February 7 marks National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (#NBHAAD), an important moment for us to raise our voices and highlight the HIV and health disparities among the Black community. It is also a time for us to highlight the amazing people who are helping to drive progress, raise awareness, and end HIV stigma.
Advocating for an end to HIV stigma.
William “Jeffrey” Campbell is one of those people. Jeffrey is CEO of Allies in Hope, formerly AIDS Foundation Houston, in Houston, Texas, a grantee organization of the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
“As a Black man who is also gay and an ordained minister, this work is a spiritual calling for me,” Jeffrey tells us. His commitment began in the late 1990s when he started volunteering to support a group of women living with HIV. “It was during that time I realized that Black women were being highly impacted by HIV and yet in most Black churches where the membership is always predominantly female, there were very few conversations providing education around testing and care.”
Jeffrey vividly recalls the prevailing perception of the HIV crisis during that era—a misguided belief that it was a punishment for the gay community.
“My inspiration is rooted in being extremely tired of marginalized people being further marginalized and stigmatized. I felt the need to make a change.”
This realization fuelled his determination to address the inequalities and stigmas associated with HIV. In 2003, he took his first job with a small organization working in HIV prevention, and in 2019 he joined the incredible team at Allies in Hope.
Allies in Hope Making Strides Against HIV in Houston
Founded 42 years ago, Allies in Hope was the first HIV service organization in Texas with a mission to end the HIV epidemic in the greater Houston area.
In the Houston area, Black people make up approximately 22% of the population but represent a staggering 48% of HIV cases. Moreover, 84% of individuals living with HIV in Houston are Persons of Colour. The Elton John AIDS Foundation’s support is helping advance Allies in Hope’s mission to prioritize outreach and care for those facing health access inequities.
The funding received from the Foundation is enabling Allies in Hope to implement a range of programs aimed at addressing health disparities and enhancing HIV awareness in the Houston area. Key initiatives include:
- HIV prevention outreach
- HIV and STI Testing
- Improving access to PrEP and PEP
“I recently received a direct message on Facebook from a gentleman who shared that his son’s partner was living with HIV, and he was trying to find somewhere for his son to get tested. His son made an appointment to come to Allies in Hope and I responded to let him know that I would be available if they needed additional assistance. Following the appointment, the gentleman reached out to me to share that our staff made him feel at ease and cared for.”
Stories like this and knowing that people trust him and his team enough to reach out as they need assistance is what keeps Allies in Hope motivated in their mission to support those most vulnerable in their community.
“I am extremely grateful for our partnership with the Elton John AIDS Foundation,” said Jeffrey. “As the oldest HIV prevention service organization in Texas, a state where there is no Medicaid expansion, we always encounter uninsured individuals living at or below the poverty level and as a result, are more vulnerable to HIV. Right now, approximately 60% of our PrEP and Rapid START program patients are uninsured. This partnership positions Allies in Hope to serve uninsured people and get us closer to ending the HIV epidemic in the greater Houston area.”
Visit the Allies in Hope website to learn more about their work.