Nowell Asks “Where is the African American/Black Representation?” At The National HIV Prevention Conference 2011 (Atlanta, GA)

By Rashaan Lamar Nowell MDiv
Intervention Specialist

I was sitting in a room of almost 3000 People and I began to look around. I wanted to see faces like mine, people who resembled me. To my surprise in this group of some 3000 people there was only, what I would call a “handful” of African American/Black people there. The reason this bothers me is because volunteering and working in this field I know where the higher rates of HIV infection are. African American/Black gay and Bisexual Men and African American/Black Women are the highest group to be affected and infected by this epidemic but we aren’t represented adequately here at this conference.

​As I sit and listen to the presenters I realize that the experts are white American men and one women of Indian descent, and they are all giving statistics on HIV and things we should be doing to help in the fight. They were talking about how money is being pulled from one place and being given to other places to help with work to help prevent and stop the spread of HIV. So some people have to suffer because there are more infections being found in other places. One presenter began to talk about the new campaign that the CDC is doing and who was the face and archetype for the campaign, all different types of AA/B gay Men. That says a lot.

​I understand, this group understands that there is a work to be done and we all know who is being affected the most by HIV. The new infections is the highest among Young gay and Bisexual men with the highest rates being in the AA/Black group. With all that we know I wonder why we don’t have more AA/Black Men and women represented here or working in the field? It’s affecting us but we aren’t the ones fighting the battle. Someone else is taking it more seriously than we are. It’s heartbreaking and it saddens me that all of the experts are white and don’t represent even in the least bit the ones who need the help most. This was further fostered when participating in another workshop on stigma with MSM when all of the presenters where white and one Hispanic but all were talking about what was going on in the AA/Black gay and Bisexual Men’s community. So I am guessing they couldn’t find any my people to talk about what’s going on in our community.

​I left today Shaking my head in disbelief, excited about the work that I do. But wondering where are experts, the doctors, the workers that are African American/Black and Gay Men who can speak intelligently and passionately about this. There is a lack of representation for some reason. This fight is affecting the AA/Black gay men and heterosexual Black Women’s community, we need more of our people to begin to take up the cause and run with it, We need more representation.

The 2011 National HIV Prevention Conference was held August 14-17 in Atlanta at the Hyatt Regency Hotel and the Marriott Marquis hotels. The conference organizers are committed to ensuring that this conference contributes to achieving the three primary goals defined in that plan that include reducing the number of people who become infected with HIV, Increasing access to care and improving health outcomes for people living with HIV and, Reducing HIV-related health disparities.