World AIDS Day at the White House

Ending HIV is about more than stopping a virus. To be successful, it’s about creating a world that is more equitable. It gives voice and power to communities who for too long have been denied justice. Ending HIV is the symbolic expression of our fight for racial justice and health equity. I was fortunate to be invited to the White House for World AIDS Day. I share the experience not to brag, but to be your eyes and ears to history. Work to end the epidemic starts by reading the plan. The White House event was the public declaration of support from the Biden/Harris administration. Due to COVID, not everyone could attend. We are all part of this history. This is my experience of being in the room when the President of the United States used the bully pulpit of the White House to commit to ending the HIV epidemic by 2030.

I live close enough to walk. It was a beautiful cold December day. I journeyed down Black Lives Matter Plaza to see the two-story Red Ribbon at the front of the White House. During the Regan years, I was arrested at the exact same spot where I am now a guest. Seeing the ribbon was bittersweet because there are too many friends who should be here.

Since it is a few weeks before Christmas, everything was festive and decked out for the holidays. The entry was an archway of boxes wrapped as gifts. It felt like a huge gift to be invited. Most of the guests were taking selfies at these Instagramable moments. Here I am with John Barnes (Funders Concerned About AIDS) and Arianna Lint (Arianna’s Center). While you see our smiling faces in the pictures, we only took off our masks for photos. With all our time in isolation, people weren’t sure if we should hug or bump elbows. Since I had my booster, I’m hugging everyone, but with a mask on.

The White House is the physical representation of America’s power in the world. As a result, staff work very hard to make everything perfect by paying attention to the details. It’s kind of like Disneyland on steroids. Everyone is so polite and happy. Members of the military are in full dress uniforms greeting everyone with “welcome to the White House.” I think they purposely select good-looking people for these roles.

The first tree on display is the Gold Star Tree that honors the heroic men and women in the military who died for our country. There were too many gold stars, each had the name of someone who made the ultimate sacrifice. In that way, it reminded me of the Names Project quilts. Too many lives lost too soon. I was on the mall when this display happened. I remember the excitement when the President and Mrs. Clinton walked onto the quilt display area.


Part of the fun in visiting the White House is going into the rooms that most of us only see on TV. The picture with Admiral Rachel Levine, our Assistant Secretary for Health, was taken in the State Dining Room. President Lincoln is looking over our shoulders. It fills my heart with so much LGBTQ pride. Not that long ago, neither of us would be welcomed into the White House. It is hard to describe what it means to stand with the four-star admiral in the Public Health Service who also brings her experience as a transgender pediatrician to the fight. This photo might make some people mad, but there are many more who will see it as a sign of hope. The genie is out of the bottle and we will never go back. Admiral Levine is a living example of how far we’ve come, but there is still a long way to go. NMAC looks forward to working with her office as the leader for HHS’s efforts to end the epidemic.

I was also excited to meet Mayor Lori Lightfoot, the first Black Lesbian Mayor of Chicago. She was a good sport as I escorted/shoved her around the room to meet Dr. Fauci, Dr. Demetre Daskalakis (CDC), Dr. Stephen Lee (NASTAD) and Harold Phillips (White House). Only one person in the above photos is straight. How cool is that? I told the mayor that NMAC looks forward to coming to her city, maybe as soon as the Spring of 2022. If one of our Chicago constituents can forward her these pictures, I would appreciate it.

The main presentation was in the East Room of the White House. The symbolic nature of having a seat at the table was not lost on me. Like so many in our movement, I’ve spent my entire life fighting for health equity and racial justice as stepping stones to end the epidemic. There is no way this kid from Seattle could imagine sitting in the White House with world leaders. Yet there I was with my red jacket and sparkly shoes. In the world of blue and grey suits, I stood out like the flower that I am. Even at the White House, I refuse to confirm. Being a gay person of color is my badge of honor. It took me a long time to find the self-acceptance to love the Asian queen that I am. I make sure nobody mistakes me for being heterosexual. Not that being heterosexual is a bad thing, it’s just not what I want to be.



There were many members of Congress in attendance. Our shero House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led the delegation that included Congressmembers Maxine “Auntie Max” Waters, Barbara Lee, Sean Patrick Maloney, David Cicilline, and Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon. The President reminded attendees that Mrs. Pelosi came to Washington to fight AIDS. With her leadership, HIV continues to be prioritized by Congress. I met the Resident Commissioner from Puerto Rico, Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon and invited her to speak at the 2022 United States Conference on HIV/AIDS in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Members of Congress are key to HIV appropriations and funding our efforts to end the epidemic. I was so proud that we could honor Mrs. Pelosi at this year’s USCHA.

When Harold Phillips, the head of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) walked into the East Room, the audience broke into spontaneous applause. It was a moment. Here was one of our own, a Black Gay man living with HIV who was in charge. I ran over to hug him as he whispered, “don’t you make me cry.” I said, “too late I am crying enough for both of us.” The official announcement started with HHS Secretary Becerra. He would introduce the person who would introduce the President. Remember, this is Washington and there are very strict protocols.

It is always a surprise to see who the White House selects to introduce the President. The individual chosen sends a message and the administration selected Gabriel Maldonado. As a Gay Latinx man living with HIV, Gabe is the Founder and CEO of TruEvolution in Riverside California. His selection highlighted the important role that community will play in this effort. Gabe did us proud. He not only shared his personal story, he also brought along his mom. You could see his pride when he acknowledged her from the stage. Then came the President.


President Biden did not disappoint. His speech was strong powerful and clear. Here is the full text of what he said. Not only did he commit his administration to ending the HIV epidemic by 2030, he also called out racism as a public health challenge. He went off teleprompter to invite Gabe’s mother to the stage. This is a President who leads with empathy and bringing mom to the stage showed us his heart. He is a good man who is working under impossible conditions. His real gift was the bully pulpit of the White House. A key component to ending the epidemic is “political will.” With this event, he put the force of his administration behind this effort. It is now up to all of us.

As I mentioned earlier, the White House is like Disneyland on steroids. As we walked out of the East Room, the military band played “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” We were then invited to have our photo taken in front of the two-story red ribbon. Here I am with Naseema Shafi (Whitman-Walker Health) and Kierra Johnson (National LGBTQ Task Force). As a parting gift, we received a copy of the President’s World AIDS Day Proclamation.

