There is little doubt that Barack Obama’s election presents not only a historic moment for black America, but one filled with enormous potential for change. As outlined in the State of AIDS in Black America section of this report, the new administration and Congress face grave challenges, but also great opportunities to revive black America’s health. The same can be said of our community’s mobilization to end AIDS.
Our community has never been as well positioned to act on this epidemic as it is at the start of 2009. From politics to popular culture, there is no disputing that black leaders have accepted the reality that AIDS is our problem, and that it cannot be solved without our hard work. That’s an intellectual and emotional step that creates great potential.
Realizing our potential, however, will require far greater resources than are currently available. It will require black organizations to dedicate more of their existing resources—in time, money and priorities—to the epidemic. It will require black individuals to dedicate more of their personal resources. And it will require both public and private funders who care about AIDS to offer far greater and far more meaningful support to the work of black leaders.
The National Black AIDS Mobilization
In 2006, 16 traditional black institutions, in conjunction with the Black AIDS Institute, launched the National Black AIDS Mobilization, by signing on to the National Call to Action and Declaration of Commitment to End the AIDS Epidemic in Black America (see www.BlackAIDS.org for text and list of signatories). The 16 institutions are not typical AIDS organizations—those that have been working hard to provide services, spread the message and birddog policymakers since the epidemic’s start. These groups, many of which have histories that span generations, were founded to meet a wide range of communal needs and concerns; they have now added AIDS to their work.
For the first stage of the mobilization, 12 of the 16 participating organizations completed strategic action plans in 2007. As of the beginning of 2008, the members of the Black AIDS Mobilization had committed, through their strategic action plans, to achieve the following benchmarks in the next five years:
*250,000 black people brought into HIV counseling, testing and linkages to care;
*77,450 black people reached with HIV health-education materials;
*600 HIV health-education events and forums held, focusing on HIV prevention, education, treatment and care. These events will particularly focus on stigma and discrimination;
*72 markets targeted with billboard campaigns;
*30 public service announcements produced and aired; and
*30 short television series focusing on HIV/AIDS in black America.
This chapter provides an update on the commitments each of the mobilization members have made and on the progress and barriers they have encountered over the last year.
New Resources from Washington
At this report’s writing, a significant development stood on the horizon for 2009 that has the potential to increase the capacity of several mobilization partners: A CDC initiative to support new staff positions for Black organizations that have added AIDS to their work.
In Fall 2008, the CDC solicited proposals for its ACT Against AIDS Leadership Initiative. The initiative, a part of the CDC’s Heightened National Response to HIV/AIDS among African Americans, was designed to build mobilization efforts within the black community by strengthening and extending the reach of community groups. The CDC initiative’s goals align with those of the National Black AIDS Mobilization:
*Reduce HIV incidence in the black community;
*Increase the number of black Americans who know their HIV status;
*Increase the number of HIV positive people who are in appropriate treatment and care; and
*Reduce stigma in the black community.
Through the CDC’s initiative, several National Black AIDS Mobilization partners may get funding to hire an HIV/AIDS project coordinator and support the projects laid out in each of their strategic plans. The CDC will target funding at projects that increase HIV awareness; drive HIV testing and get people into care; coordinate and facilitate HIV prevention; and develop, maintain, and support partnerships among community groups.
This initiative represents a welcome, much needed advancement in the federal commitment to fighting AIDS in black communities.
It’s Not Enough
While the new CDC initiative offers much needed support, it does not nearly meet the full need. The initiative itself is limited in scope and duration: It offers funding only through September 2009, with no guarantee that the support will continue thereafter.
Further, there remain questions about how much of the CDC’s overall resources are going directly to support the work of black organizations. The CDC has said that nearly half of its domestic HIV/AIDS prevention budget is targeted at fighting HIV in the black community, meaning the agency set aside just under $370 million for the effort in fiscal year 2008. But only $30 million went directly to community based organizations in 2007.
The vast majority of the money that CDC targets to the black community goes directly to state and local health departments. Further, many critics argue that the health departments and AIDS service organizations that obtain the majority of CDC’s prevention funding lack either the will or the competency to effectively mobilize, partner with and gain the trust of the black community.
It must also been noted, however, that the Heightened National Response was launched at a time of drastic budget cuts for domestic AIDS work of all sorts: Over the last five years, the CDC’s HIV prevention budget has been cut by nearly 20 percent (in real dollar terms). The reality is that the money for the Heightened National Response does not represent new money budgeted for the effort, but rather a realignment of existing, insufficient resources. If the CDC’s Heightened National Response is to generate real change, Congress and the new administration must pump significantly more money into the CDC’s HIV prevention work, and the agency must in turn direct that money toward traditional black institutions.
To read an update on each of the 16 groups, download a PDF of the full report here.