February 11, 2015 at 12:58 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
White House addresses HIV among black MSM
ONAP, gay news, Washington Blade

ONAP Director Douglas Brooks hosted a meeting about the high HIV infection rates in black MSM. (Photo courtesy White House)

The director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy and an official with a global pharmaceutical company released details at a White House meeting on Feb. 4 of two new initiatives aimed at curtailing the high rate of new HIV infections among black gay and bisexual men.

ONAP Director Douglas Brooks, who hosted the meeting, and Bill Collier, who heads the North American operation for the multi-national pharmaceutical firm ViiV Healthcare, discussed the two initiatives, which were launched separately last week by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and ViiV Healthcare.

Among those attending the meeting, which was billed as a roundtable discussion, were community leaders and federal government officials who work on HIV/AIDS related issues, according to a statement published on the HHS website AIDS.com. The event was closed to the media.

The statement says the event was timed to coincide with National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, which took place two days later on Feb. 7.

The statement says Collier “announced a $10 million multi-year investment by the company to advance concerted community responses to the HIV epidemic among black gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) in Baltimore, Md., and Jackson, Miss.”

Collier told the gathering his company’s initiative would operate as a public-private partnership to support “the engagement of numerous stakeholders in developing and applying community-driven strategies to improve access to and retention in quality HIV care for black MSM, who bear a disproportionate burden of HIV,” the statement says.

He said the project has been named ACCELERATE!

A separate statement released by ViiV Healthcare says the company chose to launch the project in Baltimore and Jackson because they are among the U.S. cities hit hardest by HIV/AIDS, especially among MSM of color.

Brooks and Ronald Valdiserri, the Assistant Secretary for Health/Infectious Diseases, briefed those attending the roundtable event on a separate initiative announced earlier that day by HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the statement says. That initiative, according to Burwell’s announcement, consists of a four-year demonstration project intended to address HIV disparities among MSM of color.

“The cross-agency project, ‘Developing Comprehensive Models of HIV Prevention and Care Services for MSM of Color,’ will support community-based models that provide gay men of color with the health and social services they need to live healthy lives free of HIV infection,” the HHS statement released on AIDS.com says.

“For those already infected, the program will support community-based services that help MSM of color get diagnosed, linked to and retained in culturally competent medical, care – including, when called for, substance abuse and mental health treatment as well as necessary social services, like stable housing,” the statement says.

The statement says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention along with other HHS agencies federal partners would play the lead role in carrying out the new initiative.

A spokesperson for the White House Office of National AIDS Policy couldn’t immediately be reached to obtain an official list of those who attended the Feb. 4 roundtable gathering.

Sources familiar with the event said among those in attendance, in addition to Brooks and Collier, were Ernest Hopkins, A. Cornelius Baker, and Ronald Johnson, who represented the National Black Gay Men’s Advocacy Coalition. Hopkins and Johnson also serve as officials with the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the national group AIDS United respectively.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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