Devin Barrington-Ward, vice chair of the CNAC board. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)
By Lou Chibbaro Jr.
A new national organization called CNAC: Advocates for Black Gay Men says it expected to increase the visibility of Black gay men on Capitol Hill this week during the nation’s largest annual constituent-based HIV/AIDS advocacy event.
The event, called AIDS-Watch, was expected to bring more than 350 people living with HIV and their allies from 30 states, Puerto Rico and D.C. to meet with members of Congress April 13-14. Participants planned to inform lawmakers about the key issues affecting people with HIV in the United States, according AIDS United, one of three national HIV/AIDS groups coordinating the lobbying.
Devin Barrington-Ward, vice chair of the CNAC board, said the objective of the new group is to provide legislative advocacy and to push political mobilization efforts for Black gay and bi-sexual men.
“CNAC aims to develop policy recommendations through networking with Black gay men and community leaders on both local and national levels,” a statement released by the group says.
The group’s website says CNAC stands for CRIBB National Advocacy Coalition. Barrington-Ward said CRIBB stands for Creating Responsible Intelligent Black Brothers, but he noted the group prefers to refer to itself as CNAC: Advocates for Black Gay Men.
He said the group’s participation in this year’s AIDS-Watch lobbying event comes at a time when Black men who have sex with men (MSM) continue to have the highest HIV infection rate among all groups at risk for HIV, according to data released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
CNAC kicked off its activities for the week on Sunday night at a dinner in downtown Washington in which D.C. Congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton was the key-note speaker.
“Congresswoman Norton gave a great address filled with history only a leader serving as long as she has would know,” Barrington-Ward told the Washington Blade. “She talked about how the plight of Black gay men cannot be ignored in our efforts to improve the lives of Black men in general.”
The other national groups joining AIDS United in organizing the AIDS Watch are Treatment Access Expansion Project and the U.S. People Living With HIV Caucus. The event is a project of the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation.