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Summit on Black Lives: Black America’s Response to the HIV/AIDS Epidemic
Guillaume Bagal
Guillaume Bagal
Public Policy Associate

February 08, 2017

I recently attended the Summit on Black Lives, a two-day gathering in DC of Black HIV/AIDS public policy experts. It was hosted by the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC)/http://nbjc.org/), in collaboration with the National Black Gay Men’s Advocacy Coalition, SisterLove(http://www.sisterlove.org/), National Black Women’s HIV/AIDS Network(http://www.nbwhan.org/), and the Global Network of Black People Working in HIV(http://www.gnbph.com/). While the purpose was to start shaping Black America’s HIV/AIDS health policy agenda for the Trump Administration, this meeting had a much deeper significance to me, and I suspect many others present as well.  It was inspiring to witness the deep expertise and experience summoned under one roof, and to be a part of the cross-generational knowledge transfer that took place.

As we continue to ride these waves of uncertainty, it was refreshing to have leaders such as Debra Fraser-Howze and Cornelius Baker present to remind us that we have experienced setbacks before, and to remind us that the troubled history of our nation attests to the resilience of Black America.  We framed our conversations around current efforts to repeal the ACA, the “archived” status of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, and the possible future of the Ryan White Care Act and the Federal Budget, recognizing the disproportionate impact these emerging policy issues will have on the Black population.  We discussed strategies to help guide the Black community in response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, emphasizing that public policy be informed by what is going on at the grassroots level, and making good use of available data.

Through speakers’ presentations, group discussions, and other activities, we identified gains made under the Obama Administration and explored ways to safeguard them.  We discussed the need to find allies within the Trump Administration and Republican Congress.  Intersectional collaborations were proposed to strengthen our policy strategy, as well as potential funding sources to support this advocacy work.  In addition to finding support in the private sector, and organizations such as historically Black fraternities and sororities, and major HIV services and advocacy organizations like Whitman-Walker Health.

A snapshot of NBJC’s Summit on Black Lives.
As a Black gay man engaged in LGBT and HIV-related volunteering in the DMV area prior to joining Whitman-Walker Health, I am aware of the feeling among many in the Black community that Whitman-Walker could and should do significantly more for Black people, especially since African-Americans are the racial/ethnic group most affected by HIV in our nation.  Having acknowledged the internal and community work that needs to be done to address racial inequities, Whitman-Walker looks forward to stepping up to the plate, and lending its resources and expertise to address a public health issue so inextricably intertwined with the racism that has influenced our political system, economy, laws and criminal justice system.

This was the first of a series of convenings that NBJC will be organizing in the coming months to address specific policies around the treatment and prevention of HIV in the Black community, to identify support and access gaps, and to create a pipeline of leaders in the field.  The National Black Justice Coalition should be commended for creating this space of strategy and action, where the historic context brought by many attendees clarified the impact that history has had on the current epidemic, and how it should shape our response.  I left the summit humbled by the breadth of expertise represented, and feeling better equipped to engage in the work ahead of us.

The Summit was hosted by the National Black Justice Coalition, February 3-4, 2017, Washington, DC.

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