This was history and I wanted all of you to be there. I hope this piece expresses my excitement, not because I got to go, but because the White House is committed to ending the HIV epidemic. This event was an important signal from the people in power. They are committed to ending the epidemic by working with community. Now the real work begins, and it is going to take all of us!

Yours in the Struggle,

Paul Kawata






Paul Kawata


NMAC Announces 2021 Capitol Hill Champions Award Recipients

NMAC is pleased to announce Chairwoman Maxine Waters and U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge as the 2021 Capitol Hill Champions Awards recipients. The awards will be presented at a virtual event in December.

In honor of the late John Lewis and Elijah Cummings, NMAC will present awards in their names for their lifelong commitment to racial justice and creating equality for all.

The John Lewis Good Trouble Award will be awarded to Chairwoman Waters who embodies John Lewis’ dedication to racial equality on all fronts. Throughout Chairwoman Waters’s 40 years of public service, she has been at the foreground of tackling controversial and difficult issues. Whether it be her success on affirmative action legislation during her time as a California state legislator to spearheading the creation of the Minority AIDS Initiative, Maxine Waters has been a champion of human rights and embodiment of dedication to racial equality. The award will be presented by last year’s recipient, Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The Elijah Cummings Award for Minority Health Equality will be presented to Secretary Fudge, who dedicated her congressional career to fighting for healthcare equality and equity for minority communities. As Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus and Congresswoman from Ohio, Marcia Fudge successfully tackled issues spanning the political gamut. Through her leadership as HUD Secretary, she is working vigorously to solve issues such as the growing homelessness crisis and racial disparities affecting homeowners. The award will be presented by Dr. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings.

Addressing HIV Stigma in the HIV Workplace: Training, Technical Assistance & Learning Collaboratives

Ending the HIV epidemic in America starts with addressing HIV stigma in the HIV workplace. NMAC believes the best way to create real change is by building partnerships between people living with HIV (PLHIV) and their Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program (RWHAP) service providers. Thanks to funding from HRSA-HAB, NMAC put together this new stigma reduction program with three different learning modalities: 1) trainings, 2) technical assistance, and 3) learning collaboratives in a program called ESCALATE (Ending Stigma through Collaboration and Lifting all to Empowerment). Click here to find out how to register. Participants can only register if they are part of a team that includes a PLWH and their RWHAP service provider.

NMAC believes the best way to reduce structural HIV stigma is through honest dialogues that are followed with updated policies and procedures that focus on HIV stigma reduction in the workplace. We are looking for real solutions that are client centered. NMAC wants to provide a neutral safe space to have these difficult discussions.

This work will not be easy. HIV stigma sits at the intersection of race, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation. Because it’s NMAC, we’re going to prioritize race and its impact on HIV services. Yes, we are going there. The solutions are not cookie cutter. We understand the need to tailor policies and procedures. Our efforts will address HIV stigma in the RWHAP workplace. It will not reduce HIV stigma in the larger world.

Trainings are the entry level learning modality. They are for RWHAP funded agencies and PLHIV that are starting to work on stigma reduction. The trainings will bring together teams (providers and clients) to provide an overview of HIV stigma. By the end of the training, teams will develop their first steps to reduce stigma in the workplace. Technical Assistance (TA) is for RWHAP providers who are looking for one-on-one assistance. TA will be specific to the agency seeking assistance and will look at the implementation of tailor-made stigma reducing activities. Learning Collaboratives (LC) are for the advanced RWHAP provider teams (to include PLHIV) who want to be a part of an ongoing group that will implement tests of change using an improvement framework and share their experiences with the other teams. LCs will focus on cultural humility and its role in HIV stigma reduction. We provide different modalities because organizations are in different places among the HIV stigma spectrum, and we want to meet you where you are at.

This HIV stigma reduction initiative is centered on NMAC’s work to end the HIV epidemic in America. There are too many PLWH who have fallen out of HIV care. We believe that providers need to address HIV stigma in partnership with PLHIV. The TA will be provided by Abt Associates, and the LCs will be coordinated by NORC. NMAC will be the lead for the trainings. These learning modalities will start this summer virtually with in-person work slated for 2022. Our stigma reduction efforts are part of a four-year cooperative agreement with HRSA-HAB using the Minority HIV/AIDS Fund. For more information, please email

Yours in the struggle,

Paul Kawata

Paul Kawata






ESCALATE is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Minority AIDS Initiative as part of a financial assistance award totaling $1,600,906.100 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.

Who Benefits from Minority AIDS Initiative (MAI) Funding?

In 1998 African Americans surpassed White people as the population with the largest number of new cases of HIV.  After the data was released, 30 Black leaders met with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to demand action.  The effort was led by Dr. Beny Primm, then board chair of NMAC.  He had NMAC’s Director of Government Relations, Miguelina Maldonado, work with the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and the Congressional A/PI Caucus to create the Minority AIDS Initiative (MAI).  The goal for the MAI was to build the infrastructure of minority-led community-based nonprofits to minimize the racial divide in HIV health outcomes for African Americans and all people of color.
After 20 years of MAI funding, which communities benefited the most?
From 1998 to 2018, African Americans with HIV went from 39 percent of the cases in 1998 to 41 percent of the cases in 2018.  White people went from 40 percent of the cases in 1998 to 29 percent of the cases in 2018.  The Latinx community went from 19.5 percent of the cases to 23 percent in 2018.  Asians went from 0.78 percent to 1.5 percent of the cases.  American Indians/Alaska Natives stayed level at 0.3 percent.  After 20 years of MAI and other funding, only the White community saw a significant decrease in HIV cases.

That outcome speaks directly to the question the Biden/Harris administration is trying to unpack with the Executive Order looking at racial equity across all government programs: to not just look at how race impacts access and funding, but also how to make the system fair.  They are seeking community input on how to make this happen.

