How Are You Doing?

Last Friday was tough, another in a long list of difficult days in 2020. How are you doing? There are times when all of it feels overwhelming and I worry about our future. I never met Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, but I know my life is better because she was here. She fought for everyone to be full and equal citizens, regardless of our gender, gender identity, race, HIV status, or who we loved. Remember her legacy and continue the fight for equality.

Over 5,000 people have registered for the 2020 United States Conference on HIV/AIDS. This year’s meeting will have four plenaries, 85 workshops & institutes, an exhibit hall, and a jobs fair. NMAC made it free because we understand that too many are hurting right now. Here are some upcoming deadlines:

Webinar with Congresswomen Barbara Lee
Thursday, September 24th at 1:00 PM (Eastern)
Register Here
NMAC is pleased to have Congresswomen Barbara Lee as our webinar guest on Sep 24th. She will be interviewed by Joe Huang-Racalto, NMAC’s Director of Government Relations. Join us and ask a question.


Bridging the Digital Divide
Deadline this Friday, September 25th
Submit Here
Thanks to our sponsors at Gilead, NMAC will give iPads and internet access to 100 constituents. We need your help to identify people living with HIV, staff working on the front lines, and people on PrEP who could most benefit from this equipment. People awarded iPads are expected to participate in all three days of USCHA. One hundred percent of the funding from Gilead will be used on purchasing and shipping equipment.

Photo or Video for USCHA
Deadline Friday, September 25th
Upload Photo Here
Upload Video Here
Be a part of our USCHA Family Reunion 2 by submitting photos and/or videos that will be featured in our “Unity Quilt.” This tapestry will feature the faces of our family across the country. As NMAC leads with race, we are asking that you to hold high one fist in the air in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. You can find the specs for photos and video on our blog.

How to Get A Federal Job
Thursday, October 1st at 1:00 PM (Eastern)
Register Here
Dr. Laura Cheever and staff from HRSA/HAB will discuss the process to get a federal job. NMAC is working to educate the communities hardest hit by HIV on how to apply for HIV positions at various federal agencies. The federal HIV workforce should reflect the communities that the Ending the HIV Epidemic efforts hope to reach.

Introduction to the USCHA Conference Platform
Thursday, Oct 15th at 1:00 PM (Eastern)
Register Here
NMAC staff will demonstrate the conference platform in advance of the 2020 meeting. To help attendees get the most out of this year’s meeting, we wanted to train about the technology in advance of the meeting.

2020 Virtual USCHA
Oct 19-21
Register Here
While USCHA is free, you must register in advance. Please be sure to attend the webinar on the conference platform. Virtual meetings are new for most of us and it helps to be trained on the technology prior to using it.

Everything can feel overwhelming and confusing. It’s hard to know what matters. During these difficult times, remember your HIV family is here to support and help. There is no shame is asking for help.


Yours in the struggle,

Paul Kawata  with Salt ‘N Pepa circa 1994

Addressing the Digital Divide – Deadline September 25

COVID has magnified the digital divide in America and NMAC wants to help. Thanks to our sponsor Gilead, NMAC is giving away 100 Apple iPads and Verizon internet hotspots with three months of internet access. While this year’s United States Conference on HIV/AIDS is virtual and free for community, there are many without access to needed technology to participate. This effort prioritizes people without access, especially people living with HIV, people working on the frontlines of the epidemic and people on PrEP to give them access to the virtual USCHA on October 19-21. The application form is here.

There is a very short turn-around time. Online applications are due September 25. Like USCHA scholarships, there will probably be many more applications than iPads. Unfortunately, most people will be turned down. Here are the 2020 priorities:

  • Priority is given to people without access to technology, and
  • NMAC uses a racial justice lens to make decisions.

There is an inherent contradiction of using technology to ask people without access to technology to go online and apply for support. We need your help to identify qualified staff, clients, or other people in the HIV community who need hardware and access to the internet. Can you help them apply? NMAC needs your help to identify people in need.

Submissions will be reviewed by NMAC’s Constituent Advisory Panels. Decisions will be based on need and not an individual’s value to the movement. People who receive iPads are required to attend all three days of USCHA and to fully participate as a member of the community.

