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Black AIDS Institute sets course for new vision and partnerships

Freddie Allen NNPA Newswire | 2/8/2018, midnight

As part of a new strategic plan to prepare for the next generation of Black HIV/AIDS response, the Black AIDS Institute announced several organizational changes, including the retirement of long-time president and CEO, Phill Wilson.

Wilson launched the Black AIDS Institute in 1999 with a clear mantra (“Our People, Our Problem, Our Solution”) and mission, “to stop the AIDS pandemic in Black communities by engaging and mobilizing Black leaders, institutions and individuals in efforts to confront HIV from a uniquely and unapologetically Black point of view.

“In order for a movement to endure, there must be a plan for the future,” said Wilson, in a statement. “Stepping down as the President and CEO of the Institute, where I have had the privilege of serving for the last 19 years, is bittersweet for me. I have been involved in this fight for almost my entire adult life.”

The statement continued: “In 1983, when I started doing this work, none of us could have imagined this mysterious new disease, first identified at U.C.L.A. Medical Center, would become the defining health issue of our generation. We are at a turning point. Are we are going to build on the remarkable advances we have made over the last decade and continue to push forward and finally end the HIV/AIDS epidemic or are we going to go back to the dark days of despair and death?”

In the statement Wilson said that the Institute is committed to doing everything in its power to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic, especially in Black communities.

“The time is right. The organization has the infrastructure and capacity to do the changes set forth by the Board to prepare for a new generation of capacity building, advocacy, mobilization and service delivery,” said Wilson. “I am very proud of the work we have done over the last 19 years and of the organization’s commitment to new leadership. That commitment is more important now than ever before.”

Ahead of the Curve

From the African American HIV University (AAHU) and Black Treatment Advocates Network, to the ground-breaking State of AIDS in Black America reports and acknowledgements of Black excellence at the annual Heroes in The Struggle Awards Gala, the Institute has been relentless in its focus on Black communities.

The organization enlisted Traditional Black Institutions, such as the NAACP, Black fraternities and sororities, Black journalists in mainstream media and Black-owned publications, and others, to commit to raising awareness, fighting stigma, increasing HIV/AIDS literacy and mobilizing Black people. It launched the Black Hollywood Task Force on HIV, currently co-chaired by Jussie Smollett, star of the FOX musical drama “Empire,” and veteran actress and humanitarian Vanessa Williams, to leverage the power of celebrity to amplify messages about prevention, testing, treatment and ending stigma.

“We have always been ahead of the curve in understanding HIV/AIDS and how it relates to the Black community,” says Institute Board Chair, Grazell Howard. “This change is a continuation of that legacy. The search for new executive leadership is a part of a new strategic plan. We have brought on new Board members like Representative Donna M. Christensen (retired), Dr. David Cook, David Munar and Gina Brown to help us with expand our policy work, our clinical services and add Black-women programs, respectively. We’ve also re-energized our Black Hollywood Task Force on AIDS with new ambassadors and supporters like Ledisi, Karamo Brown, Taraji P. Henson, Alfre Woodard and Van Jones.”