National Minority AIDS Council

National Minority AIDS Council

The National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC), a nonprofit organization located on the U Street Corridor of Washington, D.C., was founded in 1987 to “build leadership within communities of color to address the challenges of HIV/AIDS.” The sole national organization addressing the AIDS epidemic in communities of color, NMAC represents over 3,000 community- and faith-based organizations nationwide. The agency advances its mission by providing minority and minority-serving faith- and community-based organizations a variety of capacity building assistance programs, online and classroom-based trainings, printed and electronic resources, grassroots organization and political advocacy. These activities help these agencies deliver HIV/AIDS services more efficiently and effectively, ultimately helping to mitigate the impact of HIV/AIDS in underserved and marginalized communities.[1]



Since AIDS symptoms were first described in June 1981 in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, AIDS has disproportionately affected minorities. A nurse named Joan Vileno, of Montifore, a health care facility in the Bronx, New York, recounted in Jane Gross' New York Times article, “The State of AIDS, 25 Years After the First, Quiet Mentions; The Nurse,” that the majority of her patients in the early 1980s were minority heterosexual IDUs (injecting drug users). Many delayed seeking medical care due to AIDS' close association with homosexuality. All of her patients died, many of them estranged from their families.

Leaders of prominent minority AIDS organization nationwide – including Paul Kawata, Gil Gerard, Calu Lester, Don Edwards, Timm Offutt, Norm Nickens, Craig Harris, Carl Bean, Suki Ports, Marie St.-Cyr and Sandra McDonald – started the National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC) in response to the American Public Health Association (APHA) decision to not invite anyone of color to participate on the panel of its first ever AIDS workshop, at its 1986 association meeting. Harris, an African-American gay man living with AIDS, announced the formation of NMAC during that panel discussion after he rushed the stage, shouting "I WILL BE HEARD" and took the microphone away from Dr. Merv Silverman, then the San Francisco Health Commissioner.

NMAC then set about building awareness around the impact of HIV in communities of color. It met with US Surgeon General C. Everett Koop while he was writing his historic report about AIDS. Originally scheduled for just 15 minutes, Koop, who had not known about the disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS among minorities, sat riveted by NMAC's representatives for nearly two and half hours. The report would become the only publication, other than tax and census forms, to be mailed to every person in the United States.

The agency incorporated in 1987, and later launched the groundbreaking social marketing campaign, “Live Long Sugar,” with Patti LaBelle, which alerted people of color living with HIV/AIDS about the dangers of the common HIV co-infection, Pneumocystis carnii pneumonia (PNP).

In 1989, NMAC partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help build the capacity of small faith- and community-based organizations (F/CBOs) delivering HIV/AIDS services in communities of color. This changed the mission of the agency from raising awareness of the impact of HIV/AIDS among minorities, to building leadership within communities to address the challenges of HIV/AIDS.

Three decades after Vileno’s writings, HIV still disproportionately impacts communities of color. African Americans and Latinos, who each represent 18% of the U.S. population, account for over 50% and 18% of all new HIV cases reported to the CDC each year, respectively. In 2008, according to the CDC, African-Americans accounted for 52% of all new HIV/AIDS infections.[2] And AIDS is the leading cause of death among African American women aged 24–35. But NMAC continues to struggle on minority communities’ behalves with a community-based response of public policy education programs, conferences, treatment and research programs initiatives, trainings, and electronic and printed resource materials.

Policy proposals

The National Minority AIDS Council frequently testifies on Capitol Hill and in state legislatures across the country to recommend programs and policy reforms that can both assist minority persons living with HIV/AIDS and address the social, behavioral, and economic risk factors that fuel the rates of infections within minority communities. Stances that NMAC has taken over the years include the following:

Needle exchanges and anti-drug-abuse initiatives. NMAC’s landmark Dec. 1, 2006, report “African-Americans, Health Disparities, and HIV/AIDS: Recommendations for Confronting the Epidemic in Black Americans,” spelled out a series of initiatives for curbing the disproportionately high rates of HIV/AIDS infections among African-Americans. Among the recommendations was expanded availability of substance-abuse prevention programs, drug rehab, and addiction recovery programs.