Thank you for your help to identify people who could benefit from this program. The hardware will be mailed the week of October 12. A webinar will be held on October 15 to train USCHA attendees on the conference’s platform. Questions should be addressed to Kim Ferrell and not the conference staff. Conference staff is busy working to make this a great meeting. However, it is important to understand that virtual will never fully replace meeting in person. Close to 5,000 people have registered. The 2020 meeting will have four plenaries, 85 workshops and institutes, and our HIV family. During these difficult and challenging times, it is the family reunion I need and miss right now. Thank you Gilead for your support. We will get together again…

Yours in the struggle,







The Most Important Election of Our Lives

Democrats and Republicans agree that November is the most important election of our life. The future of America is at stake because the parties have such different visions for our country. I don’t know about you, but the pressure of this election combined with COVID and the push and pull for racial justice has me stressed out and overwhelmed. I feel angry, depressed, confused, or some combination of these emotions. Yet I am one of the lucky ones because I still have a job and a safe place to live. While I don’t want to seem ungrateful, COVID fatigue seems to be winning and that has me scared.

Against the backdrop of the fall election, COVID-19 and massive unemployment, there is a call for racial justice and Black Lives Matter. This is the fight of NMAC’s life and mission. Our long and historic commitment to health equity and racial justice will play itself out starting this fall with employment. To NMAC, employment is racial justice. Our movement has hundreds of millions of dollars in new funding to end the HIV epidemic. This funding should translate into tens of thousands of new jobs. At a time when so many are unemployed, this funding can be a lifeline to communities who are hurting. It becomes an issue of racial justice because NMAC is calling on employers to hire the communities that are most impacted by HIV. Unfortunately, this means communities of color.

It is not enough to put out a statement supporting Black Lives Matter. Now our movement needs to turn that commitment into real jobs and leadership positions. That’s why this year’s United States Conference on HIV/AIDS will have a Jobs Fair and why we made the conference free for community. People are hurting and the conference is free so they can connect with the organizations and health departments that have jobs.

In Washington, September is usually the time when Congress comes back to work out the final details for the upcoming federal budget. This budget is critical to our movement’s ability to provide services for people living with HIV, reduce the transmission of HIV and to end the epidemic by 2030. As with most presidential election years, the 2021 federal budget will probably be a continuing resolution (CR) until after the election.

The pundits have already started the Washington chess game of “what happens if.” Zoom calls between national leaders talking about what happens if President Trump wins reelection. What happens if Joe Biden wins? One of my zoom calls is looking for ideal candidates to fill vacancies in a new administration, another is looking for strategies to deal with administration officials who get another term.

We are probably going to have a virtual inauguration. I’m not sure what that looks like, since it’s never happened. America is so divided that regardless of who wins, there will be protests and governing will be next to impossible. The 2021 inauguration happens as we hit the second peak of COVID-19 combined with the flu where some models have over 300,000 deaths.

The unknown in this calculation is a vaccine. While I am very hopeful, I believe the first iterations of the COVID-19 vaccine will only be partially effective. Is a partially effective vaccine enough to turn around the economic devastation that this virus has caused? Would you be willing to travel with a vaccine that is 50% effective? If not 50%, what is the percentage that would give you confidence and how long will it take to find that vaccine?

All of this is happening while wearing masks and staying six feet from friends and family. Is it any wonder why so many are angry, depressed, and confused and why people are taking to the street to protest? How do you survive? I feel fortunate to be part of the HIV community. We’ve seen loss, suffering, and pain and continued to fight. We’ve experienced stigma, discrimination, and outright hatred and flourished. Our ability to build and create new institutions to address the HIV epidemic is proof of our reliance and power. We are magnificent amazing humans who have survived and thrived in a world that hates us just because of the color of our skin, who we love, our gender or gender identity. Fuck you, COVID-19!

Yours in the struggle,


Jobs Are Racial Justice

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week announced the distribution of $109 million in new funding to the 57 jurisdictions that were prioritized for the Ending the HIV Epidemic (EHE) efforts. Since their 2020 EHE budget was $140 million, that means $31 million stayed at the CDC. NMAC is calling for transparency for how CDC intends to use this money. While we have no reasons to be concerned, CDC has not always been transparent in how it spends its HIV funds.

