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

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
NMAC

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

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.

 

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

PTSD

Figuring out how to survive can be overwhelming. As I look back on my life, I see how the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) of HIV still impacts my life. Combine that with the isolation and trauma of COVID, and my feelings of depression are real. Trauma informed HIV services are more critical than ever. Our staff, clients, and donors are all going thought it. How do you manage the PTSD of HIV in the middle of the COVID epidemic?

I thought life would start getting back to normal this fall, so the Delta variant has been a gut punch. With breakthrough infections and so many people unwilling to get vaccinated, I worry about the future. The worry can lead to depression because there is no end in sight. The excitement about vaccines has been tempered by the need for boosters.

I’m sharing my journey because there is so much stigma about depression and too often it goes untreated. I grew up in a family that believed depression was a luxury for the rich. Therapy was for people with money. Looking back on my parents, I believe the PSTD they suffered in the internment camps during WWII set the trajectory for their lives. To this day, life in the camps is not openly discussed in most Japanese families. As children of survivors, we have little to no information about what happened.

It’s time to take back the narrative. What happened in the camps to my parents was not their fault. What happened to my community at the start of the HIV epidemic was not our fault. What happened to the world during COVID is not our fault. My parents lived in shame with the burden of being Japanese when the US was at war with Japan. Too many gay men live in shame and take on the unfair burden that HIV was a punishment from God. Too many people will die from COVID because they don’t trust the government or vaccines.

As we fight our way back, the need for trauma informed HIV services is more critical than ever. We are a world in trauma trying to provide HIV services to communities who have been traumatized because they are different. Thank you Jeffrey Long for the infographic. It’s time to “come out of the closet” again. PTSD is real and its not our fault. I am crazy because of a chemical imbalance that was triggered by life experiences beyond my control. Too many people suffer from the stigma of living with HIV. This stigma can lead to isolation which is a pathway to depression. On better days I wear my depression as a badge of honor because it reminds me that I survived the early days of the HIV epidemic. The pain reminds me to never forget the people we lost and to fight like hell for the living. I’ve also learned that asking for help is not a bad or weak thing. There are healthcare professionals and medications that can make a difference. You are not alone. In my mind I will outlive COVID. Now I just need to convince my heart.

God is Love and Love is for Everyone,
Paul Kawata
NMAC

Paul Kawata

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Is Fair?


A White Gay colleague recently shared his concerns about speaking out and not getting canceled. I appreciated his courage and honesty. This is a difficult time. Between COVID, Black Lives Matter, the Jan. 6th insurrection, and climate change, the paradigm is shifting, and we are still working out what that means.  There are no clear rules and that can be scary. What some White folks don’t understand is that the world was built to accommodate them and their culture. Making a world that works for people of color and people who are different means taking some of that away. For example, “what is fair” usually is code for “what is fair to White people?” When something is fair to people of color but not White people, then it’s usually deemed unfair. Or the transverse, when something is fair to White people but not People of Color, then it is usually deemed fair.

Last year White America woke to the over policing of Black people through the killing of George Floyd and too many others to name. What happens when something is unfair to People of Color but needed in White communities? This is the paradigm shift that America is working to answer. In our fight to end HIV, PrEP users are 75% White, yet the majority of people living with HIV and the majority of new cases of HIV are among people of color. PrEP is reaching Gay White men, but not Gay Black men. What does that mean?

I remember talking with a White straight cisgender male federal official who told me he had the answers for ending the epidemic. Yet his leadership brought no changes in the outcomes. What happens if we end the HIV epidemic in White America while HIV continues for People of Color? Some might say the fight is over and we won.

To my White friends, here is how I navigate these challenges. As an old fem Asian cisgender Gay man and the Executive Director of the agency formerly known as the National Minority AIDS Council, I am professionally aware of the privileges and discrimination that goes with how I present myself to the world. Part of my job is to hold-up communities that are often overlooked or undervalued. Most of my job is to listen and learn from those communities.

