African-American HIV University Graduates Third Class

Los Angeles, Calif. -- With the graduates' families, friends and colleagues in attendance, the African American HIV University graduated its third class.

Phill Wilson, executive director of the Black AIDS Institute, congratulated the nine graduating fellows and urged them to push on in the fight to end the AIDS epidemic in the African American community.

Pernessa Seele, executive director of The Balm in Gilead, a national faith-based HIV & AIDS awareness organization, gave the keynote address. Clifton Maxwell, community volunteer of the Southwestern Pennsylvania AIDS Planning Coalition and a graduating fellow, was elected by his classmates as the Fellow Speaker.

Maxwell commended the African American HIV University (AAHU) and the Black AIDS Institute for equipping him with the scientific literacy and HIV/AIDS proficiency to more successfully advocate for his community in the Pittsburgh region.

"I can have a conversation with any one about HIV now. And when someone says something incorrect, I can call them out, and say what I know is scientifically correct," Maxwell said during his speech.

Jennease Hyatt, program coordinator of AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts in Boston, was honored as the Class of 2007 Valedictorian. Laverne Patent, peer educator of Gay Men's Health Crisis in New York City, was formally recognized as the Class of 2007 Most Improved Fellow. Hyatt and Patent will be attending the World AIDS Conference 2008 in Mexico City and the U.S. Conference on AIDS 2007 in Palm Springs, Calif., as distinguished representatives of the Black AIDS Institute.

The African American HIV University is a two-year intensive education and training program held in three segments. They include a 30-day HIV science academy and three 10-14 day trainings focusing on prevention health education, presentation development, and community mobilization, all of which are held in Los Angeles, and three six-month internships in which the fellows completed a range of assignments through their sponsoring organizations. The first cohort graduated in 2003.

Fellows are selected from HIV prevention and AIDS service organizations in the U.S. that serve the African American community. AAHU serves as a capacity building tool for these organizations in that their AAHU Fellow becomes a highly-trained HIV/AIDS science and mobilization specialist at minimal cost to the organization. The fellows also serve in their greater communities as in-house experts on HIV science, treatment and prevention.

The Black AIDS Institute was established to address HIV/AIDS health disparities by mobilizing Black institutions and individuals in efforts to confront the epidemic in their communities. Their motto describes a commitment to self-preservation: "Our People, Our Problem, Our Solution."

2007 graduates include:
Kenric Bailey, program coordinator, AIDS Ministry, Allen Temple Baptist Church, Oakland, Calif.

Angel Brown, program manager, GLBTQ Initiatives, Advocates for Youth, Washington, D.C.

Debra Dennison, health educator, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, Pittsburgh, Pa.

Jennease Hyatt, program coordinator, AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts, Boston.

Marsha Jones, outreach counselor, HIV Services Program for Mosaic Family Services in Dallas

Lloyd Kelly, executive director, Let's Talk, Let's Test Foundation, Chicago.

Clifton Maxwell, community volunteer, Southwestern Pennsylvania AIDS Planning Coalition, Pittsburgh, Pa.

Rolake Odetoyimbo, program director, Positive Action for Treatment Access, Lagos, Nigeria

Laverne Patent, peer educator, Gay Men's Health Crisis, New York, N.Y.

The next cohort of AAHU fellows will begin later this year. The Black AIDS Institute will announce a call for new applications in July. Information on applying to be an AAHU fellow can be found at

For more information, contact Sonya Taylor, capacity building and training manager, African American HIV University, Black AIDS Institute, at 213.353.3610.