Coupled with drug treatment and prevention programs would be institution of needle exchanges, which would distribute clean syringes to individuals who use heroin and other injection-based narcotics. These programs would not serve to condone individuals’ drug use, but rather to ensure that they do not share needles with other users and thereby risk transmitting HIV/AIDS to themselves or other users via infected needles.[3]

Prison outreach. NMAC encourages federal and state penitentiaries to distribute condoms to inmates and to offer voluntary HIV tests to every inmate upon his or her entry and release. Both measures, it argues, would lower the chances of inmates contracting HIV and transmitting the virus to other partners following their release from prison. HIV infections in prisons are a disproportionately serious problem for African-American males, who are seven times more likely than white males to be incarcerated.[4]

In addition, NMAC advocates for reentry initiatives to help prisoners find education and gainful employment after their release. Prisoners who successfully reintegrate into society will be better able to overcome mental health issues and substance issues that both lead them toward crime and put them at greater risk of HIV/AIDS.[5]

Smart urban planning. NMAC identifies strong links between stable communities and reduced rates of HIV infections. Thus the organization encourages cities to provide greater availability of affordable housing and drug treatment services, and to ensure that quality health care is accessible for all adults and children, regardless of race or income. “African-Americans, Health Disparities, and HIV/AIDS” called for expansion of the Housing Opportunities for People with HIV/AIDS, a federal program that offers low-cost housing to infected persons. The report credited this program and others like it with helping infected persons avoid homelessness and thereby more easily access medical care and support.[6]

Discouragement of homophobia. Men who have sex with men (MSM) are marginalized and isolated within many minority communities, according to “African-Americans, Health Disparities, and HIV/AIDS.” As a result, they are less inclined to report their sexual identity to others, much less discuss their lifestyles with their doctors. Many contract HIV and spread it to others because they rarely, if ever, have themselves tested. NMAC urges the CDC, public agencies, and nongovernmental community groups to dialogue with MSM and promote acceptance of them within their communities.

Expand HIV prevention and education. “African-Americans, Health Disparities, and HIV/AIDS” decries a lack of basic knowledge among many minority youths about HIV/AIDS, how it is transmitted, and how to prevent it. The report calls for culturally relevant education programs in all schools to fill the knowledge gaps. Ideal education programs will both encourage both abstinence and the proper use of contraceptives.

HIV testing. African-Americans, Health Disparities, and HIV/AIDS” credits widespread, voluntary HIV testing with alerting those who are HIV-positive to their status, directing them to early treatment, and reducing the likelihood that they will transmit the virus to others.

Culturally sensitive community outreach. According to “African-Americans, Health Disparities, and HIV/AIDS,” social workers who work in culturally diverse settings should strive to act as “interpreters” in order to communicate with the individuals that they serve about the care that is available to them.

Increased funding for HIV research. Antiretroviral drugs and other pharmaceutical breakthroughs have dramatically lengthened HIV-positive individuals’ life spans and overall quality of life, even while researchers continue to seek a final cure or vaccine that could end HIV/AIDS permanently. NMAC consistently lobbies state and federal lawmakers to support researchers’ efforts through funds and grants. NMAC also urges lawmakers to not leave HIV treatment programs and long-term care services wanting.[7]

National conferences

The agency advances its mission through a variety of programs and services geared to minority faith- and community-based organizations (MF/CBOs), AIDS service organizations and health departments that deliver prevention, care and treatment to people of color living with and/or at risk for HIV/AIDS.

NMAC facilitates two of the largest annual HIV/AIDS-related conferences in the country:

United States Conference on AIDS (USCA). The largest conference of HIV/AIDS workers in the United States to date, USCA draws a crowd of 3,000 to 5,000 attendees every year. Attendees include both persons living with HIV/AIDS, as well as a diverse array of professionals committed to stopping the epidemic—nonprofit activists, health-care providers, government officials, think-tank scholars, social-services case managers, and clergy, among others.[8] All convene in workshops, seminars, lectures, and roundtable discussions to learn new skills, exchange the latest information, learn new tools to address the challenges of HIV/AIDS, and build partnerships and collaborations. The first conference took place in 1997.[9]

