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, AIDS.gov 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.  

NASTAD at NAESM 2015

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

AIDS.gov 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.

Year in Review: Renewing our Commitment to Public Health

By Dawn Fukuda, Director, Office of HIV/AIDS, Massachusetts Department of Public Health and NASTAD Chair (Outgoing)

Dawn Fakuda

Director, Office of HIV/AIDS, Massachusetts Department of Public Health and NASTAD Chair

As I began my tenure as chair of the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD) in May 2013, I was full of energy and optimism. January 1st of 2014 was close at hand, and represented a massive new opportunity to invigorate our response to the HIV and viral hepatitis epidemics through the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

I was confident based on our experience with state health care reform in my home state of Massachusetts that increased access to medical care through broader insurance coverage would translate into health promotion and disease prevention outcomes that would advance our progress along the HIV Care Continuum. I remain steadfast in my belief that integrating an HIV and viral hepatitis response into primary medical care and reimbursable health services is the way to sustain our efforts into the future; yet the mechanics of the ACA roll out over the past year also provide a striking reminder of the essential and non-transferrable role of public health.

Continue reading

Viral Hepatitis Prevention Coordinators Convene in DC

By Ronald Valdiserri, M.D., M.P.H., Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health, Infectious Diseases, and Director, Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Cross-posted from AIDS.gov

Drs. Ron Valdiserri, Ellie McCance-Katz, and John Ward dicussing federal viral hepatitis initiatives with Viral Hepatitis Prevention Coordinators from across the country.

Drs. Ron Valdiserri, Ellie McCance-Katz, and John Ward dicussing federal viral hepatitis initiatives with Viral Hepatitis Prevention Coordinators from across the country.

Last week I had the opportunity to discuss the federal response to viral hepatitis with some of our key allies in the states: the CDC-funded Adult Viral Hepatitis Prevention Coordinators who had assembled in Washington, DC for the third National Hepatitis Technical Assistance meeting organized and hosted by the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD). Continue reading

NASTAD is Ready for USCA!

By Meico Whitlock, Senior Manager, Communications

USCA 2013Every year since 1988, the National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC) has convened the annual United States Conference on AIDS (USCA). USCA brings together service providers, healthcare professionals, advocates, people living with HIV/AIDS, and policymakers.

This year, conference will be hosted in New Orleans, Louisiana and the focus will be on two major themes: the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs) and the need to improve the continuum of HIV care. The conference will also devote special attention to HIV/AIDS in the southern region of the U.S. Continue reading