[UPDATE 4/25: On April 24, three days after this article was posted, the Mazzoni Center's board of directors released a statement announcing it had requested, and then accepted, the resignation of Mazzoni Center CEO Nurit Shein. Philadelphia Magazine has additional reporting on this story.]
On Friday, Abdul-Aliy A Muhammad, diagnosed with HIV in 2008, announced their intention to immediately stop taking HIV medication, saying in a statement that they will not resume treatment until the head of the LGBT health care-focused Mazzoni Center resigns. Muhammad helped found Philadelphia's Black and Brown Workers Collective and worked at the Mazzoni Center.
(Note: Muhammad is also a contributor to TheBody.com, as a blogger and freelance writer.)
Muhammad's announcement came on the heels of Thursday's walkout, reportedly conducted by more than 60 of the full-time staff of the organization, which provides a range of HIV-related and other services. The G Philly blog of PhillyMag.com reported that the walkout took place upon the conclusion of a training session on racial bias. The organization is one of several for which such training had been recommended in a January report from the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (PCHR).
Last week, Dr. Robert Winn resigned as medical director of the Mazzoni Center. Winn had been placed on paid leave pending an investigation of possible wrongdoing, including charges of sexual misconduct.
"I'm officially declining my HAART regimen until Nurit Shein resigns as CEO," Muhammad wrote in a statement provided to TheBody.com.
"Nurit Shein has been allowed to continue power abuse and intimidation as allegations are unfolding about her knowledge of sexual misconduct by Dr. Winn. Nurit has constantly denied institutional racism within Mazzoni Center and perpetuated a culture that targeted Black and Brown staff. I will decline my life-saving medication until she steps away from Mazzoni. I do this in solidarity with the victims of Robert Winn. I do this for all the poz patients he harmed. I do this for the Black and Brown former and current employees who are traumatized. I do this for former staff who took their life because of the violence they experienced at the hands of the leadership of Mazzoni Center. I do this for the countless times transphobia was perpetuated by Nurit," they explained.
"We are truly saddened by Abdul's decision," said a statement from the Mazzoni Center givens to TheBody.com by Elisabeth Flynn, their senior communications manager. "We respect [their] right to protest, but as a healthcare organization, we are bound by federal and state regulations that are in place to protect the privacy of patients. Caring for our patients is our highest priority."
Participants in Thursday's walkout, according to G Philly, released a public statement addressed to patients from the organization's medical staff, as well as a "statement of no confidence" asking for the resignation of Shein and the board president/compliance officer Jimmy Ruiz. G Philly also shared a guidance document from Shein that the blog says was distributed to all staff by email, outlining steps taken regarding recent events and providing suggested "thoughts" to be shared with clients and patients.
According to the website of the Mazzoni Center, the organization's HIV-related services include screening and prevention; community outreach and education; and HIV care, including medical care.
JD Davids is the managing editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.
Follow JD on Twitter: @JDAtTheBody.