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Thursday, June 4, 2020

Black AIDS Institute: Resilient, Focused and Determined

According to our survey of rated nonprofits, 83% of organizations have suffered financially due to the pandemic. Additionally, 50% of respondents are reporting an increased demand in programs. To overcome this disruption and to continue to serve communities in need, many nonprofits are adapting and innovating.

We are honored to showcase the Black AIDS Institute (BAI) (★★★) in our Innovation Series. The series provides an opportunity for nonprofits to share how they have delivered on their missions during the COVID-19 pandemic.  BAI’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Raniyah Copeland, and Director of Development, Aaron Chandler, provides a behind-the-scenes look at their ‘new normal.'

In the last several months, so many new developments related to the COVID-19 pandemic--and the associated economic downturn--have been happening at a breakneck pace. Since the pandemic began, the Black AIDS Institute (BAI) has pivoted our programs and operations to include a robust response to COVID-19 while not straying from our core work: ending the HIV epidemic among Black people. And now, with the uprisings happening across the country, to demand structural change that responds to the root of anti-Black racism it has become increasingly clear that there will be no going back to 'normal.' "Normal" has resulted in vast health disparities and medical racism for Black people that COVID-19 is exacerbating; "normal" has resulted in a staggering incarceration rate that COVID has taken advantage of; "normal" has resulted in the estimate that if trends continue, soon 1 in 2 Black MSM will have HIV; "normal" has resulted in the threat of HIV for Black women and Black trans folks being completely overlooked. Our “normal” was intersecting epidemics that impact the well-being of Black people on every level of our daily lives. Clearly, we won't be going back to 'normal' - nor do we want to. But how do we ensure the 'new normal' works for everyone, and leaves no one behind?

The Black community and organizational stakeholders that have long looked to BAI for policy and programmatic information, guidance, and technical support now require assistance in navigating their work in this rapidly changing environment. In the past few months, BAI has led a webinar series on Black health during COVID-19 and how we can remake our world and systems to be better for Black people after the pandemic (and we were blown away by the response for one of our recent ones which had over 1,200 registrants!). Our staff has been working virtually and revising our work plans integrating ending the HIV epidemic among Blacks, organizing & advocating with those living with HIV, reducing the spread of COVID-19 in our community, and envisioning a future without the systemic racism and other oppressions that have exacerbated COVID and HIV's impact on Black people. What all this will mean for the future of Black social justice movements and the HIV movement is constantly evolving, but BAI has been and will continue to be there at the forefront. 

Since fundraising is an ever-present concern for virtually all nonprofits, we have begun taking steps to shore up and ensure our funding is flexible. For instance, we have started asking our private philanthropists that fund specific BAI programming to convert their funding to general operating support. While BAI remains healthy now, and only a  couple funders have decreased or stopped their giving--while others have supported us with special COVID response funding--the crisis is still new, and we anticipate that these are just the early signs of the impacts that the crisis is likely to have on BAI’s appeals. At the same time, BAI also realizes that we need to continue to invest in critical capacity-building, so we are moving ahead with two long-planned hires.

COVID-19 has disrupted all of our lives, but we are determined to continue to do what's best for Black people at-risk of or impacted by HIV and AIDS. If you would like to hear more about how BAI is responding in this new environment, follow us on social media @blackaids to keep up with our work. And mark your calendars: BAI will be beginning an exciting speakers series--with amazing guests--focusing on the health and well-being of Black people the second week of June.

Written by President and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute, Raniyah Copel and Director of Development, Aaron Chandler.

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