if there are 1.2 million Americans living with HIV. 49% are either unaware of their HIV status or have fallen out of HIV care or around 600,000 people. That’s a lot of immune compromised people who may or may not be vaccinated. COVD disproportionately kills older Americans and the majority of people living with HIV are over 50.

In the short term that means everyone who is eligible needs to not only be vaccinated, but also boosted. That is the best defense we have against COVID. We may need a fourth booster, particularly for people who are immune compromised. NMAC will always follow the science. It’s time for health departments and community-based organizations to actively reach out to all consumers to ensure that they are appropriately vaccinated. We cannot wait for PLHIV to come to us. We need to go to them while also being sensitive to privacy and confidentiality concerns.

As we have learned with HIV, COVID isolation can lead to a sense of helplessness and depression. When you are sick or depressed it is hard to do anything, let alone take your meds.

In addition to boosters, our movement needs mental health check-ins. While we are zoomed out, one of the things I noticed at this year’s United States Conference on HIV/AIDS was the active participation of PLHIV in various lounges that the meeting offered. Like we’ve done in the past, there needs to be regular support groups (via Zoom) and virtual buddy programs that build connections and a sense of purpose.

PLHIV need access to technology to zoom for virtual medical appointments, and to connect with their case managers and peers. How can health departments and community-based organizations provide free access for clients? Because of COVID and the challenges of staying six feet apart, access to technology is not a luxury, but a necessity. The standard of HIV care needs to be expanded to include these lifesaving tools. If housing is HIV prevention, then so too is an iPad and internet connection.

The short term is all about boosters, mental health check-ins, and access to technology. The longer term (hopefully later this year) is still about ending the HIV epidemic. Work to end the HIV epidemic starts with reading the plan. If you don’t know what is in the plan, it’s hard to be part of the solution. Here is an insider’s piece of information: the White House will meet with various federal offices to ask for their responses to the Ending the HIV Epidemic and the updated National HIV/AIDS Strategy. Updated agency plans will be due in March. NMAC in coalition with other national partners will request meetings with the various federal agencies to discuss their updated plans. There are many new and important components that need to be appropriately reflected in these agency’s plans.

I am very concerned about the next few weeks. I worry about our physical wellbeing and our long-term mental health. WTF 2022. I hoped it would get better, now it just seems like a cluster f**k. What I’ve learned from HIV is that we are stronger together. During these very difficult times, it is important to remember that kindness is free.

Yours in the Struggle,

Paul Kawata






Paul Kawata