NBJC Hosts Important Gathering of Black National Stakeholders to Strategize an End to the HIV/AIDS Epidemic in Black Communities
WASHINGTON, DC – On September 18-19, 2017, the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) convened a core group of leaders from across the country near the nation’s capital for a critically important meeting focused on the spread and impact of HIV/AIDS on Black families. African American communities continue to be disproportionately impacted by the disease. Entitled the Convening of Black National Stakeholders, which is part of NBJC’s Summit on Black Lives: Black America’s Response to the HIV/AIDS Epidemic, the convening brought together influential Black advocates and leaders, media personalities and policymakers to set the foundation for a comprehensive path forward to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Black communities.
David J. Johns, Executive Director of NBJC, released the following statement regarding the Summit on Black Lives convening and the importance of centering Black families in this work:
“African Americans represent about 12 percent of the U.S. population, yet our communities continue to be disproportionately impacted by HIV, making up 45 percent of the new HIV cases annually, with Black gay, bisexual and same gender loving men, and transgender women, carrying most of the burden. Since the emergence of the virus in the early 1980s, our loved ones and families have represented the face of this disease. Today this reality is still the case as our communities continue to be vastly underserved and often lack the resources to access culturally competent health care to protect themselves or get treated. More substantial than the physical toll this disease takes on a person living with HIV/AIDS, our families and communities have been gripped with a perpetual stigma about HIV that threatens us holistically. As an organization dedicated to the empowerment of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and same gender loving (LGBTQ/SGL) people, including people living with HIV/AIDS, NBJC has a responsibility to push this issue to the center of the national agenda for Black America as too many in our own families have been left behind and rendered invisible. Our mission with the Summit on Black Lives series is to educate and mobilize the diverse pockets of leadership in our communities to come together and produce a comprehensive, collective, Black-centered response. This is hard work, but building bridges and being a part of the healing process for Black people to thrive is what we must passionately demand from one another.”
A key goal of the convening was to bring together Black influencers that do not work directly on HIV/AIDS issues but are committed to making this work central to their own efforts to empower Black people. During the summit, leaders heard from special guests vested in this work to center the most impacted parts of Black families and communities in the fight to end HIV/AIDS including Susan Taylor of CARES Mentoring Movement and ESSENCE magazine, Linda Villarosa of The New York Times Magazine (Contributing Writer, “America’s Hidden HIV Epidemic”), Keith Boykin author of Beyond The Down Low and CNN political commentator and Angela Rye of Impact Strategies and also CNN political commentator. During the summit, NBJC launched a new initiative entitled MUAH: Mothers United Against HIV/AIDS, which will serve as a campaign that organizes Black mothers and mother-figures in advocacy efforts nationally to end HIV/AIDS in Black families. In addition, the work of faith communities was highlighted during an important plenary session which included Bishop Yvette Flunder of City of Refuge UCC (Oakland, CA), Dr. Howard-John Wesley, Pastor of Alfred Street Baptist Church (Alexandria, VA) and Dr. Delman Coates, Senior Pastor of Mt. Ennon Baptist Church (Clinton, MD).
Serving as the honorary co-chairs for the Convening of Black National Stakeholders, Dr. Paulette C. Walker, Immediate Past National President of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and Thomas L. Battles, Jr., Grand Polemarch of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., released the following statement explaining why they joined the effort:
“This convening is of utmost importance to both of us as there is an urgent need for Black leadership on the national, state and local levels to unite and define Black America’s response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The well-documented statistics that have long shown high rates of new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths among the Black populace absolutely require an all-hands-on-deck approach to reach the most impacted parts of our communities. We must promote the life-saving importance of prevention, treatment and care to reduce risks of HIV infection for Black gay and bisexual men, cisgender and transgender women, and heterosexual men and women, as well as among people who inject drugs. In addition, it is imperative that as leaders within our families, communities and nation that we are intentional to promote routine testing for HIV, and to encourage the need to maintain medical care to treat HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases to keep our communities healthy.”
In April, NBJC led a broad coalition of 44 civil rights and health advocacy organizations in sending a comprehensive public policy letter to the Trump Administration and Congress to center the lives of African Americans in the nation’s fight to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The Convening of Black National Stakeholders was another step to build power to pressure elected officials and other policymakers to stop efforts to cut or harm programs that play a significant role in moving our nation closer to a day when new HIV infections are rare or non-existent. NBJC will continue to serve community by bringing deeply impacted community partners together focused on the Black populace, and health and wellness issues in Black communities, including the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The Summit on Black Lives series and advocacy efforts are designed to facilitate collaborative dialogue and engagement among Black-led and centered organizations, community leaders, policymakers and individuals to heighten efforts to end the epidemic with urgency.
Johns added: “As our national leaders continue to debate the future structure of the health care system with the current Graham-Cassidy ACA repeal effort, it is imperative that the needs of Black people living with HIV/AIDS—and those at-risk—are central to this discourse. The essential programs that have been developed over the course of several Administrations in the fight to end HIV/AIDS and the expansion of access to healthcare for millions of Americans needs to be bolstered—not dismantled. The leaders and organizations that gathered at this summit have committed to educating and mobilizing our communities to collectively shift the culture in our families that stigmatizes HIV/AIDS and demand the tangible life-saving resources to eradicate HIV and the spread of the disease in our communities.”