Per an email from the White House:

“Through the Office of Management and Budget, the Biden-Harris administration is soliciting input from stakeholders in the public, private, advocacy, not-for-profit, and philanthropic sectors, including State, local, Tribal, and territorial areas.  This request for information (RFI) seeks answers to dozens of questions critical to the administration’s efforts to advance equity, including how agencies can address known burdens or barriers to accessing benefits programs in their assessments of benefits delivery, and what practices agencies should put in place to reach rural areas and communities that might not be able to visit Washington, D.C., to engage directly with policymakers.

“A link to the RFI can be found at:

“Responses are due: Tuesday, July 6, 2021

I believe the White House understands the system is unfair.  The challenge is how to fix it. NMAC hopes you will respond to this RFI and write about your solutions. As we get ready to prepare our response, I will share our journey.  This question is core to NMAC’s mission.  How do we change the structural racism that is baked into the federal government?

Yours in the struggle,
Paul Kawata
NMACPaul Kawata

Welcome Chris Paisano to NMAC

Yá’atééh! Guwatzi hauba! Greetings to all in my Navajo and Laguna Pueblo languages. My name is Christopher J. Paisano but I go by Chris or CJP. My pronouns are he, him or bíí (in Navajo). I am pleased to begin working with so many talented, passionate, and caring individuals here at NMAC as the new Indian Country Coordinator to help build ESCALATE with Native American and Alaskan Native partners for Indian Country.

I come from Fort Defiance, Arizona on the Navajo Nation and from Oakland, California where I was born, with relatives from Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico.

Joining the NMAC community in such a unpredictable time for our country is challenging. My family recognizes this is a challenging time for all peoples, especially for Black, Indigenous people of color (BIPOC) and gender diverse individuals. Yet, working from home is a blessing in many ways; I get to stay on my Navajo Nation taking care of my dad, dog, and extended family members.

We on the Navajo Nation experience your anxiety, fear, and the commitment to preserving our personal and mental health care during this transitional time from one administration to the Biden/Harris Administration. We all have experienced uncertainty before and I hope this time around, we have better tools, understanding, and compassion to help all of us survive and thrive during this next year. That’s why I am excited to be working for NMAC as part of ending the HIV epidemic goal by 2030.

Introduced disease and viruses are basic biology that affects all human beings despite political or social lines. Tribal nations and Alaskan Natives have always been on the front line to these exposures. While many Native peoples have survived changes, sadly, many have not. Diseases introduced from across the world is more poignant in today’s world of Covid-19. We are so aware and notice the missing when so many lives could have been saved. This lament sounds familiar from the first initial AIDS cases in the 80s during the beginning days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. We should remember that resilience is our collective strength.

Currently, NMAC and our partners are developing a new HIV stigma reduction curriculum called ESCALATE. I am excited that active participation from all BIPOC and Gender Non-conforming partners includes Native American and Alaskan Natives.

ESCALATE is devised to eliminate stigma against those living with HIV and to create welcoming environments for people living with HIV to continue receiving HIV treatment in their communities. NMAC has identified stigma as the leading cause that keeps many from accessing HIV treatment or from knowing their HIV status. Stigma then is a major barrier that allows HIV acquisition to increase within not only our Native communities, but throughout the world at large. Our collective goal is to use ESCALATE to end the HIV epidemic by 2030.

While NMAC does have existing members from the Native American and Alaskan Native community as partners, we are always searching for other engaging community leaders in Indian Country to help give us feed back on ESCALATE. NMAC will continue to create, revise, and adapt the ESCALATE curriculum and associated trainings to be an effective tool for our Native community members.

NMAC aims to unveil the ESCALATE curriculum at the U.S. Conference on HIV AIDS (USCHA) in Washington, D.C. in 2021. I know with the hard work and collaboration from the Native community, we will have a powerful tool to ending stigma in Indian Country, but tools for our local community leaders to continue using to keep the fight growing so that by 2030, HIV will no longer be the epidemic it is now.

As my K’awaika hanuu (Laguna Pueblo) family says to me and I will share with you, “Hashjimé! Uumé!” Be strong! Or in Navajo: Yéégo! You can do it!

I look forward when we will be able to look around the family table and see all our family, friends, and neighbors represented and celebrating life as we used to do in song, dance, and laughter. I am sure this is true in your family communities, as well.

Ahé’héé! Dawaa’ é! Thank you!

NMAC Hails Supreme Court Decision In Bostock v. Clayton County

NMAC today hailed the Supreme Court decision in Bostock v. Clayton County which protects LGBTQ workers from being fired or denied employment because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Today’s historic landmark decision by the Court ends decades of ugly behavior by employers who never valued a good employee and fired them because of who they are,” said Joe Huang-Racalto, NMAC’s Director of Government Relations and Public Policy.

By amending the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Court ruled that Aimee Stephens, a transgender worker for a funeral home in Michigan, and Gerald Bostock, a gay employee for Clayton County in Georgia, were covered under sex discrimination as outlined in the Civil Rights Act of 64.

“Yesterday, millions of LGBT Americans went to bed fearing the loss of their jobs because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Huang-Racalto.  As a result of today’s decision, those same Americans will go to bed tonight knowing that they no longer have to be fearful of losing their jobs. In the absence of a functioning Senate, we are sadly becoming more dependent on a conservative court for full civil rights. And, while today is an historic day for LGBT Americans, we know that this journey won’t be completed until the full spectrum of rights are afforded to LGBT individuals. We will continue to fight against this administration’s unrelenting attacks against transgender Americans, especially discriminatory health practices, and we will continue to fight against the ugly health crisis known as racism which continues to grip our nation.”

NMAC honors the life of Aimee Stephens, who sadly passed away on May 12, 2020.  While she was not alive to witness today’s landmark ruling, her courage and drive to improve the lives of transgender American’s will forever be memorialized.

NMAC leads with race to urgently fight for health equity and racial justice to end the HIV epidemic in America. Since 1987, NMAC has advanced our mission through a variety of programs and services, including: a public policy education program, national and regional training conferences, a treatment and research program, numerous electronic and print materials, and a website: NMAC also serves as an association of AIDS service organizations, providing valuable information to community-based organizations, hospitals, clinics, and other groups assisting individuals and families affected by the HIV epidemic.

