NMAC’s mission calls on us to lead with race. What does that mean? What is NMAC trying to accomplish?
NMAC’s urgency is in the numbers. Black women are 20 times more likely to contract HIV than white women. Fifty percent of black gay men will contract HIV by the time they are 35 (eight percent of white gay men are living with HIV). Even with quality HIV services, the results for many black women and gay men of color are awful. What are we doing or not doing that makes HIV so racially polarized?
Leading with race for NMAC means:
- Normalize discussion about race within the HIV movement.
- Bend the curve of new HIV diagnoses.
- Retain people of color living with HIV in care.
Normalize Discussions on Race
Working with a mix of new partners and old friends, NMAC hopes to normalize discussion on race in the HIV movement. Rather than reinvent the wheel, NMAC will partner with organizations that have fought for racial justice and health equity since Selma and call upon their years of experience and proven track records to support NMAC’s race discussions. Allies will be very important.
Bend the Curve of New HIV Diagnoses
One in 16 black men will receive a positive HIV diagnosis. Is it time to rethink America’s HIV prevention agenda? What is the tipping point or when is there too much virus in a community so behavior interventions won’t be very effective? Maybe it’s time to focus on reducing the amount of the virus in a community. Some will say this is heresy, but we’ve done various behavioral interventions for over 30 years and acheived this result. If we want a different result, maybe it’s time to approach this challenge differently and with more urgency. We have to do something in order to slow and eventually stop the epidemic from growing.
Retain People of Color Living with HIV in care
Not only are African Americans and Latinos more likely to be living with HIV, they are also less likely to stay in care once diagnosed. Studies show the challenge is not about enrollment but retention. HIV is a complicated disease that needs to be continually monitored.
Maybe it’s time to focus on the healthcare systems. The outcomes for most people living with HIV who stay in care are excellent. Why are people of color not retained in care? Most clinics and doctors want to do the right thing, but the numbers don’t lie. Something is wrong and it needs to be fixed.
We Don’t Have All the Answers…
Our prevention and health care systems are usually not discriminatory, but the outcomes are definitely less than equitable. Our movement was not created to end racism, so what can we do? There has to be some middle ground between the current results and solving race relations. This is our journey.
This summer, NMAC will bring leaders in the fight to end racism together with HIV leaders. Our epidemic will not wait for solutions to the world’s problems, where is the middle ground. How can the HIV community retain 25 percent more people of color living with HIV in care? NMAC’s goal by 2020 is for health equity. The color of your skin should not determine your HIV health outcome.
We are also fighting for racial justice. Your race should not be the determining factor for your risk of HIV. It’s time to change our focus. NMAC doesn’t want to get rid of behavioral interventions, but we want the HIV prevention priority to be reducing the amount of the virus in minority communities.