NMAC organizes every USCA conference in conjunction with more than 30 co-sponsors. These include government agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Office of Aids Research (OAR); nonprofit organizations, such as the National Association of People with AIDS and the AIDS Alliance for Children, Youth, and Families; and pharmaceutical corporations, such as GlaxoSmithKline and Abbott Laboratories.[10] In 2002, when then-President Bush appointed Joseph O’Neill to be director of the U.S. Office of National AIDS Policy, O’Neill delivered his first major public address at the USCA, which took place that year in Anaheim, Calif.[11]

HIV Prevention Leadership Summit (HPLS). Now held every-other-year, HPLS bring together HIV prevention leaders from community-based organizations, community planning groups, and community health departments to disseminate and exchange information about planning and managing HIV-prevention programs.

The conference provides skills-building sessions, workshops, roundtables, and institutes that highlight effective HIV behavioral interventions and successful collaborations between HIV prevention and care. Conference participants learn from each other about HIV-related community planning, effective interventions, capacity building and program integration from around the country.

Technical assistance trainings and capacity building

NMAC’s Technical Assistance, Training and Treatment Division (TATT) implements the agency’s federally-funded capacity building and technical assistance programs and services to organizations that address HIV/AIDS in communities of color.

General and Individual Capacity Building Assistance (CBA). The division provides numerous CBA services, and has developed training curricula addressing five critical organizational development areas: grant writing, human resources, strategic planning, fiscal management and board development. CDC-funded F/CBOs may apply to receive free individualized CBA in these five areas, as well as organizational assessment, quality assurance, resource development, program marketing, public relations, policy development, personnel management and information systems/data management.

Men's Institute of Leadership Excellence and Service Program. Men's Institute of Leadership Excellence and Service (MILES) program is an innovative leadership program aimed at enhancing the capacity of leadership staff, particularly African American MSM, within Community Based Organizations (CBOs) that serve African American gay, bisexual and other MSM. The curriculum focuses on important aspects of organizational development and program sustainability, while also providing fundamental training on Leadership Development, Workforce Development, Program Collaboration and Service Integration (PCSI) and Evaluation.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ HIV Vaccine Research Education Initiative (NHVREI). As a national NHVREI partner, NMAC helps raise awareness about HIV vaccine research through a variety of activities. These include the creation of a special section of the NMAC website dedicated to providing general HIV vaccine information; links to other national and local NHVREI partners; and an interactive online HIV awareness training tutorial. The site also supports the efforts of HIV Vaccine Awareness Day (HVAD), providing links to other HVAD websites and an online calendar of HVAD events. NMAC oversees an HVAD poster contest, and distributes periodic e-alerts, as well as posts news stories in its media section on the state of HIV vaccine research in the U.S. and abroad.

Recruitment and Retention into Care Program. The Recruitment and Retention into Care program is a national training program designed to develop, improve and expand comprehensive services targeting communities severely impacted by HIV/AIDS. With challenges growing everyday of maximizing services to communities most impacted, there is need to diversify service delivery strategies. The recent global recession has had its impact on the AIDS community, with many states slashing or completely cutting off funding to agencies. Agencies can no longer have the luxury of working independently. There is a need to network and maximize resources. At the same time, agencies need to quickly grasp the emerging trends in HIV/AIDS among the most vulnerable communities.The goal of this program is to improve access, quality of care and coordination of health care services for people living with HIV/AIDS who are multiply diagnosed, located in or around rural areas, and/or racial ethnic minorities who are collectively categorized as hard-to-reach high-risk populations.

Treatment Adherence Peer Program. The goal of the Treatment Adherence Peer Program (TAPP) is to develop and enhance peer driven treatment adherence programs among agencies that have or intend to build treatment adherence programs and peers. TAPP provides capacity building assistance to eligible organizations implementing HIV peer programs. The components of the program include group-level training, technical assistance, and a case study. The program targets peers and program managers within agencies that provide HIV treatment adherence programs. TAPP's goal is to increase the self-efficacy of peers and clients based on a Social Learning theoretical approach.

Advocacy and public policy development

Through its Government Affairs and Communications division, NMAC promotes national, state and local HIV/AIDS, health and social policies; increases participation of people of color in policy debates and policy-making bodies; and mobilizes local grassroots advocacy efforts to bolster national, state and local policy, support programs and funding targeted to people of color.

