Building Solidarity Between African American Gay Men and African Gay Men Through PrEP

Last month, I attended my third NAESM Conference (National African American MSM Leadership Conference) in Dallas, Texas. The conference happened at a period of significant change in America. It actually took place the same week as the Presidential Inauguration! Not surprisingly, many at that conference needed an avenue to express how they were feeling. NAESM also offered the opportunity for anyone who wanted to talk to a therapist about the election.

The conference was also a space for so much more than processing feelings about and reactions to the new President. This was the largest NAESM to date, with about 600 hundred black gay men and their allies from around the country—and a few, like myself, from Africa. We talked about many things, including a growing concern about HIV among black gay men in the US. This isn’t news. In the United States, gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men are disproportionately affected by HIV.

Gay and bisexual men, black/African American men, especially those who are younger, are the most disproportionately affected by HIV. A lot of times this is reported in the news, but by voices who are talking about affected groups. When men talk about how HIV affects their lives and communities, it sounds different. I heard people talk about their personal lives in ways that remind me of my own experience in Africa. In one group discussion, a gay man from Houston talked about how limited access to quality health care, lower income and less education place men like him at higher risk of HIV than some other races/ethnicities. This is true for gay men in Africa, who already face a greater risk of getting infected, mainly because of who they love or their socio-economic status.

Looking at ways for gay men in the US and those in Africa to build alliances is actually one of the things that brings me to the conference. Reflecting back just before the conference, I posted on my Facebook wall about the need to have a conversation with my African American friends/brothers about the complicated relationship between Africans and African Americans! A few hours a later I was getting tens of comments and messages from friends who also felt that there was a serious need for this conversation! I believe the time has never been so urgent for us to have this very needed conversation, and what better way to do it other than using something that everyone of us can relate to? PrEP for HIV prevention!

And that is why attending NAESM this year was so crucial for me. I came there to work with members of AVAC’s PxROAR program from the US and Africa—and with our board member and External Relations Director at the HVTN, Steve Wakefield—to have a discussion about PrEP in our respective worlds.

The panel was one of the first times that I can remember that a space was created for Africans and African Americans who identify as gay to look at what our differences are and what brings us together. It was the beginning of a conversation that we need to keep going and that the PxROAR program will hopefully catalyze through online forums, calls and informal relationships to hear each other’s voices and views.

Some of the key things that we talked about in Dallas are that PrEP is a key tool no matter where you came from or the color of your skin. We looked at the data and how they show that it has been proven to be an effective tool that could help prevent new HIV infections among both communities. Then we talked about how PrEP has been delivered in the US and in Africa. We found out that in most parts of Africa, PrEP is just starting to be discussed and there is nearly no public campaign for PrEP for gay men. Whereas in the US, campaigns like PrEP4Love are already making headways in the black gay community. So, we all have a lot to share with each other! And AVAC is excited for PxROAR to engage gay men as part of its program in the US and in Africa.

Now, more than ever, is the time that black people and people of color all over the world must hold up one another up in solidarity and love. As Africans, we must not stand by and assume that what we see going on in our American communities is just an African-American problem. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Refining the NIH research enterprise

Every 7 years, NIH competitively renews its funding of the HIV clinical research networks operating in the United States and internationally….By establishing a forward-looking agenda to guide this process, NIH will determine the focus and priorities through 2027. Learn more with resources available on this site, and to join the conversation, go to:

What to Expect for CROI 2017

The annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) kicks off next week in Seattle. This year’s program covers a range of topics of interest to advocates including new data on basic science, a look at clinical trial design, planning to end the epidemic in New York, applying good participatory practices in research, understanding HIV and substance use and more.

Whether you’re en route to Seattle for the four-day meeting or following the proceedings from your favorite wifi-enabled device, this update is for you. Read on to learn more!

A few events are at the top of our list.

On Sunday, AIDS Treatment Activists Coalition, AVAC, DefeatHIV,European AIDS Treatment Group, Project Inform and Treatment Action Group are sponsoring a day-long community cure workshop. The workshop brings together educators and advocates interested in learning about HIV cure research. Attendees spend half of the day hearing from leading researchers about developments in the HIV cure field followed by a strategy session dedicated to developing and increasing advocacy around those topics. The community event is open to all but is nearing capacity. Please be in touch if you are interested in attending.

