Love Letter to Black Women

Our movement lost another giant. I dedicate this e-newsletter to Dr. Stephaun E. Wallace. Dr. Wallace was the Director of External Relations of both the COVID-19 Prevention Network (CoVPN) and the HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN) based at Fred Hutch, a Staff Scientist in the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division (Fred Hutch),  a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Global Health at the University of Washington, and Director of the Office of Community Engagement in the University of Washington/Fred Hutch Center for AIDS Research. The 2024 Biomedical HIV Prevention Summit is in Seattle at his urging. Please join us to honor his legacy on April 18-19, 2024, in Seattle at the Hyatt Regency.

There is too much loss and pain. I look forward to hugging everyone at this year’s United States Conference on HIV/AIDS. Between Braidwood, Tennessee, House HIV budget cuts, and the ongoing weaponization of the communities hardest hit by HIV, particularly the transgender community, the world sometimes feels out of control. This year’s USCHA is a love letter to ALL Black Women. The spark was to honor Kim Ferrell, NMAC’s Deputy Director for Operations, but it was never limited to her. USCHA will celebrate and send love to all the cis and trans Black Women in our movement, and remember those who have gone too soon, current leaders on the frontline, and the next generation stepping up to end the HIV epidemic.

As you have seen in the past, I am an extreme control queen. Usually, I micromanage the smallest details; however, last year in San Juan I learned the importance of letting go so Puerto Rican staff and constituents could lead. This year’s USCHA was turned over to Black women leaders on our staff, board, community advisory boards and constituents. The 2023 meeting was envisioned, planned, and executed entirely by Black Women. As a result, I can honestly say it is going to be amazing. This will be one for the record books that should not be missed. We want you to be surprised so we are not sharing everything in advance.

As an ally, you will see me at the meeting, but I will not be speaking. The stage is for Black Women. There are also sacred spaces only for Black Women like the Black Women’s Summit. Women need to talk and share in gatherings that are safe and confidential. I’m asking all men, cis and trans, to show up as allies without mansplaining your way into the room. Please do not complain that the meeting is not about you. Think of all the gatherings that women sit through that focus primarily on men. USCHA has workshops and sessions on all the communities highly impacted by HIV. Check out the agenda.

The Federal Plenary will include speakers from the White House, HHS, CDC, HRSA, NIH, HUD, SAMHSA, and the FDA to update our movement on efforts to end the HIV epidemic. These agencies were asked to identify Black Women leaders to make these presentations. Too often it is only men who speak, this year we will be joined by

  • Dr. Kaye Hayes, HHS
  • Dr. Robyn Neblett Fanfair, CDC
  • Ms. Yemisi Odusanya, HRSA
  • Dr. Mary Roary, SAMHSA
  • Dr. Janine Clayton, NIH

While it should not be revolutionary, I don’t recall a Federal Plenary that only had Black Women. It is important for men to show up and listen and be the allies that our movement needs us to be, especially right now. All of us are targets in the culture wars. Our ability to stand together and fight starts by supporting and learning about the communities highly impacted by HIV. Black women are 20 times more likely than white women to get HIV. This year’s meeting will celebrate and educate about the diversity of Black Women fighting to end the HIV epidemic.

Yours in the Struggle,

Paul Kawata

Paul Kawata