Transparency is important because too many people don’t trust people in power, particularly people in government. Black Lives Matter is calling for a new accountability when spending the public’s money. If we are going to build an HIV movement that is committed to racial justice, then it starts with being transparent about the money. Money is power and we need to monitor how HIV funds are being spent.

We also need to get the money out the door because community is hurting. To my friends at the targeted health departments, please get the money to community as quickly as you can. I don’t need to tell you that people are hurting. This new money comes just as America is falling into an economic tsunami. These millions of dollars should translate into thousands of new jobs. With unemployment hovering at 10%, it matters.

Just as I requested that the CDC be transparent with the money they are keeping, I also think it is important for health departments to be transparent. While the vast majority are great, there are some health departments that keep too much of the money. After all these years fighting HIV, we know that community, particularly people living with HIV/AIDS, are core to the solution.

To all of the community-based organizations and health centers who are getting new funding to end the epidemic, whom you hire matters. NMAC hopes you will hire staff from the communities that are hardest hit by HIV. Black Lives Matter is a fight for racial justice and health equity. You can stand in solidarity with the struggle by hiring people from the struggle. Racism is real and our movement has the opportunity with these new jobs to change lives and to end the HIV epidemic.

Our staffs are watching, boards are concerned, donors want to know how we are responding to Black Lives Matter, and people living with HIV want us to do the right thing. While it’s not enough money, $109 million is a start. All of our jobs are to make sure the money is going to where it can have the largest impact in the communities hardest hit by HIV. We know how to end the HIV epidemic, but do we have the will power and the money to make it happen?

August 13th Webinar with Raniyah Copeland
Nearly 250 people have registered for our August 13th Webinar with Raniyah Copeland from the Black AIDS Institute. The webinar is at 1:00 PM (Eastern)/10 AM (Pacific). There is still time to register. My staff loves BAI. They are always going on about their cutting-edge programs. Rather than be threatened by this love affair, I thought it would be important to support staff and invite Raniyah to the August 13th webinar to talk about BAI’s special sauce. I’ve also asked her to talk about what the Black Lives Matter movement means to our efforts to end the HIV epidemic.

Yours in the struggle,







The Latest on USCHA

The 2020 United States Conference on AIDS has over 3,300 registrations. Please be sure to register for free before we reach 4,000.

Dr. Anthony Fauci* will keynote the Federal Plenary on Tuesday, Oct 19th. The session will ask our federal leaders for the next steps in our efforts to end the HIV epidemic. COVID-19 has changed everything, including the way we provide HIV prevention and care.The good doctor does not need to hear from me that a movement stands behind him. I am so proud of the way the HIV infrastructure is being used to fight COVID-19. The COVID-19 Prevention Trials Network is a merger that includes the HIV Vaccine Trials Network (PVTN), the HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN), and the AIDS Clinical Trials Group. This clearly documents the value of our country’s investment in HIV and why Congress must increase HIV funding. Here is more information if you are thinking about volunteering to be part of a trial. As we learned on last week’s webinar from Dr. Stephaun Wallace, they need a diversity of people to volunteer for these trials, including People Living with HIV.

What We’ve Learned from Attending Other Virtual Meetings
Virtual meetings are new to most of us. Recent experiences showed NMAC that training in advance on the conference platform is vital to a good conference experience. USCHA will use multiple training tools including online manuals, webinars, and real people to provide technical support. The next two USCHA webinars will happen on:

  • Aug 6th How to Set-Up Online Exhibit Booths
  • Aug 19th Recording Online Workshops

Staff is putting together “advance” workshops to serve as models for presenters. These early sessions will be online to collect feedback on the learning formats and to give presenters an example of USCHA’s expectations. The goal is to create a “good learning experience” for communities working on the frontlines of the epidemic and to educate and train them on the latest HIV prevention, care, and wrap around services in a COVID-19 world where Black Trans Lives Matter.

If we can, we will also have a version of the conference platform online prior to the start of the meeting. It will be an opportunity for registered attendees to use the new technology in advance. Staff will use this time to get feedback and uncover any problems in advance of the start time.

Yours in the struggle,





*I did not get permission to use this picture of Dr. Fauci, in fact I am concerned that he does not like it. I thought it was cool and wanted to celebrate him.