Welcome to USCA 50+ Scholars for 2019 (Pt. 2)

HIV 50+ - Strong & HealthyThe HIV 50+ Strong and Healthy Program offers support and engagement opportunities for those HIV-positive and over the age of 50 who struggle with isolation and the need to overcome depression. The HIV 50+ program allows them to reinvent themselves and become active and productive individuals in the community. The program is composed of 51 individuals who either work with or are HIV positive and over the age of 50 years old. The program consists of educational webinars, mini-grant and internship opportunities, sponsorships to conferences and involvement at the United States Conference on AIDS (USCA).

Congratulations to this year’s scholars! Since we have 51 Scholars, we will recognize them in two parts.

Nancy Duncan is 61 years old and has been living and aging with HIV for 34 years now. She is very grateful to have made it through the difficult years before the anti-viral medications that came out in the mid-nineties because at that time, she didn’t think she was going to make it!  She has been blessed to be able to see her son grow to up to become an amazing adult. She currently has some health issues but is thriving pretty well now and has been doing HIV testing and counseling and peer work for many years. Living with HIV has given her the chance to meet so many wonderful and inspiring people over the years and she looks forward to many more years of good health and happiness to come!

Nancy Shearer is a Filipina woman diagnosed with HIV in March 1997. Ever since she was diagnosed, she has dedicated herself to advocating for the rights of HIV+ individuals. She was also a grantee of a mini grant where she hosted a  Social event for heterosexual men and women focusing on connecting with their peers facing the same challenges.



Nikki Calma aka Tita Aida, is a familiar name to the Bay Area communities for the past twenty years. She is a tireless and proud transgender community leader in the Asian & Pacific islander LGBTQI community and the transgender community. She is currently the Director of HIV Services and Community Programs at San Francisco Community Health Center (formerly API Wellness).



Patricia (Pat) Kelly is a native New Yorker who currently resides in Orangeburg, SC. She is aging gracefully and gratefully soon to be 65 years young and surviving and thriving 34 yrs. She was diagnosed with HIV in 1985 and AIDS in 1998. She is the mother of three, grandmother of eight and great grandmother of seven. Pat is also the founder of A Family Affair HIV and AIDS Ministry of Victory Tabernacle Deliverance Temple. She serves on several boards and is actively involved in the HIV arena locally and nationally.

Porchia Dees is from San Bernardino, CA. She currently serves in the Los Angeles area as a Prevention Specialist for an organization called AIDS Project Los Angeles. She was born HIV positive in 1986 and has been thriving with this condition for 32 years strong now. Helping others and giving back to her community is her passion. Public speaking and advocating for HIV/AIDS has become her calling, and has been working on trying to become better at speaking out, educating, and articulating her experience with the world.

Randal Lucero has held the position of Board Member with several well-known national HIV organizations, where he has worked for over 12 years advocating for individuals and communities affected by HIV. Volunteerism has always been in the forefront of his professional experiences.  As the founder of the New Mexico Aging and Long-Term Services HIV Advocacy Network and the State Consumer Representative to the NMDOH HIV Services Clinical Quality Management Committee he has made an extensive impact within the rural Southwest HIV community. Randal describes himself as a person living with HIV who strives to learn as much as possible and translate the knowledge into lay terms for others to understand the complexities of living with HIV.

Reggie Dunbar II is the Founder and CEO of Poz Military Veterans USA Intl.
He served in the US Army Vietnam Era Veteran where he served in the JAG (legal) Core. He serves as the second vice chair of the Metropolitan Atlanta HIV Health Planning Services, a community advisory board member of Emory Clinical Trials and the Atlanta Legal Aid Society.



Rob Ingwerson lives in Beaverton, Oregon with his partner of 24 years. He currently is working at Cascade AIDS Project as an HIV Peer Support Specialist. Rob also does HIV testing for all at the main offices as well as testing in different community events. He is involved with AIDS Walk every year. Rob is very excited to attend this year’s USCA as a representative for the Aging HIV community.


Rob Cooke has been living in Washington, D.C. for 20 years, from the Norfolk VA area. He is thankful and blessed that he has been healthy undetectable for 21 years. He is presently apart of the Washington DC Regional Planning Commission on Health and HIV, working with the Community Engagement and Education Committee and the Community Advisory Board with Unity Health Clinics in the District. He is also actively involved with CNHED, Communities for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development with “Housing For All” Campaign, LEDC, Latino Economic Development Center for Tenant Rights, and Manna Inc.(nonprofit housing assistance) board of directors.

Robert Cornelius is the financial coordinator at Cempa Community Care, which provides primary and infectious disease care, mental health counseling, health maintenance, peer navigation and more for people living with and affected by HIV located in Chattanooga Tn. When not crunching numbers for the organization, he spends his time spreading awareness about the virus. Robert is currently working on programs for long-term survivors who are 50 and older, including planning for retirement—a milestone many in his community thought they might never reach. Over the past 20 years, his advocacy work has impacted the lives of people living with HIV from all walks of life and of all ages.

Rob Pompa, LCSW currently serves as Behavioral Health Specialist in a hospital based HIV clinic and is an advocate and activist for PLHIV.   Rob currently serves on the Pennsylvania Special Pharmaceutical Benefits Program Advisory Council, the State of Pennsylvania HIV Divisions’ HIV Planning Group and as co-chair for assessment committee, the AIDSNET Coalition Regional MSM Prevention Planning Group, as well as a member of the Consumer Advisory Board for CDC’s Division of HIV Prevention Behavioral and Clinical Surveillance Branch Medical Monitoring Project.  Rob is thrilled and grateful to be a member of the NMAC HIV 50+ Strong and Healthy cohort.

Robert Riester is a Denver native and 30+ year HIV long-term survivor, and HIV/AIDS Activist and Advocate, both locally and nationally, and pleased to be part of the NMAC 50+ Strong & Healthy program family. He is currently a Program Coordinator for the Denver Element at Mile High Behavioral Health Care, including the Positive Impact program with a focus on HIV and Aging and Ryan White services administration, and works collaboratively with other HIV/AIDS organizations. Robert is currently serving on his third term with the Denver HIV Resources Planning Council and first appointed term to the Denver Commission on Aging, bringing the voice of HIV & Aging to the table.

