The first AIDS Report

Today marks the 35th anniversary of the first AIDS report in the United States. While as a nation we have overcome so much and made many strides during this time. However, as we see continue to see the emergence of such damaging statistics like 1 in 2 Black Gay men will contract HIV in their lifetime now is not the time to be discouraged in this fight or throw in the towel. Today we celebrate the resilience of all the individuals regardless of their sexuality who have been infected or affected by this virus and chose to not let this epidemic define who they were. Today we celebrate the activists who have work so tirelessly to educate the community about this virus when they didn’t completely understand the damaging effects this virus would have on communities especially communities of color. As the Executive Director of NAESM, Inc. I have the upmost faith that we currently have the right people in place, the right leadership, and the right tools to ensure this epidemic doesn’t last another 35 years. So I challenge you today to not stigmatize a person who has contracted this virus but to ask yourself am I doing enough to make sure no one else has to ever worry about contracting this virus. Today I stand in solidarity with all the long term survivors and pledging to each of you I will do my part to help end this epidemic!

Darwin Thompson
Executive Director

1K Campaign!

The 1K Campaign!

The 1K Campaign!


NAESM has accepted the challenge, will you?


Atlanta, Georgia, May 17, 2016 – Over the past few months, we have heard many statistics that have generated several immediate calls to action. These statistics have continued to show the importance of how we must include routine HIV/STI testing coupled with other prevention tools in our lives regularly to reduce HIV transmission. If current HIV transmission rates continue as it pertains to black gay men specifically, 1 in 2 will become HIV positive in their lifetime. Though these numbers are demoralizing, we, the community have the necessary tools to change the narrative and create change! As one of the leading organizations in Atlanta shifting the narrative, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to launch the “1K Campaign”. The 1K Campaign is a pledge that is dedicated to testing 1,000 individuals for HIV by National HIV Testing Day, which is June 27th. This also includes linking newly diagnosed individuals to medical care within 30 days.

“I asked myself, is this achievable, when I originally drafted the 1K Campaign.” Darwin Thompson, NAESM’s Executive Director questioned. “I looked at it again and said, yes it can be achieved. We have the necessary tools and readily available resources to not only make this campaign impactful, but to succeed in achieving the goal of testing 1,000 individuals. But we cannot do this work alone! The recent statistics have generated a national call to action, so we are asking all community based organizations, federally qualified health centers, PLWHA (People Living With HIV/AIDS), community activists, government officials and last, but not least friends and family members to accept the challenge and strive to get 1,000 individuals tested in your local area by National HIV Testing Day (June 27th). Now is not the time for us to operate in silos when it comes to this epidemic. We need to stand united with a common mission…which is the elimination of HIV within the community. NAESM has accepted the challenge, will you?”

There are multiple ways individuals can get involved in this campaign. Individuals and agencies can get involved by:
• Accepting the 1K Challenge and posting the flyer on their social media platforms.
• Volunteering at a local CBO to assist in outreach/testing efforts.
• Making a one-time monetary donation to a local AIDS Service Organization to help in the HIV/AIDS fight.
• Encouraging individuals to get tested and know their status.
• Working with individuals who are not linked or engaged in care to become more active and engaged in their care

The mission of NAESM is to provide national and local leadership to address the myriad of health and wellness issues confronted by Black gay men through advocacy, services, and education. NAESM is a financially solvent service organization with a supportive leadership structure and diverse board of directors that builds a community of Black gay men to eliminate HIV and other health conditions that disproportionately affect our community. NAESM fosters a climate of trust, integrity, and respect that encourages the provision of quality services.


For more information on The 1K Campaign or if you are interested in accepting the challenge please contact Damon Johnson at or (404)691-8880(ext. 46).

NSPIRE – A NAESM Initiative!


Atlanta, Georgia, April 6, 2016 – NAESM’s Department of Prevention and Support Services would like to announce NSPIRE, an all-new program to help aid newly diagnosed, HIV positive young men who have sex with men (YMSM). NSPIRE (Necessary Support to Prevent, Intervene, Reduce and Eliminate HIV-related Health Inequities) is one of NAESM’s responses to the HIV lifetime risk data that was released at CROI 2016. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if current HIV diagnoses rates continue, about 1 in 2 black men who have sex with men in the United States will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime. For NAESM’s Executive Director, Darwin Thompson, this served as a wakeup call but also an opportunity to redesign and implement targeted HIV prevention programs to ensure NAESM is during our part to help reduce lifetime risk.

“1 in 2 black men who have sex with men will be diagnosed with HIV during their lifetime is disheartening but is absolutely preventable. We currently have viable options to help prevent infections which include effective strategies like Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and Treatment as Prevention (TasP). To support those strategies in the fight against new infections we have structured a program for young men who have sex with men to make sure they’re making healthier and more informed decisions in response to the lifetime HIV risk data presented by the CDC. In addition to this program, as an organization we must continue to have a concentrated focus on YMSM 18-24 years old as they remain the face of the HIV epidemic.” expressed Thompson.

