July 23, 2012
One in a series about Black Americans engaged in leadership roles for the 2012 International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012).
Jesse Milan, vice president and director of Altarum Institute's Community Health Systems Group and current board chair emeritus of the Black AIDS Institute (BAI), has been representing the BAI behind the scenes at AIDS 2012. The BAI is one of the conference's community partners. Milan serves on both the conference coordinating committee (CCC) and leadership and accountability committee (LAC), and is determined to make AIDS 2012 one of the most productive and significant International AIDS conferences thus far.
"My responsibility on the CCC is to represent BAI's perspective on what it means to this nation for the U.S. to be involved in the IAC, and to bring our unique perspective, representing the African American HIV/AIDS epidemic, because Blacks are the most impacted community in the United States," says Milan. He and the CCC were responsible for selecting the plenary sessions and speakers in addition to overseeing the overall conference planning. "I am also excited about the plenary sessions because they will cover a wide range of information. Our own Phill Wilson will be the main speaker, and one of the important responsibilities of the community partners is to outreach to the U.S. HIV/AIDS community so that they understand the importance of this conference."
Milan has been a significant force in the fight against HIV/AIDS, serving for six years as Constella's project director of the CDC's National Prevention Information Network, the world's largest service for dissemination of information on HIV/AIDS, STDs, and TB. He has also served as Constella's director of the CDC's Business Responds to AIDS/Labor Responds to AIDS Resource Service. He was the director of the $21 million AIDS Office for the City of Philadelphia Department of Public Health and chaired the region's HIV prevention and care planning processes. In 2008, Milan received the "Heroes in the Struggle" award from the Black AIDS Institute for his national leadership in HIV/AIDS. He was also voted Humanitarian of the Year by the readers of the Philadelphia Gay News and received the first national HIV advocacy award in 2006 from the Balm in Gilead. In 2004, he was honored by the Health Resources and Services Administration for "leading the national and international fight against HIV disease."
As Milan approaches his 30th year of living with HIV, he is excited that not only is the conference in the U.S., but that it's in Washington, D.C., which historically has been a predominately Black city and whose epidemic predominately affects Blacks. He says that's why this year's conference is a very significant opportunity for dthe Black AIDS Institute. "Our national health will not be improved unless we improve the health of Black people living with HIV/AIDS," Milan says. "The theme of this year's conference is 'Turning the Tide.' Well it's time for us to turn the tide and have no new infections in all communities, but especially Black communities. We need to give Black people access to treatment and care so that they can live as long and as well as I've been blessed to live with HIV."
LaShieka Purvis Hunter is a freelance writer and editor based in Bay Shore, N.Y.