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Big Change in Leadership at Venerable HIV Organization GMHC

Photo courtesy Chris Hayden Photography

The historic New York-based organization provides life-saving services.

One of the most prominent HIV organizations in the country is losing its leader.

Kelsey Louie (pictured above) is stepping down as CEO of New York's GMHC (formerly known as Gay Men's Health Crisis) after seven years at the helm, Gay City News reports. Louie will soon take over leadership at The Door, a New York organization that provides services to youth.

During his tenure, Louie oversaw an ambitious expansion of GMHC's offerings, including mental health and pharmacy services, substance abuse help, expanded STD testing, supportive housing, and more tailored assistance to transgender and gender-nonconforming clients. GMHC, founded almost 40 years ago by HIV activists including Nathan Fain and Larry Kramer, has an annual budget of $28 million.

Louie began his career as a child therapist and social worker before being hired by GMHC in 2006 as a clinical coordinator. After that position, he spent seven years at Harlem United Community AIDS Center, where he “learned the importance that housing plays in the AIDS epidemic and how stable housing is critical,” Louie told Plus in 2016. He continued to move up at Harlem United, eventually becoming the chief operating officer before returning to GMHC, this time as chief executive officer.

Louie walked into an organization in tumult, with former CEO Marjorie Hill accused by some of spending too lavishly on new offices while also overseeing pay cuts. Louie worked to consolidate office space and cut down on expensive New York rent, while also working to diversify the organization's funding, which primarily came from government contributions — money that's dependent on the whim of politicians.

Under Louie's guidance, GMHC played a significant role in New York’s Blueprint to End the AIDS Epidemic by 2020. What started as a governor’s task force became a 63-person coalition that detailed the efforts needed to reach that goal. It’s a simple plan on paper: identify everyone with HIV, get them into care, and get their viral load suppressed so they can’t transmit HIV to others; while simultaneously getting people at risk for HIV on PrEP so they stay HIV-negative. But the task was staggering: reduce the number of new HIV infections to just 750 (from an estimated 3,000) by 2020 and achieve the first ever decrease in HIV prevalence in New York State. 

“Data from 2019 suggest that the goals will not be achieved, though the plan has met a number of other important goals," according to Gay City News.

Louie also worked to reincorporate Kramer back to GMHC, prior to the iconic activist's death last year.

“Without Larry Kramer and our founders, there would be no GMHC,” Kelsey later told The Advocate. The founders’ “activism, their relentlessness in the face of a terrifying, unknown disease saved countless lives. Mr. Kramer’s impact is very hard to measure, because it’s so profound and so far-reaching.”

GMHC's current chief operating officer, Kishani Moreno, will serve as acting CEO while a permanent replacement is chosen.


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