Shirl Kirskey was born and raised in the Washington, DC area. She is an Administrative Assistant by trade. She moved to Jacksonville, Florida over 30 years ago working at a local hospital for 14 years when she was diagnosed. She is 56 years old and has been positive for 25 years. She is a mother of three daughters.



Stephen Addona is a long-term AIDS survivor, certified peer specialist and founder of RE-START, Central Florida’s largest HIV support group. The focal point of Stephen’s work is HIV and Aging. His primary goal is to set the standard in how to mature well while living with the virus. “It’s an art,” he says, “I sculpt both my body and mind daily, through use of my personal wellness plan.  Exercise, nutrition, abstinence from tobacco and substance use, and continuously challenging the mind are critical in maintaining quality of life.”

Steven Vargas, Program Coordinator with AAMA (Association for the Advancement of Mexican Americans) began helping people living with HIV in 1989, has been living with HIV since 1995, and was recognized as one of Poz Magazine’s “100 Long Term Survivors” in its annual “Top 100” December 2015 issue. Steven is a board member of Houston’s OH Project which preserves the experiences of Houstonians impacted by HIV, and is serving a four year term as a Community Member representative to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Panel on Antiretroviral Guidelines for Adults and Adolescents.  He has been the recipient of the 2016 L. Joel Martinez Memorial Award from Legacy Community Health and last year received the 2018 HIV Community Activist Award from Houston’s African American State of Emergency Task Force.

Sylvester Askins was diagnosed in June 1990 in Washington, DC. He currently lives in Portsmouth, VA and works as a Consultant. In this role he assists other persons living with HIV to re-enter the workforce and begin their journey to “Endependence.”



Thomas J. Villa is a member of and longtime advocate for the LGBT community, an accomplished leader and successful business executive. He has thirty years of success building and leading new teams and new businesses, primarily in healthcare and community engagement, most recently as co-founder of Impacto LGBT to serve the LGBT Latinx community of Northern Virginia. As a long-time survivor of HIV, Tom is a member of the Community Advisory Board to the BELIEVE HIV Cure Initiative, the NIH Precision Medicine InitiativeTM pilot group, and participates in various clinical trials focused on ending the HIV epidemic. Tom continues his lifelong participation in community service with a special focus on promoting health equity and civil rights.

Timothy Lunceford-Stevens has worked at the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) in the Education Department in 1983 working on Prevention. He joined ACTUPNY in the founding year 1987. He is currently on a citywide LTS AIDS Service Planning Council, working to make sure LTS are not left alone in New York. With his SAGE membership, he worked last year to make sure the LTS nationwide were able to stay connected with Equality Bill.


Todd Dickey is the HIV Services Manager at The Gay & Lesbian Center of Southern Nevada, a.k.a. The Center. He has been in the Las Vegas Valley since 1976 and has been HIV positive for 28 years. Living with HIV can be a challenge for most, adding in stigma and fear can often times add in a layer of complexity that can be overwhelming for some. He has the honor of connecting with people living with HIV on a daily basis and sharing with them his experience with HIV and letting them know that they are not alone.

Mr. Trevor D. Bradley is 50 plus and has been in passionately involved in HIV prevention and education since 1998. He helped co-found Brothers United, an HIV prevention, education and advocacy agency in Indianapolis. Trevor became the first person to hold the position of HIV Prevention Program Manager for Communities of Color at the Indiana State Department of Health. He has been an MSM Advisory member for the CDC, lecturer, trainer and advocate for Communities of Color for over 20 years. Trevor is involved with several civic and non profit organizations, but has a fondness and place in his heart for real HIV prevention.

William H. Chastang has been a HIV Consumer Advocate since Feb. 2005. He believes his quest will not end until there is a cure.  He encourages all who have an HIV diagnosis to “Live in the moment” because we are not victims but survivors.



William Hall is a Tlingit Indian from Southeast Alaska and has been living with HIV/AIDS for 33 years. He is a community advocate for the Native American Community in Seattle. He is also co-chair of the Seattle Planning Council and has volunteered with defeatHIV, a CAB to Fred Hutch Cure Research for AIDS for five years now.



Zeke Garcia is a community health worker and health educator risk reduction specialist. He regards himself as conduit of hope; a custodian of culture living the HIV + dream for the past 20 years. He is devoted to a life of healing, empowering and connecting.



Nadine Ruff, MSW, is an LGBT activist and the founder of Divinely You, a support group for transgender people based in New Haven, CT. She works for APNH, a non-profit organization in New Haven, as the Program Coordinator of Aging Positively, an evidence-based intervention for people living with HIV who are age 50 and older. As a social worker, Nadine uses her clinical and community organizing to strengthen vulnerable communities.

Culture @ USCA: What’s Happening In 2019

Culture provides a window into worlds that are different from your own. Through music, food, dance, fashion, and language, culture expresses value, emotion, and love. Understanding these values is important if we want to end the HIV epidemic because the culture of communities highly impacted by HIV are outside of the mainstream. If you don’t live in that community, you may not fully understand how to reach them. USCA gives you a window to understand communities that are different. Sometimes it challenges the way we think, sometimes it affirms our beliefs, but mostly it helps us better understand communities we need to reach to end the HIV epidemic. Mainstream HIV service models have reached the vast majority of people living with HIV, but to end HIV we must reach the 400,000 PLWH who have fallen out of care or are unaware of their HIV status.

Far too often culture is minimized as superficial or unimportant. Why do I need to understand the culture and values of any community disproportionately impacted by HIV if all I want to do is retain people in healthcare and adherent to their meds? As we have learned in patient center care models, we must meet people where they live and work. Rather than asking them to adapt to our culture, we must adapt to theirs.

This year USCA is more intentional about its use of performance. While we want the music to move you, we also hope it will give you insights into communities that are outside of the mainstream but the target for our efforts.

Opening Plenary, Thursday, September 5th
Indian Health ServicesThursday’s Opening Plenary and Sunday’s Closing Plenary will highlight the culture of the American Indian/Alaska Native Community. This presentation was put together as a gift for USCA from the Indian Health Service. NMAC thanks the IHS and Rick Haverkate. We cannot highlight every community at every plenary, so we ask for your understanding. Last year we highlighted Beyoncé going to Coachella and HBCUs.

