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National Minority AIDS Council Changes Direction, Ditches Name

National Minority AIDS Council Changes Direction, Ditches Name

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The organization formerly known as the National Minority AIDS Council has a new mission, new vision, new focus, new headquarters, and new name.

The organization formerly known as the National Minority AIDS Council has just completed an intensive strategy planning process and has announced a whole new look, complete with a new mission, new vision, new focus, new headquarters, and new name.

Paul Kawata, executive director of the new and improved organization, issued a statement saying the changes begin with the group's moniker; it will keep the acronym but “lose the words that defined each letter.”

As Kawata explains, things have changed dramatically since NMAC was formed in mid-1980s, when the focus was on combating AIDS and “the word minority seemed appropriate.”

Now, Kawata says, “As we move forward with our new mission and vision for 2020 and in keeping up with changing demographics and scientific terminology,” the organization is eliminating those dated words. He believes that this move is “honoring our past while understanding the power of words and their changing meaning.”

(Of course, with a new name comes a new logo, which NMAC plans to debut at the 19th annual United States Conference on AIDS.)

Since 1987 the group has worked to build leadership within communities of color to end HIV and AIDS. Going forward, the organization’s new mission is to “educate, advocate, collaborate and compel — with urgency — for health equity within communities of color in our tireless quest to end the HIV epidemic.”

“NMAC’s new mission breaks all the rules,” Kawata admits. First, it “doesn’t roll off the tongue.” Second it’s “too long and difficult to memorize.” And finally, it has “lots of adjectives and verbs that are not well defined.”

But while some would see that as a liability, Kawata is adamant that this wording suits NMAC: “We [chose] a complicated mission because the agency has a difficult task that cannot be easily summarized in a few words. Urgency was an important noun. Sometimes it feels like our movement has lost that sense of urgency, so we put that word in the middle of our complicated mission.”

In addition to this emphasis on urgency, NMAC has reiterated its primary focus, with this declaration: “Starting immediately, NMAC will lead with race. This means we will not shy away from the difficult questions and discussions about the impact that race has on ending the HIV epidemic in America.”

(For more about the impact of race on fighting the epidemic check out Plus magazine’s special reports on gay and bi black men and HIV, and combating the epidemic in the south)

Part of NMAC’s strategic planning was to articulate its vision of “the world we hope to see by 2020.” 

  1. It imagines an America that is “a just, innovative and compassionate country for people living with and at-risk for HIV.”
  2. It envisions a country where “health equity by race has been achieved” and there are “record-low new incidence rates in a waning epidemic.”
  3. NMAC officials hope that “all people living with HIV have broad and affordable access to high-quality, culturally intelligent health care, and are not disparagingly defined by their HIV status.”
  4. These officials foresee NMAC continuing to “be a respected partner in achieving these ambitious outcomes.”

Are these overly ambitious dreams to accomplish in a mere five years?

“It may be impossible and we’re probably overreaching,” Kawata acknowledges. “But that’s what makes it so exciting!”

“NMAC has a big vision for America,” Kawata continues, but he believes it is possible — with the collaboration of other organizations and advocates. “We want you to join our fight.  Health equity within communities of color is everyone’s challenge.”

As if all the above changes aren’t enough, NMAC is also moving its corporate headquarters.

“In 1993 we purchased a burned-out shell of a townhouse,” Kawata explains. “Twenty years later, our hood is trendy and our building has significantly increased in value. In our tireless quest to end the HIV epidemic, NMAC needs the ability to move quickly and develop programs without waiting for government or corporate funding. Selling the building gives us this ability.”

NMAC has already unveiled some of the changes made as a result of the strategic planning, including its new Treatment Division and Leadership Pipeline.

“Over the next five years,” Kawata projects NMAC will roll out additional initiatives “in support of the new mission.” He says those new programs will help “achieve our vision for a better world by 2020.”

In closing, Kawata says the organization wants to thank “all the leaders who gave their time to be interviewed for our strategic plan. As you can see, the results were significant and required an urgent pivot in our programming and services.”

Whatever its name, NMAC vows to continue “our fight for health equity within communities of color ... in our tireless effort to end the HIV epidemic.” 

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