NSPIRE is intended to: assess, acknowledge, and address systematic, structural, personal (emotional, spiritual, physical, familial, mental and/or literacy) and social factors that serve and or may serve as barriers to viral suppression. NSPIRE will stand true to its mission, to connect newly diagnosed HIV positive YMSM between 18-24 years of age with supportive mentors to help them on their road to viral suppression. While the core of this program will focus on viral suppression, mentors will be tasked with working with their mentees to address and achieve other life goals as well.

The mission of NAESM is to provide national and local leadership to address the myriad of health and wellness issues confronted by black gay men through advocacy, services, and education. NAESM, Inc. was created in an effort to counteract the ever increasing spread of HIV/AIDS in communities of color with a focus on black gay men. NSPIRE was made possible by generous support from Janssen Therapeutics and the Atlanta AIDS Partnership Fund.


If you have any questions about NSPIRE or are interested in becoming a mentor,

feel free to contact Damon Johnson at (404) 691-8880 [ext. 46] or by email at



Job Opportunity – Mental Health Counselor

Atlanta, GA, March 8, 2015 – NAESM is proud to announce the opening of the Mental Health Counselor position. We will be looking for the individual to start as soon as possible. If you meet the qualifications, we encourage you to submit a résumé with a letter of interest. Applications are kept on file for six months. After this time has lapsed, applicants will have to reapply. Salaries are competitive. NAESM is an Equal Opportunity Employer. PLWA are encouraged to apply.

NAESM is a financially solvent service organization with a supportive leadership structure and diverse board of directors that builds a community of Black gay men to eliminate HIV and other health conditions that disproportionately affect our community. NAESM fosters a climate of trust, integrity, and respect that encourages the provision of quality services. NAESM’s goal is to provide national and local leadership to address the myriad of health and wellness issues confronted by black gay men through advocacy, services, and education.

As one of the leading organizations facing these issues head on in the metro Atlanta area, we are transforming and expanding our services to the community at large. These positions can be applied for directly through our site at
If you have any questions about the openings, feel free to contact Darwin Thompson at (404) 691-8880 or by email at

East Coast vs. West Coast: The Saga Continues!

East Coast vs. West Coast: The Saga Continues!

NAESMLA2016 (684)Rewind to October 5, 2015 as I sit in Orientation; my first official day as a member of the swiftly growing NAESM staff. Imagine how it felt to hear that in a few months I would be traveling to Los Angeles, California to take part in the agency’s 13th installment of their National African American MSM Leadership Conference on HIV/AIDS and Other Health Disparities. I squealed in excitement at the potential performer (*cough cough) and the thought of traveling to LA. The furthest West I had previously been was Texas. I was forewarned of all of the hard work that would entail hosting the conference. However, I was up for the challenge and without hesitation signed up to be a part of the “Experience Committee”.

Fast forward to January, balancing my daily duties (Housing never sleeps!) and finalizing conference planning required a little organization but I was still hanging in there. My excitement, ever increasing as I started building my playlist for the trip there; songs included “California” by Colonel Loud, “Hotel California” by Eagles and “It Never Rains in Southern California” by Tony Toni Tone. The staff meeting updates and Condom Packing Parties quelled the anxieties of the impending trip. Although I knew I most likely knew I wouldn’t get the opportunity to attend the great line up of plenaries and sessions, I saw a vast opportunity. An opportunity to coalesce with my peers; diverse, highly educated, subject matter experts on issues plaguing our people, their subcultures.

When I hopped off the plane at LAX, with a dream and my coral blazer I knew we had T-minus 12 hours before showtime! The moment when “the experience” for the participants wafted into the halls of the Hilton LAX, myself and 13 other staff members welcoming and eager to assist. My thirteen plus hour days generally consisted of me assisting with registering participants, adding to the aesthetics of our Exhibit Hall and Receptions, escorting people through the winding corridors of the hotel to their desired destinations, “monitoring” the crowds and ushering people into the larger events and assisting with transforming smaller spaces for the next event. It was in those same hours that I got to meet majority of NAESM’s Board members; special shout out to the very amicable and REAL, Mr. Bates (he’s going to kill me for calling him that) who was also honored during the Black Gay Legend’s Ball for his countless contributions to the field of public health.

I witnessed the vibrancy that is the Ballroom scene, where Legendary Houses competed alongside the likes of “virgins” Byron Keaton, who gave us some nasty shoulder work and received 10s across the board to take home a cash prize and trophy. I also honed in on my anchoring skills during our recorded interviews with attendees, led by the talented Rameses Frederick of Urban Socialites, who took me from Kardashian to Couric (with a little work and many takes). Most importantly, during these hours those staff members transitioned into my family.