Saturday September 7th Plenary: A Celebration of People Living with HIV
Saturday’s Plenary is a celebration of people living with HIV and their central role in ending the epidemic. The science of U=U makes PLWH core to the solution. This plenary will only feature HIV positive performers. In addition to singing, we’ve asked these artists to explain how HIV impacts their art.

Branden and James
BRANDEN & JAMES, “a powerhouse cello and vocal duo.” Branden James’ voice inspired millions as a finalist on season 8 of America’s Got Talent. In the early part of 2015, James disclosed he was diagnosed HIV positive in his mid-20s. James stated: “I formed a major complex about what people would think of me. I kept it a deep dark secret to everyone except the trusted few.”

Originally from Tampa, Florida, Jade Elektra (African-American, Openly Gay HIV+ Drag Recording Artist, DJ, Actress & Activist) was a transplant to New York City in 1992 and then made Toronto her home in 2010 when she married John Richard Allan. In the world of entertainment, from performing on stage with Beyoncé to impersonating legends such as Billie Holiday live on stage, Ms. Elektra is not your average drag queen.

Sunday September 8th Closing Plenary
In addition to the closing ceremony provided by the American Indian/Alaska Native communities, we will also pass the torch to Puerto Rico for the 2020 USCA. We are still working with the San Juan host committee to figure out the best way to celebrate Puerto Rico and the Latinx community.USCA selected San Juan as the 2020 site in order to bring economic development back to the island.  According to the local convention bureau, our meeting will provide jobs for over 1,000 people on the island. Additionally, going to San Juan gives the meeting the ability to highlight HIV in the Latinx and Caribbean communities. Attendees will have the experience of being in a city where English is the second language. If we are to end HIV, we need to make sure we reach all the communities highly impacted by HIV.Movie Night @ USCA
Friday, September 6th is movie night at USCA. This year we will show the acclaimed documentary “5B.” Thanks to the support of Janssen, USCA will present this important documentary. Joining us for a panel discussion after the film are my friends Cliff Morrison and Hank Trout.

According to the Washington Post “The film flashes back to the mid-1970s, when San Francisco’s growing gay community — newly liberated in the post-Stonewall era — made it possible for men to walk down the street together holding hands. As one 5B survivor recalls, such public expressions of affection were a big deal. When the plague, as some referred to AIDS, first struck, it hurt that some professionals — caregivers, police, etc. — refused to touch people most in need of it.

The film reminds us that, in the early days of AIDS, doctors didn’t know whether the virus was airborne. Some media reports stoked public fears that an infected person could pass on a death sentence, just by breathing. The workers in 5B, unable to heal their patients, shifted their focus from cure to care, holding hands with and embracing people whose families, in many cases, had rejected them.”

While I have not seen the film, I’ve been asked to let people know that the documentary will trigger many feelings. There will be grief support people onsite during the showing. The film tells the story of the early San Francisco epidemic.

Master Lecture by Mykki Blanco
In addition to a more traditional Master Lecture to be given by Dr. Anthony Fauci, Mykki Blanco has just confirmed his participation. This is how I know that I am old: I had to look up his Wiki page to learn about him:

Mykki Blanco began as a teenage girl character for a YouTube video in 2010, but evolved into a musical and performance art piece. Blanco’s name is inspired by Lil’ Kim’s alter ego Kimmy Blanco.

In June 2015, Blanco revealed that he has been HIV positive since 2011. Blanco initially worried that being HIV positive would be detrimental to his career, saying of the decision to make finally that information public, “I did it for myself. At a certain point, my real life has to be more important than this career.”
He is also the star of Madonna’s video Dark Ballet.

Mykki will do a Master Lecture at USCA on “How HIV Influences his Art.”

Opening Reception
This year’s Opening Reception is put together by the Washington DC Host Committee.  They have put together an exciting evening that includes an exhibition ball.

I’ve been told that USCA makes some people uncomfortable because they are attending a meeting that is not just about them. Imagine how planning council members or people living with HIV feel at your meetings. USCA highlights the various cultures of communities highly impacted by HIV because we will never end HIV if we don’t meet people where and how they live. Thank you for taking a risk and being uncomfortable.

Yours in the struggle,

Paul Kawata
30 Years of Service

Welcome to USCA 50+ Scholars for 2019 (Pt. 1)

HIV 50+ - Strong & HealthyThe HIV 50+ Strong and Healthy Program offers support and engagement opportunities for those HIV-positive and over the age of 50 who struggle with isolation and the need to overcome depression. The HIV 50+ program allows them to reinvent themselves and become active and productive individuals in the community. The program is composed of 51 individuals who either work with or are HIV positive and over the age of 50 years old. The program consists of educational webinars, mini-grant and internship opportunities, sponsorships to conferences and involvement at the United States Conference on AIDS (USCA).

Congratulations to this year’s scholars! Since we have 51 Scholars, we will recognize them in two parts.

Alexa Elizabeth Rodriguez is originally from Usulután, El Salvador. Her passion is defend Transgender and people living with HIV rights. She founded the first working and support group for people living with HIV and Trans Women, in her hometown “Mi Nueva Familia” (My New Family). Alexa has continue her work in the DMV (DC, Maryland and Virginia) with many organization including DC Health Department. She is the Director of the Trans-Latinx DMV a Two-Spirit led organization that centers the needs of Black & Indigenous Trans-Latinx people living in Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia, that function as regional Chapter of The National Trans-Latin@ Coalition. Alexa has been awarded with many recognitions.  She has been an activist for 16 years fighting for the rights of the HIV positive and members of the transgender community. As a transgender and HIV positive individual, Alexa will continue to fight to make sure her community does not fail.

Angel Luis Hernandez was born and lives in Puerto Rico. Diagnosed with AIDS in 2003, with a poor prognosis, it took him 6 years to “get out of the closet” of HIV. Since 2010, Angel has been involved as a community representative in various local, national and international boards and organizations. As advocate, he believes there is still a need for education around HIV, and still much more work to do to address the social determinants of health of persons living with HIV and AIDS. A key element of Angel’s advocacy work is to empower and support persons living with HIV and AIDS. As HIV Community Educator, he has received scholarships to attend various national and international conferences. Angel helps members of the general community understand the science of HIV and AIDS to ensure community concerns are considered.