Monday’s agenda includes the Martin Delaney Presentation (12:15pm in Room 6AB), held in honor of the late HIV activist Martin Delaney. This year’s lecture will focus on Good Participatory Practice Guidelines (GPP) and include presentations from AVAC staff and partners. Through a series of discussions, presentations and feedback from participants, this panel will provide global highlights of GPP and build awareness around their significance in the research process. Please be sure to add it to your Seattle agenda!

And please join fellow advocates and activists on Wednesday night for a community reception, 6-9pm at Tap House. Download the flyer for more information.

Real-time Coverage

CROI also offers excellent webcast coverage, including live reports of the press conferences (press conference schedule available here), as well as taped playbacks. Electronic posters will be available a week after the conference and webcasts of the sessions will be archived online. Visit their electronics materials page for more.

As in years past, Medscape and aidsmap will be covering the conference with their excellent in-depth reporting across a range of research areas, including HIV prevention. And you can follow all the latest on Twitter at #CROI2017 where AVAC and others will be tweeting the latest data in 140 characters or less.

As always, please be in touch with any questions, and we look forward to seeing some of you in Seattle—and working with all of you post-CROI to plot what’s next!

NIH/NIAID/DAIDS Council-approved FY 2018 Concepts

Webinar: “Time to Protection” on PrEP

UPDATE: The audio and slides from the webinar are now available. Or watch the webinar on YouTube.

Daily oral PrEP using TDF/FTC provides high levels of protection against HIV in people who take the pill regularly. But this protection doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, a person needs to take a number of doses to build up protective levels of the drug in the blood.

Just how many doses?

Right now, the answer to this question is an educated guess—and the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have different answers about “time to protection” in their respective guidelines for oral PrEP use.

Please join us for a webinar on the data behind “time to protection for PrEP” on Thursday, February 9, 11am–12:30pm US Eastern Time (visit for the local time in your area) to learn more. This webinar will include pharmacologists who have studied drug levels in the blood and tissue of PrEP users, as well as representatives from the WHO who were involved in developing the guidance on this topic along with advocates and implementers.

Register here.

The primary difference between US CDC and WHO guidelines on time to protection relates to women. Specifically, US CDC guidelines recommend that women complete 20 doses of daily oral TDF/FTC to achieve protective levels of the drug in the vaginal tissue. WHO recommends seven days for men (penile and rectal exposure) and women (vaginal and rectal exposure).

Both of these recommendations are based on measurements of the amount of drug that accumulates in blood and/or tissue over a specific period of time. The studies of how drugs are taken into the body and how they leave the body is called “pharmacokinetics” and “pharmacodynamics” or “PK” and “PD” for short, as explained in our primer for advocates ( There isn’t a single PK measurement that is associated with PrEP protection—so both WHO and CDC guidelines are based on inference.

When indirect measures are used for direct conclusions, advocates need to understand the rationale. We hope this webinar will further the conversation. Please join us.

Beta version of available for testing

A new beta version of is available for user testing. The test site can be accessed from a link on the homepage or directly at, and will be available for at least one month to obtain feedback from the public. The new version [provides] new features to support searching for clinical studies.

Announcing the 2017 AVAC Advocacy Fellows

AVAC is delighted to announce the 2017 AVAC Advocacy Fellows—the eighth class of Fellows selected from a pool of over 100 applicants from 20 countries in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. Please join us in congratulating these seven talented advocates:

The 2017ers will plan their projects in a busy and exciting time for HIV prevention. As we described in our recent Px Wire, there are many issues to rally around. Will more countries be able to roll out PrEP, will PrEP affect the standard of prevention of new trials? Will prevention initiatives for the growing number of young women be innovative and address their needs? Will we be able to accelerate progress towards meeting the Fast Track goals? And, where resources for sexual and reproductive health and rights may be challenged, can we work to ensure that the voices of those who have most at stake are heard?

The 2017 Fellows have bold ideas to address many of these opportunities and challenges in their Fellowship year, beginning on April 1, and we hope you’ll find ways to collaborate with them. With this incoming class, the AVAC Fellows family has grown to fifty-seven, with Advocacy Fellow Alumni from ten sub-Saharan African countries and China. Please visit the Advocacy Fellows page and follow the P-Values blog to learn more about the new Fellows’ planned work for the year and to learn about the Alumni Fellows’ ongoing work.

We thank all of the applicants and their proposed host organizations for the time and effort put into this process. We’re also grateful to the independent review committee of advocates, scientists and former Fellows and Hosts who guided the decision-making process.

A Call for Applications for the 2018 Fellows Program will be announced this June with an application deadline in August. If you would like to be notified of the 2018 Call for Applications or have any questions, please email us at