Honoring the life of U.S. Congressman John Lewis

Throughout my career, I’ve had the pleasure of working with countless members of Congress on an array of LGBT civil rights bills: Senator Ted Kennedy, Rep. Barney Frank, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Elijah Cummings, Rep. Jim Clyburn – while these distinguished leaders are heroes in their own right, my greatest honor was working with Rep. John Lewis.

Congressman Lewis recognized that oppression of a few is oppression for all.

Imagine if you will being a gay black man living with HIV in the ’80s.  The oppressing societal stigmas are dire.  Like a carpenter sanding 100-year-old floors, Congressman Lewis removed decades of stain from our souls.  For as long as he served in Congress, no civil rights bills were passed without his support.

Congressman Lewis recognized that in order for civil rights to be achieved, we must be vocal and vigilant.  His vision also included standing alongside LGBTQ Americans during their struggles for equality.  Mr. Lewis was extraordinarily passionate about LGBTQ Americans, particularly people of color.  He recognized the stigma gay black and brown Americans faced in their own communities – and he led an historic effort to change perceptions.

I remember the contentious debate over the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).  Those of us who were the architects of that historic legislation were very much aware that former President George W. Bush had every intention of vetoing the bill, but that mattered not for Congressman Lewis. In fact, he was adamant that for laws like ENDA to be enacted, the LGBT community needed his voice. And it is because of the powerful voice of Congressman Lewis that we were able to pass this landmark bill – the first LGBT civil rights bill to pass Congress. I invite you to watch Congressman Lewis’s speech and listen to his words.

It didn’t end there. While Congressman Lewis was instrumental with the successful passage of major laws like the Matthew Shepard and James D. Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act and the reversal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” he championed several lesser known, but very important pieces of legislation like:

  • Respect for Marriage Act (bill to repeal DOMA)
  • Tax Equity for Health Plan Beneficiaries Act
  • Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act
  • Equal Access to COBRA Act
  • Family Leave Insurance Act
  • Family and Medical Leave Inclusion Act
  • Early Treatment for HIV Act
  • Uniting American Families Act
  • Reuniting American Families Act
  • Every Child Deserves a Family Act
  • Student Non-Discrimination Act
  • Safe Schools Improvement Act
  • Healthy Families Act
  • Freedom from Discrimination in Credit Act

Quite a record.

Like millions of Americans, all of us at NMAC deeply mourn his passing.  We recognize that COVID-19 may prohibit you from paying your respects to Congressman Lewis, his family, and staff. I invite everyone who wishes to express their love for Congressman Lewis to email me your comments. I’ll forward them to Michael, his Chief of Staff.

Finally, as we part with this larger than life hero, let us continue to fight for full equal rights – even if that fight includes #GoodTrouble.

Yours in the struggle,
Joe Racalto

COVID-19 Update Webinar Thursday, July 16, 1 PM (Eastern)/11 AM (Pacific)

Information about COVID-19 is rapidly changing. Our next webinar is an update on the new virus and the work that is being done in response.  Dr. Stephaun E. Wallace* from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center will lead the discussion. The webinar will provide an update on the COVID-19 vaccine trials and what that means to communities. NMAC is working with the COVID-19 Prevention Network (CoVPN) to bring our movement the latest information. In addition to webinars, the CoVPN will host workshops at this year’s United States Conference on HIV/AIDS. As a friendly reminder, the Abstract Deadline is July 17th.

The COVID-19 webinar is on Thursday, July 16th at 1 PM (Eastern)/11 AM (Pacific). All of NMAC’s webinars are free and open to everyone. Webinars not only provide information, they train staff and potential USCHA attendees on various technology platforms being used for distance learning.The COVID-19 Prevention Network (COVPN) was established by merging four existing NIAID-funded clinical trials networks: the HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN), based in Seattle; the HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN), based in Durham, N.C.; the Infectious Diseases Clinical Research Consortium (IDCRC), based in Atlanta; and the AIDS Clinical Trials Group, based in Los Angeles, along with other collaborators. It is important to point out how the HIV research infrastructure is supporting the search for a COVID-19 vaccine.