Angelica Gallegos, Case Management Supervisor, has been employed with Access and Information Network (AIN) in Dallas, TX since 2017. She has her master’s in social work from Texas A&M Commerce and a Bachelor’s in Social Work from Texas Woman’s University. She is currently on the Dallas HIV Task Force and the Latinx Task Force Work Group. Angelica has worked in the social work field for 6+ years, advocating for service, justice and the dignity and worth of each individual.


Arthur Jackson is a respected and innovative national community educator of HIV Prevention, Education and Care Services, in Indianapolis, Indiana, working as the Linkage to Care Coordinator for BU Wellness Network. Born and raised in Orange, New Jersey, Art graduated from Orange High School in 1983 and attended Penn State University. Moving to Harlem, New York, Art has witnessed the evolution of HIV/AIDS from its inception to how we are currently living and dealing with this virus today. Since being diagnosed in January 1989 Art has tried to be an avid and dedicated fighter for those living with this disease.

Bryan Jones has been thriving with AIDS for 35 years an advocating half that time . He is a Founding Steering Committee Memeber of U=U and has spoken internationally on U= U. He performs a one man theatrical conversation entitled A.I.D S….- And I Die Slowly throughout the U.S and abroad. He us the proud recipient of the Equitas Health Trailblazer Award for lifelong committment to the LGBTQ community and HIV. Bryan was chosen this year by the Body .Com as one of their Game Changers in HIV Advocacy. Mr. Jones is the Founder of the Dirt Advocacy Movement And has been working on Modernizing HIV criminalization laws for several years.

Carlos Carmona is an HIV long-term survivor of 29 years and an activist and advocate for people living with HIV (PLWH) for over 15 years. He currently resides in San Antonio, Tx and continues to be a voice for the HIV community breaking down stigma and bringing awareness about HIV.



Cecilia Dennis is currently located in Phoenix, AZ is a Building Leaders of Color Trainer of Trainers, PWN-USA AZ State Lead, and serves on Maricopa Integrated Health System Community Advisory Board. Currently, Cecilia provides effective risk reduction education in group and one-on-one settings, along with public speaking. She also hosts community events, disseminates materials, and conducts HIV/STI testing.


Christine Kapiioho is a Native Hawaiian and Okinawan. She lives on the island of Maui and in September 2019 she will have worked for Maui AIDS Foundation for 10 years. She started as a case manager with 50 clients and in 2012 became Director of Client Services and works with two caring, competent medical case managers for 150+ clients. She is honored to be selected as a scholarship recipient and hopes to continue to bring innovative information to her clients, especially her 50+ year old clients on the islands of Maui, Molokai and Lanai.

David “Jax” Kelly is the president of Let’s Kick A.S.S. (AIDS Survivor Syndrome) – Palm Springs Chapter ( He has been thriving with AIDS since 2006. He is a member of Cleveland AIDS Clinical Trials Unit Community Advisory Board.



Dawn Breedon is an HIV positive motivational speaker, Certified Life Coach, activist, and author of REMEMBER TO BREATHE. Dawn continues to educate herself to help others pull through adverse situations. She graduated with honors from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania with a Masters of HumanServices Degree, where she was inducted into the Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society for Social Sciences. Dawn holds a certificate in Evidenced Based Coaching from Fielding Graduate University.

Denise Drayton is a 68-year-old Mother of Christal and George, Grandmother to Kevin and Cameron.  She tested HIV positive on September 1993.  She is the community Liaison for ACRIA Centers on Aging at GMHC. She is dedicated to providing HIV prevention education to those at risk for HIV. She is also a Faithful servant of Healing Touch HIV Ministry at Emmanuel Baptist Church.


Diana Goodie is currently employed as a Medical Case Manager/ Ryan White Eligibility Specialist at East Carolina University Adult Specialty Care. Diana has been actively involved in working with PLWH for more than 18 years and has developed a passion for serving the aging population as evidenced by her advocacy & supportive efforts. She has become a Certified Dementia Practitioner and is currently pursuing certification in Gerontology. Diana is committed to empower, educate and reduce barriers that effect PLWH in Eastern North Carolina.

Emilio Apontesierra-Paretti is an asylee from Colombia with a masters degree in Education in Guidance Counseling. He focuses his work in Public Health as a Certify Community Health Worker, particularly the issues of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Care. Aponte was the Chair of both, Latinx and MSM Advisors Groups of the Broward County HIV Prevention Planning Council until he leave Florida Department of Health in Broward in January of 2019. Currently is the Behavioral Health Interventions Supervisor of High Impacto, Inc. Aponte also is an artist that use his art as a tool of community mobilization towards awareness, education and actions for HIV/AIDS prevention.

Esther Sarteh Ross-Hines works as the Associate Program Manager/Region 10 Network Coordinator at East Carolina University Adult Specialty Care Clinic in Greenville, NC. She helped mobilize 1st ever advocacy team in Eastern North Carolina dubbed “WE Team of the East, Girls on Fire,” women empowerment group tasked with advocating and leveraging policies to help POCLWH achieve and sustain the highest quality of care. Esther is now in her 26th year of surviving, striving and thriving with HIV, living the golden life at the age of 58. Esther as the graduate of NMAC, Building Leaders of Color; HIV 50+ Strong & Healthy Scholar and GLOW (Growing Leadership Opportunities for Women) implemented a project called “LAMPS” (Leaders, Advocating, Mentoring Personal growth & Support) that provided education, using BLOC Curriculum, to empower POCLWH 50+ to mentor other peers become meaningfully involve within service delivery systems and infrastructures that impact POCLWH in Eastern North Carolina.

Franceina Hopkins is a Public Speaker, Outreach Specialist, Advocate, Recruiter, Linkage to Care Specialist, Trainer and a Leader. She was born in a rural area in Hampton County but currently lives in Lexington, SC, also rural. When she came to Columbia, SC, she was introduced to the organization, Women Helping Women, a group linked through LRADAC (Lexington Richland Alcohol Drug Abuse Council). Franceina is a Lead Recruiter for WISE Women (Women in Support of Empowerment) at PALSS (Palmetto AIDS Life Support Services).

