Why Black Lives Must Matter to End the HIV and Viral Hepatitis Epidemics

By Terrance Moore September 14, 2016

Since our founding in 1992, we at NASTAD (National Alliance of State & Territorial AIDS Directors) have worked tirelessly in partnership with governmental public health to meaningfully address the social determinants of health and reduce health inequities and stigma. Today, we take another step forward in this work by announcing our commitment to Black lives with our “Black Lives Matter Credo” and accompanying video below:

OUR COMMITMENT TO BLACK LIVES

Racism has imprinted a legacy of systemic injustices against Black people in the United States. The pervasive undercurrent of White privilege and supremacy exists in the form of obstructed economic, political, and social power for Black people in America. Discriminatory public and political infrastructure, including population health systems, prevents equitable health outcomes.

NASTAD believes that to impact the HIV and hepatitis epidemics, health departments must reframe public health approaches to include social justice action.

NASTAD commits to combatting health inequities in Black communities by mobilizing governmental HIV and hepatitis public health programs to engage in concerted social justice initiatives. As the voice of state and territorial HIV and hepatitis programs, NASTAD will develop multi-sectoral partnerships that support meaningful community engagement and address social policies that negatively affect the lives of Black people.

Actualizing the collective visions of NASTAD, the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, and the Viral Hepatitis Action Plan requires an intentional understanding and focus on the needs of Black communities.

In 2015, NASTAD began to leverage the #BlackLivesMatter movement to further advance another key social justice issue: the disproportionate impact (both in terms of incidence and mortality) of HIV and hepatitis among Black people here in the U.S. and abroad. As our Executive Director Murray Penner noted earlier this year, “Our staff and members continue to engage, examine, challenge, and rethink how centuries of social inequality, including racism and white supremacy, have provided the perfect storm for poor outcomes (health just being one of them) for Black people here at home and abroad. While this work requires an individual examination, we know that we have immeasurable opportunities to do the deep personal and systems-level work to break down structural inequalities that serve as barriers to high-quality.”

Through ongoing dialogue between staff, NASTAD continues to “wake ourselves”, by engaging in extended explorations of White supremacy and imperialism, linking these centuries old social structural frameworks to modern examples of poor health outcomes in Black communities. As our Black lives work continues, NASTAD staff is reimagining our approaches, messaging, everyday work, functions, and activities, including core trainings to examine and undo racism, and all other inequalities tethered to poor health outcomes.

As the voice of governmental public health HIV and viral hepatitis programs, NASTAD encouraged its members to engage in critical discussions about race as a means to improve health outcomes for Black people living with and at risk of HIV and hepatitis infection. The 2015 Annual Meeting served as the first major opportunity to strengthen member leadership in their states and communities through the sharing of tools, statements, and trainings. Other meetings such as the annual Prevention and Care Technical Assistance Meeting and webinars, provided additional venues for NASTAD to engage members, and explore opportunities for health departments to address HIV disparities within Black communities through a social justice framework.

This year, NASTAD members voted to update our mission and vision to reflect the important role that social action and justice play in achieving health equity for all and therefore helping us move toward ending HIV and viral hepatitis:

OUR MISSION

NASTAD’s mission is to end the intersecting epidemics of HIV, viral hepatitis, and related conditions by strengthening domestic and global governmental public health through advocacy, capacity building, and social justice.

OUR VISION

NASTAD's vision is a world free of HIV and viral hepatitis.

The last two words in our mission are significant. In this era of rapid advances in science and practices, we know that programs are only as good as they are able to rigorously challenge the seemingly insurmountable constellation of social and structural inequalities the weaken our HIV and hepatitis prevention and care arsenal. While challenging, our goal is clear: all programs, implementers, partners, policy makers and other key stakeholders must continue to stretch (both intellectually and in application) to break down barriers for all populations, especially those profoundly and disproportionately impacted by HIV and hepatitis, both here at home and abroad.

Terrance Moore is a health policy expert who has been living with HIV since 2001. Terrance is also the Deputy Executive Director at the NASTAD.