While HIV/AIDS is global in reach, it is extremely local in impact. People get infected (or not) in local communities. They get tested (or not) in local communities. They get treated (or not) in local communities. Everything about HIV happens in local communities. Any effort to end the epidemic has to be centered in local communities.
We are very excited to introduce our first BAW issue focusing on our Black Treatment Advocate Network, or BTAN. BTAN chapters are coalitions of local stakeholders, including representatives from health departments, ASOs/CBOs, clinical providers, essential service providers, other stakeholders, people at high risk of HIV infection and, of course, people living with HIV/AIDS. The sole purpose of BTAN chapters is to focus attention on the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Black communities by raising awareness about the magnitude of the epidemic, increasing treatment and prevention knowledge, building efforts to respond to both the HIV challenges and opportunities facing Black communities.
All the talk about ending the AIDS epidemic in the United States is futile if we don’t have the capacity and the commitment on the ground. This is hard work. It’s hard work to create; it’s hard work to build; it’s hard work to sustain. But there are no other alternatives. We are so proud of the BTAN chapters that are highlighted in this issue, as well as our BTAN chapters around the country.
Today we share several stories that will give you a sense of what our local BTANs have been up to over the past year. We open with a piece about the post AIDS 2016 update led by the BTAN chapter in Charlotte, which has identified the role that faith communities can play in reducing stigma, as well as providing safe spaces for HIV prevention and community engagement.
The BTAN in Melbourne, Florida has also been working with faith institutions. We run a conversation between that chapter’s co-chairs and the pastor of a local Church of God in Christ about their success in collaborating with each other. We are proud of the new BTAN in Dallas, where organizers have not only held a PrEP Summit but also have been working to ensure that women and girls don’t get left behind.
In BTAN Broward the co-chairs were honored for their longstanding commitment to ending the epidemic. This summer they also held a large concert/testing event. Finally one of our friends from BTAN Cincinnati shares why he became active in the movement to end HIV/AIDS—and how we can expand BTAN’s footprint through partnerships.
If you’re interested in getting involved in a BTAN chapter near you—and we hope you are—please contact our mobilization manager Erica Lillquist at (213) 353-3610, ext. 117.
Yours in the struggle, Phill