Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Prevention Justice in the Age of Obama, pt. 1

We have 8 years to push our agenda

by Charles Stephens
Read more from Charles on LifeLube

The way I figure it, we have 8 years to push our agenda before the country swings back right. What do I mean by that? Well historically speaking, or at least for the past 50 years, a two-term President is usually followed by someone of the opposing party. The exception being George H.W.Bush. And the way the Republicans are going, their likely nominee in 2016, that’s assuming that Obama can get re-elected in 2012, will be right-wing conservative. It appears that the Party has had their fill of mavericks, moderates, and sensible Republicans. Although some will say there is no such thing as a “sensible Republican.”

That being said, we have a prime opportunity, as HIV preventionists, to push our agenda and have some solid victories.

Part of our agenda should be strengthening the coordination of our efforts nationally, if not globally.

Even the smallest and most local of AIDS Service Organizations should see themselves in a national context. What if, for example, there are particular organizations or groups, that are renowned, resourced, and skilled in a particular area? Let's say social marketing. What if we had that group skilled in social marketing take the lead on a national social marketing campaign for gay men. I have seen, especially with gay men, some really wonderful local campaigns. But none nationally.

Or if a group or organization, has a demonstrated history in policy and advocacy, why don’t we have them develop a national advocacy agenda and plan for all of us? Or if an organization or group has an absolute expertise in leadership development, have them replicate it nationally?

There are lots of groups, doing lots of great work. However, I wonder what it would look like if we singled out and supported particular groups that have the capacity based on infrastructure, resources, past success, and willingness to work, to take the lead on particular areas nationally. That does not mean that all groups have to stop doing the work they are doing and bow out. I’m just suggesting that if there were a coordinated effort nationally, we could have certain groups take the lead on specific areas for a national front.

I acknowledge the particulars and regional context of prevention. I know what works in Seattle might not work in Nashville.

However, perhaps there are some things that can be replicated nationally, and those are the things we can focus on, like for example a de-stigmatizing social marketing campaign for gay men.

By better coordinating our efforts, we would be more effective overall. In terms of funding for a more coordinated national effort, it might be -- and I know some of this is being done already with the US government -- working with and challenging some of the larger foundations to better prioritize domestic HIV prevention efforts. Or partnerships with the private sector.

Another area for growth in our work and our movement is in skills building.

The professional HIV world still looks like a plantation. The top is still very white, the bottom is still very black, especially for black gay men.

Black gay men are far too often trapped and tracked into outreach worker and program positions, and not nearly enough into policy, research, and executive management positions, especially in the larger organizations.

I insist, to remedy this, that there be professional development funds available for groups disproportionately impacted by HIV to create more professional development.

And not just money for applying to the United States Conference on AIDS and other conference. No, there should be an actual fund, that people can apply to for assistance in attending conferences, continuing education, purchasing computers, and other resources that facilitate professional development. Maybe even a fellowship for gay men of color, black and latino, for higher education in public health, public administration, business, etc. We have gotten better at having black gay men and other marginalized groups at the table. However, without substantial skills sharing and knowledge building, they are not able to maximize their position at the table. Either their expertise gets narrowed to “community representative,” or they are only seen and relegated to their demographic.

Finally, and most importantly for HIV prevention in the age of Obama, we need to document everything.

We need a blueprint. Those that come after us should be able to find, with relative ease, the lessons we have learned, and best practices we have discovered. Our success isn’t just what we do in the present, but how those that come after us are able to build on the foundation we have set.

Charles Stephens is an Atlanta-based writer and organizer.
Check out his blog.

1 comment:

  1. Great blog, Charles. I agree that there is a lot of duplication of effort and not enough opportunity to "take" campaigns or other interventions from a central site or "supplier." Your point regarding limited numbers of black gay men in high level policy, research and management positions is also spot on. I think the idea of a fund to support professional development should be adopted as a goal of the gay men's health agenda.


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