Janice Shirley is a Certified Peer Support Specialist for the state of North Carolina and an advance Level Facilitator. Her goals are to continue to work with her brother and sister in this field to ensure they have the necessary information to live and have a comfortable life. She is working toward getting rid of STIGMA in the HIV arena.



Jared Hafen joined the Utah AIDS Foundation as Case Manager in 2014, and became Director of Programming in 2016.  Jared has a master’s in social work from University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and has worked in the field of HIV for more than 15 years, beginning as a volunteer in HIV prevention and education at Western Colorado AIDS Project.  In addition to his duties as Programming Director, Jared facilitates a weekly men’s HIV support group, and puts great value in connecting with participants and educating and empowering people living with HIV through the simple acts of respect, compassion, and commitment to serve.

Jeffery Edwards-Knight is a 56-year-old gay, Black male who has lived with HIV for 33 years. He resides in Charlotte, NC where he has lived for 34 years. He works at the Mecklenburg County Health Department where he supervises the HIV/STD community testing and outreach team.



Jeffery A. Haskins is a graduate of Howard and Columbia University. He has held many positions in government, non-profits, and business. He currently works as the Project TEACH Lead Coordinator at Philadelphia FIGHT Community Health Centers. Reverend Haskins is the Pastor of Unity Fellowship of Christ Church Philadelphia. He was a Recovery Counselor for COMHAR (Community Mental Health, Addiction and Rehabilitation). Jeffery is also the Producing Director of PAPA (Producing Association of the Performing Arts) where he has written and starred in his one man show entitled the 26 Project about the number of friends and family members we have lost to the AIDS epidemic. He is a founding member of the New York State, Black Gay Men’s and Health and Human Services Networks.

Joel Caudle knows firsthand the importance of finding support soon after a positive diagnosis. He first connected with Nashville CARES as a client in 2003 after learning he had HIV. He now works as a Medical Case Manager Associate for My House, an offsite health and wellness center operated by Nashville CARES, in conjunction with the organizations Neighborhood Health and Streetworks. As a member of the My House team, Joel offers tailored information and services to same-gender-loving men of color, including STI testing, Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), treatment adherence skills and status disclosure support. Of his work, Joel says, “I use every day that I come to work as an opportunity to empower people with the will to live.”

Joey Pons was diagnosed in 1987 and has been an activist of people living with HIV since then. He began his involvement in New York City with ACT-UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power). He is a Project Manager in Policy, Strategic Planning and Community Engagement. In his extensive involvement in the field of HIV advocacy, Mr. Pons has participated in countless conferences as a lecturer on Human Rights, HIV/AIDS and Community Organizing. Additionally, he has distinguished himself as a respected lobbyist in matters of human rights and HIV.

Kenneth Johnson is currently a Program Manager at Abounding Prosperity, Inc. He has been working in the field of HIV prevention and care for over 14 years. He also enjoys his role at AP Inc. and, working with his community. As apart of his role he manages an array of projects inclusive of working with the 50+ population living strong with HIV.


Kneeshe Parkinson is a Saint Louis native.  She is a recent graduate with a bachelor’s in liberal studies with emphasis on sociology, psychology and gender studies from the University of Missouri Saint Louis. She is proud of the recent opportunity to be working with Empower Missouri were she is a graduate of the policy fellowship with Positive Women’s Network-USA (PWN) a program training and preparing participants to be effective advocates for policy change. In addition to being a PWN policy fellow, she is the PWN State Lead for Missouri.

Since 1997, Michael Smith has worked on two different programs concurrently: a cutting-edge program assisting People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWAs) addressing a variety of work, school, financial topics and concerns called The Phoenix Rising HIV/AIDS Re-entry Project ( and is a consultant at The Santa Fe Community Housing Trust’s HOPWA Homebuyer project, a unique program assisting PLWAs to stabilize their finances and obtain homeownership.

Michele Princeton has worked for the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland since 2006; her background includes Housing Case Management, Prevention Education, and Program Management. She has been repeatedly recognized for excellence in leading program development, service implementation, advocacy, and supportive counseling. She has served populations presenting a range of psychological disorders as well as emotional, behavioral, substance abuse and developmental challenges.

Miguel Ángel Delgado Ramos Lives in Cidra, Puerto Rico the town of eternal spring.  He has a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of the Sacred Heart in Santurce, PR. Is Co-Founder of the Association of Small Farmers of Rabanal, Inc. He has received medical services at COSSMA, Inc., a community health center since 2003 and joined his Board of Directors in 2014. In September 2018 he was awarded an scholarship by NMAC to  participate in the HIV 50+ Strong and Healthy Program.  Funded by NMAC and in collaboration with COSSMA, INC., and NeoMed Clínic, INC., develop the “VIHVIENDO Fuerte y Saludable” program aimed at HIV positive people over 50.


Paul KawataJuly 26, 2019 – NMAC Executive Director Paul Kawata has released the following statement on the revelation that the Border Patrol is separating children from parents living with HIV at the southern border.

“CBP’s decision to separate children based on their parents HIV status is wrong on multiple levels.”

“To start, HIV was removed as a ‘communicable disease’ to ban non-citizens from entering the U.S. nearly a decade ago. HIV can only be passed through vaginal or anal sex or injection drug use. These men and women are no risk to anyone they come into casual contact with.”

“Second, separating people living with HIV from their only support system is disastrous for their health, particularly in stressful and unstable conditions. This separation from their children could drastically impact their health.”

“Finally, we have serious concerns that those in custody living with HIV will receive the medical care they need. Long interruptions in care will endanger their health and their life.”

“NMAC calls on CBP to stop family separations based on HIV status and ensure that anyone in their custody living with HIV receive needed care.”

NMAC leads with race to urgently fight for health equity and racial justice to end the HIV epidemic in America. Since 1987, NMAC has advanced our mission through a variety of programs and services, including: a public policy education program, national and regional training conferences, a treatment and research program, numerous electronic and print materials, and a website: NMAC also serves as an association of AIDS service organizations, providing valuable information to community-based organizations, hospitals, clinics, and other groups assisting individuals and families affected by the HIV epidemic.