When I am in spaces for African Americans, Latinx, American Indians/Alaska Natives, women, the transgender community, people living with HIV, then I shut the fu** up and listen. When I am in spaces for People of Color, Asians, LGBTQ, or the general HIV community, then I fully engage and feel a responsibility to bring my perspective to the table. It’s been my experience that most people get in trouble when they try to fully engage at tables not meant for them. My experience of too many White people, especially cisgender White heterosexual men, is they believe all the tables are set for them because mostly they are.

Privilege is taking all the oxygen out of the room. I purposely use my privilege in rooms full of White people. I want them to understand that they are not the only important voices. It took me a long time to get comfortable, some would say too comfortable, with this privilege. As an Asian man, it was not something that came naturally. In the world of HIV, it is a very important skill. It is difficult if not impossible for many of you to understand what it means to present as White, yet it is something that every person of color intimately knows. Our value depends on how we present ourselves in the world. The closer we show up as white heterosexual men the better. For most of us that is impossible, yet that is the gold standard for power and wealth in America.

COVID has made us insane, and I think it is the catalyst for this paradigm shift. The virus has makes us rethink everything. If this is my new reality, who do I want to be? Where do I want to live? How do I want to present myself to the world? For some of us, it will change the way we work. Are you willing to commute 90 minutes to and from work? I could never have imagined NMAC’s staff would primarily work from home, yet that is what we do.

COVID, Black Lives Matter, the Jan. 6 insurrection, and climate change have forced a reckoning. We can probably end the HIV epidemic in the White community by 2030, but if we stay on the same course, I have real doubts about ending HIV in communities of color. This is my pledge to the HIV movement: what is fair cannot be based on White privilege. Our work must embrace the challenge of what is fair to communities who have lived under generations of discrimination and oppression. This is bigger than change; it is a shift in the paradigm. Ending the HIV epidemic in America starts by re-looking at what is fair.

 

God is Love and Love is for Everyone,
Paul Kawata
NMAC

Paul Kawata

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering Carl

Archbishop Carl Bean passed last week. The funeral is Saturday. I’m going, but I’m not ready. I’m not ready to say goodbye to the man who changed the course of my life. It was Carl who talked me into taking the job at NMAC.

Carl’s many achievements were outlined in articles in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and on the Today Show. I knew a different Carl from the person in these publications. He was my friend and partner in crime. We were each other’s lifeline in the storm called AIDS. Together, we navigated some of the most difficult days in the epidemic. I knew the man who wanted to get away, if only for a moment, from the shackles of his position. I will never fully understand the burden of leading a religious movement, but I often saw it in his eyes as members reached out for answers. Why did God take my child?

Carl and I traveled the world together. He loved to go on cruises, so we went to Alaska to see the glaciers, the Caribbean to look for gentleman callers, and ultimately, a trans-Atlantic crossing from New York to Southampton. We visited the Vatican, the Louvre, and the west end of London. Most of these trips were work related because Carl was asked to preach all around the world to bring his unique voice of liberation theology that God is love and love is for everybody.

I never knew Carl the Broadway entertainer, but from his stories, I imagine he was amazing. He could talk and I could listen for hours about performing on Broadway or touring the country. It was his work in the entertainment industry that would later support his fight to end HIV. I remember sitting next to him when Whitney Houston performed at a benefit for his agency. It was very heavy times. He had Dionne Warwick on speed dial, and Maxine Waters not only returned his calls, but also called to check in. While it might seem glamorous on the outside, it was also a huge burden.

People would cry as they reached out to hug him. Members of his church would copy his sermons because his words were touched by the Holy Spirit. I think it can mess with your mind and was part of the reason Carl went into seclusion. For many years he did not leave his home or welcome visitors.  However, Carl always had God.

