December 21, 2011
About a month ago Jeff Crowley, the director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, announced that he would be leaving his post at the end of this year. Jeff has done a remarkable job in a very short period of time. He has spearheaded the development, launch and the beginning of the implementation of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy -- the first HIV/AIDS strategy in the 30-year history of the epidemic. He has worked tirelessly to provide unprecedented access to the White House for AIDS activists. He has made sure that HIV/AIDS has been appropriately prioritized in the conversations among policymakers in Washington, D.C. Jeff is also an unwavering friend and advocate on behalf of Black Americans already living with HIV, at risk for infection and/or working to end the AIDS epidemic.
Filling his shoes will not be easy. But as in all wars, when a comrade leaves the battlefield, he or she must be backfilled immediately or we risk losing ground. The White House is working feverishly to replace Mr. Crowley. We hope that a new director can be in place before Jeff actually leaves the building. And we need to think about what kind of person the next director of ONAP should be in order to fill that position effectively.
Without a doubt given the demographic of the AIDS epidemic today, the time has come for there to be a Black gay man living with HIV running that office. We have had Black women; we have had White women; we have had White gay men. The position has never been held by a Black gay man and has never been held by a person who's living with HIV. The person needs to understand and be committed to the National HIV/AIDS Strategy -- this is no time for on-the-job training. The person needs to be intimately involved with and engaged in the communities most at risk for HIV, and the person needs both to have experience and relationships inside the Beltway as well as a clear understanding of local organizations and state and local governments. Fortunately there are a number of Black gay men who fit the bill. And we congratulate the President and White House for including them in the short list of people they are talking to.
We are at the deciding moment in the trajectory of the AIDS epidemic, as I have said over and over again. This decision will be key. It will have huge implications for our ability to capitalize on the resources and tools that we now have to end the AIDS epidemic and our success in confronting the myriad of challenges in front of us.