2021 – 2022 Chair’s Challenge: 30 Years of Leading Change

Marlene McNeese

NASTAD celebrated its 30th anniversary during the 2021 Annual Meeting in May. Over the last 30 years, NASTAD and its members have played a pivotal role in strengthening the United States’ response to the HIV and hepatitis epidemics. To commemorate our collective achievements throughout three decades, my Chair’s Challenge this year will be 30 Years of Leading Change; we will focus on celebrating our history and successes, with an eye towards the future.

Throughout the next year, we highlight some of our historical successes, such as:

  • NASTAD’s leading voice in calling out the crisis in HIV among Black gay men, and expanding prevention and treatment program focus on services and anti-stigma efforts; 
  • our alignment with the history of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, including its beginnings, reauthorizations, funding, recognition of underfunded areas and changes made to the program over time;
  • adding hepatitis to the NASTAD mission and expanding technical assistance and advocacy for viral hepatitis coordinators in states; and many others.

While we look back on these successes, I want to be sure we are also considering what the future of the HIV and hepatitis movements looks like as we continue our work to end the epidemics. Therefore, I am calling on NASTAD and its membership to commit to advance health equity, racial equity, and stigma elimination as another critical piece of my Chair’s Challenge.

Throughout NASTAD’s history, the organization has placed a particular emphasis on advancing health equity, racial equity, and stigma elimination. In order to end the HIV and hepatitis epidemics, this will need to be a key component of our work as we continue into the next few years and decades.

There are some early ways for NASTAD members to get involved in this work. NASTAD is forming a Board Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee which I will chair. This committee injunction with NASTAD’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion workgroup are currently drafting a policy statement that acknowledges racism as a public health threat for HIV and hepatitis programs. I am calling on all NASTAD members to sign on to this statement and commit to working towards drafting your own for your jurisdiction.

I also want to acknowledge the power of NASTAD’s Minority Leadership Program, which has increased the capacity of dozens of emerging leaders of color in health departments and equipped them with skills, mentors, and introspection to advance their varied personal career trajectories. The current 2021-2022 cohort is NASTAD’s ninth MLP cohort. Additionally, NASTAD launched a leadership program for Black, Indigenous, and people of color working in drug user health programs in health departments and syringe service programs. Applications are open now, and I strongly encourage you to share this program with your staff to build a leadership pipeline for persons of color.

I want to thank you in advance for committing to share stories of how you’ve lead change in your jurisdiction, and to work with me towards advancing health and racial equity efforts in your jurisdiction. I know it will be an exciting year as we look back on what we have accomplished and consider all of the work we still need to do, and I truly hope that next year, as the NASTAD membership gathers for the 31st time.