Being behind the scenes of the 2016 Conference was easier than it seemed but harder than it looked. I owe eight years of prior experience, a specialization in Community Planning and working in a man’s world with helping me get through the days that ensued unscathed; or at the very minimum, with unchipped polish, hair laid and decent make up skills to hide the circles under my eyes. Whilst, I was tasked with ensuring the participants got what they paid for, an unforgettable experience. Wonderfully sacred memories captured by the provided selfie sticks and engrained into spaces contained within their heads and onto their social media pages. Supplementary to the memories, conducive movements capitulated by an idea that sparked revolution. In exchange, I was afforded the opportunity to Live in the experience that the “City of Angels” blessed me with, Be amongst multigenerational leaders and Own my place in the fight to eradicate HIV/AIDS and other health disparities.

THANK YOU for bringing your passion, knowledge and artillery to Los Angeles! We look forward to seeing you in Dallas… 😀
#NAESM2016 #liveit #beit #ownit #goodtogreat


The Life of A Social Media Fellow of USCA15

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAK2AAAAJDM2OGFlNGJlLTM0NDAtNGRhNy04ODM4LTBkYzMyOTI3MTAxNwLast week, I was able to attend my first United States Conference on AIDS in Washington, D.C as a Social Media Fellow. Aside from waking up early in the morning, it was a great learning experience. I began to realize even more that social media is a powerful tool when it comes to disseminating a message. So many voices, such as my own or an organization’s, can be heard and shared almost instantly.

Each morning, I was surrounded by bloggers, poets, ambassadors, journalists, and directors. The fellowship was spearheaded by Phil Wilson of The Black AIDS Institute who did an excellent job! One of the awesome moments that happened, was that some of the Fellows stayed after Friday or Saturday morning and had conversations on…well…everything. The conversations ranged from gender roles in a relationship and different terms that a lesbian or a gay male might use to describe their sexual position, to sexual health and misconceptions. We streamed the conversation live so others were able to view and comment and even chime in with video from their location. See, how awesome is that?

We talked about a variety of ways to create and inspire new and innovative ways to use social media and how to impact those that have any relations to HIV/AIDS. Some sessions included: Using Social Media at #USCA2015, 5 Tips for Getting Started On Instagram, Making The Most of Twitter, and Positive Spin Roundtable (Using the power of digital storytelling to raise awareness of the stages of the HIV care continuum). All of the Social Media Fellows (including myself) were broken up into different groups. Each day individuals in the groups reported back from a session they attended the day before and what was taken from that seminar/workshop. The importance of this, in my opinion, was to make sure that we are getting the most out of USCA and it seemed as if a lot of us did.

Aside from the Social Media Fellows Program, I had a chance to network with other advocates, researchers, doctors, and executive directors from all across the country. The crazy thing about this experience was that I felt comfortable. Usually when I am at conference I am pretty nervous and let that side get the best of me. I engaged with individuals in line waiting for my vanilla latte at Starbucks (sounds silly but the line was really long), after sessions, and I stayed in for extra conversation with other bright minds.

Overall, I left USCA 2015 feeling very motivated and confident in my ability, as a Communications Coordinator, to take things to the next level.

Ronnie McCrea

USCA 2015: Enlightening

xaeIf I had to describe USCA 2015 (#USCA2015) in one word, it would be enlightening! The conference presented an array of subject matter experts to yield knowledge and insight on means of mobilizing communities to remain engaged in the fight against HIV/AIDS. I was able to engage in conversation with the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) and had the pleasure of meeting Atlanta’s own Vanessa Sharp. Ms. Sharp’s expertise poured into the atmosphere as she offered gentle words of encouragement and expressed her support in advocating against social injustice while building the next generation of advocates.

We were able to hear words from amazing individuals, like Valerie Spencer who spoke out in regards to the importance of transgender rights (#blacktranslivesmatter). She expressed the NEED for cultural competency and proper pronoun placement, the importance of recognizing the skills and gifts of transgender people and the need to employ these individuals and allow them a safe space to grow and build upon those skills. “We are not gay men” was the rally slogan Ms. Spencer used to elucidate that transgender women suffer from their own complexities and require specialized research and approaches and should not be placed in the box of “men who sleep with men”.

One of the most impactful messages came from Bryan Stevenson, the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama. Mr. Stevenson graced the audience with compelling dialogue. His empathy genuinely was seen as he equipped us with the tools needed to combat social inequities. He made four suggestions to keep us encouraged in our fight towards justice; Be Proximate, change the narrative, stay hopeful, and do something uncomfortable. He informed us, “We’re programed to do what’s comfortable. If we want to end the HIV epidemic, or change the world or create more justice, we sometimes have to do uncomfortable things. Sometimes choose to do an uncomfortable thing because it’s the necessary thing.” As a result, I am equipped to get “uncomfortable” and do what it takes to make an impact in reducing the number of people contracting the virus, as well as identifying those who have and encourage them to engage in care and speak out against stigma and discrimination. The change begins with us.


Marxavian Jones