Multimedia advocacy

The Communications Division oversees all media activities for the National Minority AIDS Council, including:

  • Production of NMAC publications, e-newsletters, training materials, and conference collateral;
  • Management of public relations and news outlet inquiries, including the distribution of press releases and other media;
  • Design and maintenance of NMAC’s website (; and
  • Oversight of the agency’s internal information technology (IT) services and databases

Sources of support

NMAC’s work is sustained by cadres of dues-paying members and private donors. Dues-paying members receive regular updates on NMAC activities, programs and services. Members also are given preference for USCA conference scholarships and other awards.

Some private donations are “memorial gifts” that a donor makes in memory of a lost loved one. Many employers will match a donating employee’s contribution, in which case it is a “matching gift.”

Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) and United Way. Federal employees may support the “AIDS Programs of the National Minority AIDS Council” through the CFC, the annual fund-raising drive conducted in Federal and military workplaces, from September 1 to December 15. NMAC’s CFC Designation Code is 10557. Non-federal employees may give to NMAC through United Way, which is designated as #2504.

Federal grants. In addition, the organization receives nearly $5 million a year in grants from federal government agencies, such as the CDC, expressly for purposes of supporting the capacity-building efforts of community-based organizations.[12]

Outside partnerships

A number of HIV/AIDS coalitions can claim NMAC as a partner or consultant. Here are a few examples:

National Minority HIV/AIDS Policy Partnership (NMAPP). This coalition, founded in February 2007, includes NMAC, the Asian American Justice Center, the NAACP, National Council of La Raza, the United Church of Christ, and several other organizations. The coalition members work together to develop and promote HIV/AIDS public policies that respond to the needs of communities of color in the local, state and national arenas.[13]

The Minority AIDS Initiative. This is an initiative that the CDC launched in 1998 to enhance HIV/AIDS services within minority communities and to lower the disease’s disproportionately high infection and death rates among ethnic minority populations. NMAC is one of the Minority AIDS Initiative’s chief advisors.[14]

National HIV Vaccine Research Education Initiative (NHVREI). Launched in 2001 by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the NHVREI raises awareness among the U.S. public about HIV vaccine research. NMAC is one of five national NGOs that participate in NHVREI (it joined in March 2008) and promulgates marketing and outreach campaigns encouraging audiences to participate in trials, join community advisory boards, and donate funds to vaccine research projects.[15]


  1. ^ National Minority AIDS Council:
  2. ^ Centers for Disease Control:
  3. ^ Palmer, J. Coyden, “Leaders announce five strategies to reduce HIV among blacks,” The Chicago Crusader. Nov. 25, 2006.
  4. ^ Milkovits, Amanda, “AIDS officials balk at distributing condoms in prison.” The Providence Journal, Nov. 29, 2006.
  5. ^ Fullilove, Robert et al. “African-Americans, Health Disparities, and HIV/AIDS: Recommendations for Confronting the Epidemic in Black Americans,” National Minority AIDS Council, Dec. 1, 2006.
  6. ^ Fullilove, Robert et al. “African-Americans, Health Disparities, and HIV/AIDS: Recommendations for Confronting the Epidemic in Black Americans,” National Minority AIDS Council, Dec. 1, 2006.
  7. ^ Lamendola, Bob, “Activists urge more funds for treatment,” South Floride Sun-Sentinel, Sept. 23, 2006.
  8. ^ Business Wire, “National Minority AIDS Council Announces Program for 2003 U.S. Conference on AIDS,” Business Wire, August 5, 2003.
  9. ^ Morris, Christine, “AIDS conference zeros in on youth,” Wisconsin State Journal, Sept. 11, 2001.
  10. ^ Business Wire, “National Minority AIDS Council Announces Program for 2003 U.S. Conference on AIDS,” Business Wire, August 5, 2003.
  11. ^ Windy City Times, “AIDS czar to address conference on AIDS,” Windy City Times, Aug. 14, 2002.
  12. ^ Tribune Review, “More Pie, Anyone?,” Tribune Review, Oct. 13, 2003.
  13. ^ DC Metro Weekly:
  14. ^ Kaiser Family Foundation:
  15. ^ Be The Generation. “Partners.” 2010.

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