I was not religious. I felt the church had turned its back on me and my kind. Before meeting Carl, I had never attended services in a Black church. Going to Carl’s church was mind blowing. My friend was singing and preaching like he was touched from above. You could almost watch him go to another place as he spread the gospel of the Lord. As a child I went to Japanese Presbyterian Church. We were the polar opposite of my experience in Carl’s church. To be in a room full of love was transformative, especially because this was in the mid 1980s during some of the most difficult times in the HIV epidemic. What we take for granted now was truly revolutionary when Carl started the Unity Fellowship Movement. He started a religious movement for the African American LGBTQ community at the height of the HIV epidemic. Out of his work with Unity Fellowship Movement, he opened the Minority AIDS Project (MAP), the first minority-led HIV organization. As the Executive Director of MAP, Carl worked nationally as one of the founders of the National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC)

It was our work on NMAC that served as the foundation for our friendship. Together we would travel the country, him preaching and me teaching about HIV. Back then, people of color were too often marginalized. Carl and I became a team to fight the stigma and racism that was too prevalent in our work. We would spend hours talking about race and our frustrations with people in power. His concerns for his communities became the corner stone of the work. Carl was a living example of liberation theology.

I got to talk to Carl the day before he passed. He was in a coma, so they had to hold the phone to his ear. I thanked him for being a gift to my life and our movement. I let him know that it was OK to let go. His was a life well lived. Finally, I told him that I loved him and will miss him. This is a ritual from the early days of the epidemic that too many of us know too well. Thank you, Carl, for being my friend. My life is better because you were in it.

God is Love and Love is for Everyone,

Paul Kawata

A Special Announcement on USCHA

This is the letter I didn’t want to write. When we announced the 2021 United States Conference on HIV/AIDS was going to be in person, I was joyous about the thought that we could come together. Unfortunately, the Delta variant of COVID is too easily transmitted, even by people who are fully vaccinated. What seemed like a reasonable decision in May now feels impossible. After a long discussion with our board, NMAC will move USCHA to the virtual space. I am so sorry. I know this is very disappointing. NMAC must always prioritize the health and well-being of people living with HIV (PLWHIV). Data from Berlin about the impact of COVID on people living with HIV along with new information about the Delta variant made an in-person meeting with thousands of participants too much of a risk.

The virtual USCHA will be pushed back to December 2-3 (World AIDS Day Adjacent). These later dates give staff time to close-out and pivot to a virtual meeting. Also, the Biden-Harris Plan to End the HIV Epidemic is slated to be released on World AIDS Day, so there is much to be discussed.

I’m sure you have a lot of questions. Join us for a Facebook Live chat this Thursday, Aug. 12, at 1:00 PM on our Facebook page. Our Conferences Director Tara Barnes-Darby, and our Treatment Director Moises Agosto will be available to answer questions. You can also check out the FAQ page on the USCHA website.

This decision was based on data from two key reports.  The first was the report out of Provincetown that revealed that vaccinated people can transmit the Delta variant as easily as those who are not vaccinated. The second was the study of people living with HIV over 65 in Berlin that found high risk of death from Covid. Those two reports convinced us that we could not guarantee the safety of conference attendees.

Dr. Fauci Speaks @ Opening Virtual Plenary
Dr. Anthony Fauci will be part of USCHA’s Opening Virtual plenary. He will join Dr. Rachel Levine to update our movement on efforts to end two epidemics. We all know how busy COVID is keeping him, so NMAC is extremely grateful that he will be part of this session. Given his busy schedule, it will be recorded in advance. It is not easy being the face of the Trump and Biden COVID response. He has shown a grace and grit that he learned fighting HIV/AIDS.

Telling the Truth & Asking for Help
As you can imagine, ending an in-person conference creates financial issues. Our cancelation insurance does not cover meetings that we cancel. NMAC will be fine in the long haul, but we ask for your grace and patience. We hope that most attendees, exhibitors, and sponsors will still be a part of the virtual meeting. This is the second year that we were unable to hold USCHA and your support is needed and appreciated. The agency also understands this is not the event that we all wanted, so we will give refunds.