Treatment education, whether it’s about HIV or COVID-19, is core to our work. Both viruses are infectious diseases that disproportionately impact People of Color. Solutions to ending either epidemic depend upon effective treatments and/or a vaccine. As we have learned in HIV, having tools that work is only the first step. You have to be able to convince people to take the drugs or get the vaccine. That is a complex challenge. Our unequal medical infrastructure combined with a mistrust of the government can create real barriers to ending either epidemic. Black Lives Matter is about addressing these inequities in our society. The color of your skin should not impact your access to medical care and it should not determine your belief in government but, for too many, it does.

Yours in the struggle,

*Dr. Stephaun E. Wallace is a research epidemiologist and an internationally recognized public health/social justice leader with more than 20 years of sexual/public health experience with diverse populations including LGBTQ and MSM populations, and more than 25 years of social justice/community mobilization experience. Dr. Wallace serves as the Director of External Relations for the COVID-19 Prevention Trials Network (CoVPN) and HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN), a Staff Scientist in the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division at Fred Hutch, and a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Global Health at the University of Washington.

Virtual HIV Jobs Fair at USCHA 2020, Oct 19-21

America is hurting, more people are unemployed, and the future is uncertain. This year’s United States Conference on HIV/AIDS will hold a Virtual HIV Jobs Fair. The meeting is free for the first 4,000 participants; however, you will need to register because we are almost sold out.

What Is A Virtual HIV Jobs Fair?
USCHA and our online jobs bank are working to be a “central” depository for HIV job openings, particularly jobs created to end the HIV epidemic in America. With over $300 million in new funding just for this year, our movement will have thousands of new professional full-time positions.

A virtual HIV jobs fair is our response to the need to be socially distant while looking for employment. Specific times will be set aside during the 2020 conference for participants to go the Virtual Exhibit Hall to meet with organizations with job openings. NMAC is giving free exhibit booths to the 57 jurisdictions that are targeted in this federal effort. Since these health departments will receive the lion’s share of the new funding, they or other organizations in their jurisdictions will have the most jobs to fill.

Participants attending the virtual jobs fair will be able to download job openings and upload their resume. They can also schedule Zoom informational interviews. Access to a computer or smartphone and the internet will be needed to participate.

Jobs=Racial Justice
Full time professional employment for the communities hardest hit by HIV equals racial and social justice for communities disproportionately impacted by racism, transphobia, homophobia, and sexism. We have the ability to transform the discussion of racial justice in America by just doing our jobs and hiring people from the communities hardest hit by HIV.

When NMAC set out to work with the administration to end the epidemic, our unstated goal was jobs and economic development for communities that shoulder the greatest burden of the epidemic. As we all know, our work to end HIV will only happen when we reach people living with HIV, people of color, gay men, Black women, drug users, and the transgender community.

Hiring People from Communities Hardest Hit by HIV
In our fight for racial justice, it is important for employers to understand the impact that racism has on the communities our efforts need to reach. College and previous professional employment are not a reality for too many in our communities. Drug and sex worker arrests are too common in communities that are over policed and under protected. White standards for employment are how our world keeps White people in leadership.

Sometimes you have to take a risk and hire staff who may not have all the paper credentials but do have the life experience. For many government agencies this is impossible. That is why it is important to outsource funding to community-based organizations set up by and for those communities. If we’ve learned nothing else, the last weeks/months have shown the great distrust between people and their government.

USCHA Needs Workshops on Recruiting & Hiring
To support people looking for jobs and to help organizations looking to hire, USCHA needs abstracts on the following topics:

  • Resume Writing for People with Nontraditional Work Experiences
  • How to Apply for Federal Employment
  • How to Recruit Leaders from Communities Hardest Hit by HIV
  • Returning to Work Force After an Extended Absence

Abstracts are due July 17th. Please consider submitting abstracts to help people find new jobs or for employers to learn how to recruit from hard to reach communities.

We are living in strange and unusual times. Between COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter, we are asked to reexamine our relationships to health and race. Since HIV sits in that same intersection, our future work can either demonstrate that we have learned the lessons or that history will repeat itself until we do.

Yours in the struggle,





USCHA Needs Your Help – Abstracts Due July 17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Yours in the struggle,


The HIV Movement’s Problem with Race

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

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

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

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours in the struggle,