By Phill Wilson
Today we mark the 15th anniversary of the founding of The Black AIDS Institute.
In 1999, having survived the first of two near death experiences, I called a few friends and we decided, as Essex Hemphill put it, “to start an organization to save our lives”. We had no money, no offices and no real prospects. As my grandmother used to say, we didn’t have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of. But we did have an idea: We believed that if we were going to end the AIDS epidemic in Black communities, we had to figure out a way to get Black leaders, institutions, and individuals engaged in the battle in a robust way.
For 15 years the Institute has been sponsoring trainings, offering technical assistance, interpreting public- and private-sector HIV policies, disseminating information and providing advocacy and mobilization from a uniquely and unapologetically Black point of view.
It seems to me that it’s only fitting that an organization founded on the heels of Highly Affective Anti-retroviral Therapy (HAART) celebrate its 15th anniversary as the CDC releases guidelines for the implementation of pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV, or PrEP.
Just as HAART was the scientific breakthrough of the 1990s, PrEP and treatment as prevention are the scientific breakthroughs of this era. The Black AIDS Institute believes that PrEP, while not for everyone, is a critical addition to the anti-HIV/AIDS toolbox. Later in this issue, we share with you why we think PrEP is so important.
Tonight we will be celebrating our history and preparing for the battles yet to come by inducting actress and comic genius Mo’Nique, celebrated vocalist and HIV activist Jamar Rogers, arguably the world’s most influential HIV scientist Tony Faucci, and a company at the corner of happy and heal-thy, Walgreens, into the heroes in the struggle Hall of Fame.
Our work depends on your support. There are just a few hours left for you to enter the Drive Out AIDS, Win a New Car raffle. We cannot keep our doors open without your help. Please go to AIDSRaffle.org and buy your raffle ticket today.
In this issue we publish information about the new CDC guidelines as well as about viral hepatitis among African Americans. We tell you about a New York City workshop to help MSM connect with their mothers. And we provide you with an update on the rollout of the Affordable Care Act.
Yours in the struggle,