Registration
During the week of August 9, NMAC will send out an email from the registration portal to all registrants with instructions on transferring or cancelling your registration. If you have not received your email by August 13, contact the Conferences division at conferences@nmac.org. Please be patient; refunds will be processed in 3-4 weeks.

The registration fee for the virtual USCHA is $295. NMAC will automatically refund the difference. If you do not wish to attend this year’s USCHA, you can either:

  • Option 1: Keep your registration to attend the virtual USCHA Conference. NMAC will refund the difference.
  • Option 2: Transfer your registration to the 2022 USCHA in Puerto Rico.
  • Option 3: Cancel your registration and get a full refund.
  • Option 4: Donate your registration payment to NMAC.

If you need immediate assistance, please contact the Conferences Department at conferences@nmac.org. Raise any concerns directly with me, Paul Kawata. I am an old Asian queen who knows my value.

Wonderful Sponsors
This is not the USCHA that was discussed. NMAC hopes Sponsors will continue to support this important meeting and NMAC. These are scary times for all nonprofits, so please know how much we appreciate and need your support. Sponsors will get a call from Robert York. A new prospectus will be available soon. Thank you for understanding as we navigate these challenges.

Amazing Exhibitors
If you purchased an exhibit booth for the in-person conference, please let us know if you’d like to have a virtual exhibit or if you’d like to cancel your booth purchase. The virtual exhibit fee is $595. NMAC will refund the difference. If you’d like a full refund, then send an email to conferences@nmac.org by September 24, 2021. Thank you for your support.

Virtual Meeting & Presenters
Information about the virtual meeting will be posted shortly. We hope that most of the in-person workshop presenters are willing to switch to virtual. Presenters will get an email from Conferences offering you options for moving forward. You can expect the email by the end of August. If you can’t wait, then please email the wonderful Alison McKeithen.

Scholarship Applicants
USCHA will continue to give out scholarships, but now they will be for a virtual and not an in-person meeting. Since staff must address these other issues and the virtual meeting is being pushed back to World AIDS Day Adjacent, notifications about 2021 scholarships will be pushed back to October 1, 2021.

Hotel Cancellations
If you have made a reservation in the USCHA group block at the Marriott Marquis hotel they will automatically cancel your reservation and process refunds for any deposits.  Refunds will be issued in 4-6 weeks. It is not necessary to contact the hotel to cancel your reservation.

If you made a reservation OUTSIDE of the USCHA group block, you should contact the hotel directly to cancel your reservation.

Additional information about cancellations for the Courtyard hotel will be posted soon.

This was not an easy decision and probably no one is more disappointed than the board and staff of NMAC. I am truly sorry. Thank you for your continued support.

God is Love and Love is for Everyone,
Paul Kawata
NMAC

Paul Kawata

 

 

 

 

 

Free HIV Jobs Board – One Place to Look

Health departments, community-based organizations, and federal agencies are all looking to hire qualified people to fill their job openings. NMAC is building a free online jobs board called the EHE Workforce Jobs Bank that will be a centralized place for HIV, STD, and Hepatitis job openings. Funding to end the HIV epidemic in America means thousands of new positions. Our site was created by Career Builders and uses their platform to house the information.

Jobs posted on the site have hyperlinks for people to upload their resume. We only have a few jobs right now, including openings at NMAC. We need your help to grow. Organizations with job applications can post them for free by contacting Jas Florentino. They will set up an account for you so you can post on your own.

People looking for jobs should join our Talent Network. The Talent Network will send out alerts when a new job is posted that matches your interest. It will also allow you to forward any job announcements to friends or colleagues.

Professional employment is a matter of justice for people living with HIV, people of color, the transgender community, women, LGBTQ, and the recently incarcerated. This is how our movement can hire people from the communities they need to reach. Our goal is to build bridges between the communities hardest hit by HIV and the organizations who need to reach them.

God is Love and Love is for Everyone,

Paul Kawata
NMAC

Paul Kawata

 

 

 

 

This Jobs Board was funded by ELEVATE. This program 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 $796,749.00 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.