NASTAD at NAESM 2015: Why the Lives of Black Men Who Have Sex With Men Still Matter for Many

By Drew Daniels, Manager, Communications, NASTAD

More than 400 public health professionals, researchers and community advocates from all across the United States attended the National African American MSM Leadership Conference on HIV/AIDS and other Health Disparities sponsored by National AIDS & Education Service for Minorities (NAESM) in Atlanta, January 15-18, 2015.  With recent current events surrounding police brutality and racism, this year’s theme was “Leading the Movement: Pursuing Health Equity through Social Justice.” The conference focused on how to address health equity and utilize social justice in order to meet the challenge of improving the health of Black men who have sex with men (MSM).

Justin Rush, Nicholas A. Rango Fellow

Often times we are bombarded with brutal statistics about what HIV looks like for Black MSM. However, there are a ton of individuals doing work to help foster a sense of community and awareness around producing more positive health outcomes. For example, Justin Rush, Nicholas A. Rango Fellow here at NASTAD was presented with the Harold Philpot Award for his exceptional leadership skills and volunteer work in HIV prevention.

“I think the most important part that attendees and non-attendees should take away was the powerful display of youth who are willing to step in to take the torch to advance HIV prevention in new ways,” said Darwin Thompson, Director of Programs, NAESM.

Fitting perfectly with the theme of the conference, intersectionality of the lives Black MSM stood out through all of the presentations, workshops and networking opportunities. We had the opportunity to interact with leading professionals who focused on how Black MSM self-identify and navigate the intersection of health equity and social justice.

“It feels absolutely euphoric to have pulled off the 12th installment of this conference while doubling the number of conference attendees while still maintaining top notch customer service for each of the attendees,” Thompson said.

Recognizing Research Alone Isn’t Enough

NAESM presenters did an amazing job highlighting the fact that we cannot research our way out of the HIV epidemic. Many of the sessions focused specifically on how we, as public health organizations, researchers and community advocates, can focus more on factors that influence how Black MSM engage with across the continuum of HIV care. With HIV incidence rates steadily rising among young Black MSM (18-24) more than any other group, it is important for us to recognize the challenges and obstacles hindering Black MSM from achieving optimal health outcomes.

I attended a session hosted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Making Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) Work for Young Black MSM.” This session focused on the need to educate more Black MSM about PrEP. In addition to focusing on the research conducted, presenters discussed barriers and obstacles Black MSM face such as where to go to obtain a prescription, how to enroll in insurance and ways to pay for the medication. In another session, “Profile of Black MSM HIV+ Clients in an Inner City,” Dr. Wilbert Jordan from the Oasis Clinic at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles, CA highlighted various profiles of the population and examples of demographic and socioeconomic factors during a two year time period and how these findings correlated to their health outcomes.

Aligning Technology with HIV Strategies

It was clear that many public organizations are looking to grow their foot print into more social networking and digital media. Many of the presentations focused on ways we can engage Black MSM in the care continuum, and even how to infuse best practices for creating engaging online content strategies around prevention, retention and linkage to care. There were video presentations like the Greater Than AIDS #Speakout campaign that encouraged young Black MSM to tell personal stories and address how HIV is affecting their lives and community.  Through this campaign, individuals utilize the hashtag (#SpeakOutHIV) to share online videos and photos, and even encourage others to participate. Also, released a trailer of their new video project entitled “Positive Spin”. During many vignettes, participants living with HIV shared their stories to raise awareness of the stages of the HIV care continuum. These videos showed the power of digital storytelling to help emphasize the narrative that people living with HIV can live a long, healthy lives.

Attending my first conference with NAESM as a Manager, Communications I am very excited because I saw some innovative ways to help expand our work here at NASTAD. Many times we are challenged in how effectively our messages are being perceived. From state health departments to health care providers and community organizations, at NASTAD our programming has many, many layers. To communicate effectively we have to make sure our messages are concise and speak clearly to a range of audiences. From webinars to Twitter chats, reaching every audience will require different approaches. It’s important for me to not only recognize but analyze channels to understand how our key audiences want to receive these messages. While conducting our focus groups for the Center of Engaging Black MSM Across The Care Continuum, we learned that stories and experiences will be important to infuse in our outreach and marketing efforts.

The facts are clear that Black MSM continue to have the highest number of new HIV infections. Although I know we have much work ahead of us, this conference reminded me there are many, many individuals dedicated to ending this epidemic.  Everywhere you looked during the conference you could see evidence of resilience. It was in the faces of those passionate about findings in their dissertations. Resilience was found in community leaders’ exciting tone while explaining new effective intervention methods or new ways we can meet this population where they are by using social networking and digital media.

Together, as a community, we have to grow and believe the future is brighter because of the amazing work being done on a local, state and federal level. NAESM afforded us this opportunity to come together as a collective to convene, learn, network and engage with fellow peers. No matter the role, it was evident that those who participated in NAESM 2015 were in attendance because they want to see better health outcomes for Black MSM.

Where do you think public health professionals can

We want to hear from you! What other challenges and obstacles do you feel hinder Black MSM from achieving optimal health outcomes? Share your feedback in the comments section below.  

ADAP Crisis Task Force Announces Groundbreaking Agreement with AbbVie for Hepatitis C Treatment Viekira Pak™

ADAP Crisis Task Force Announces Groundbreaking Agreement with AbbVie for Hepatitis C Treatment Viekira Pak 

Contact:  Britten Pund

AbbVieJanuary 15, 2015, Washington, DC – The ADAP Crisis Task Force (Task Force) has reached a new pricing agreement between AbbVie and AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs) for Viekira Pak (ombitasvir/paritaprevir/ritonavir tablets; dasabuvir tablets) for the treatment of hepatitis C (HCV). AbbVie is the first company to offer a discount on the ADAP price of an HCV medication in the era of new curative HCV treatments. The agreed-upon ADAP price for Viekira Pak, negotiated between the Task Force and AbbVie, reflects voluntary discounts and rebates that are significantly lower than the wholesale acquisition cost (WAC).  While many ADAPs may not be able to add Viekira Pak to their formularies due to fiscal constraints, this agreement recognizes the importance of access to hepatitis C medications for people living with HIV and demonstrates good faith that access at a discounted price may lead to formulary inclusion. ADAPs make individual decisions about adding new medications to their formularies. Continue reading


By Drew Daniels, Manager, Communications, NASTAD

NASTAD is excited to announce that we will be in attendance at the 2015 National African American MSM Leadership Conference on HIV/AIDS and other Health Disparities. The conference is sponsored by National AIDS & Education Service for Minorities (NAESM), and focuses on how to address health equity and utilize social justice in order to meet the challenge of improving Black gay men’s health. The theme for this year’s conference is “Leading the Movement: Pursuing Health Equity through Social Justice.”

Follow NASTAD on Social Media
Connect with us on Twitter and Facebook to receive updates and key takeaways from the conference. Stay tuned to our blog for select program highlights after the conference as well.

Sessions and Seminars
We’re excited to have representatives from NASTAD and members of our advisory panel from Center for Engaging Black MSM Across the Care Continuum (CEBACC) present during the conference. If you’re in attendance, please be sure to attend one of the sessions:

Making it Reel: A Guide to Creating an Effective and Remarkable Personal Narrative
Blake Rowley & Patrick Ingram
Thursday, January 15 at 8:30 – 11:30 PM
Room: Narita

Creating a Powerful Black Gay Lobby 
Justin Rush
Thursday, January 15 at 8:30 – 11:30 PM
Room: Davinci II Institute
What’s Going on Online with Black Men Who Have Sex with Men (MSM): How Black MSM are Using Social Media
Meico Whitlock
Thursday, January 15 at 8:30 – 11:30 AM
Room: Templehoff

The Provocative Professor: Pornography as a tool for sex education and maintaining HIV-negative status among Young Black Men who have sex with men
Dr. Mitchell Wharton
Friday, January 16 at 10:15 – 11:45 AM
Room: Concourse A

Strengths and Deficits: Measuring HIV Knowledge and Young Black MSM
Dr. Mitchell Wharton
Saturday, January 17 at 10:15 – 11:45 AM
Room: Narita

Additional information about the conference and special events can be found here.

The Unspoken Legacy of Governor Mario M. Cuomo

By Julie M. Scofield, Executive Director, NASTAD

Former Governor Mario CuomoWhile some may choose to remember former Governor Mario M. Cuomo for the two chartered airplanes on the tarmac in December 1991 and a legacy lacking a signature initiative, I choose to remember the late Governor for setting the stage for Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s “Plan to End the AIDS Epidemic in New York State.” What has yet to be said in the news of Governor Cuomo’s passing is that in addition to a recession and divided legislature, Governor Mario M. Cuomo led New York State at the height of the AIDS epidemic when there was very little to offer those who were sick and dying rapidly. In 1983 when Governor Cuomo took office very little was known about AIDS – the case definition had just come out in September of 1982. By the end of Governor Cuomo’s first year in office, New York State had 1,373 cumulative cases of AIDS, 44.8% of the national total reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by that time. Continue reading

How Hackathons and Mobile Apps Can Help Change the Way We Do Health Care

By Shaan Michael Wade, Intern, Communications, NASTAD

Smartphones have revolutionized the way we communicate and live. Need to find the nearest grocery store? There’s an app for that. Can’t figure out what to wear? There’s an app for that too. The increasing popularity of smartphones greatly expands possibilities for phone-based behavioral interventions for HIV prevention and care. Although Android and iPhone users have hundreds of HIV/STD-related mobile apps to choose from, most fail to attract attention. These unsuccessful attempts at creating apps that resonate with the needs of target populations highlights a key issue in prevention and care services. As health department HIV programs nationwide are intensifying prevention, care, and treatment strategies to end the epidemic, hackathons may be another innovative tool at their disposal. Continue reading