Bolder Advocacy

Member Spotlight: AIDS United & the Southern REACH Initiative

AFJ Member Spotlight is a series where we highlight the great advocacy work of Alliance for Justice member organizations. AFJ is an alliance of more than 100 national, regional, and local organizations working for a wide range of progressive causes. Click here for more information on the benefits of becoming an AFJ member organization. Today, Cody Barnett, Communications Coordinator for AIDS United, talks about the organization’s recent name change and their Southern REACH campaign.

Aids United Southern ReachWhat is AIDS United’s issue focus?

AIDS United’s mission is to end the AIDS epidemic in the United States. We seek to fulfill our mission through strategic grant-making, capacity building, policy/advocacy, technical assistance and formative research.

Current campaign: Southern REACH

One example of our advocacy work is our Southern REACH (Regional Expansion of Access and Capacity to Address HIV/AIDS) initiative which supports improvement of HIV/AIDS focused policy/advocacy activities of community-based organizations in nine states of the U.S. South. The program, with generous support provided by the Ford Foundation, includes grant-making, technical assistance and network development. The CDC has estimated that 46% of all new AIDS diagnoses in the 50 United States and the District of Columbia are in the South. Southern REACH empowers organizations in the South to tackle this crisis by helping people living with and affected by HIV to raise their voices to fight ignorance and stigma, and to promote and shape public policy that can improve their lives.

Tips and lessons: Build coalitions

When trying to move policy or social change forward, work with uncommon bedfellows. Coalition-based work, especially with unexpected alliances, can grab the attention of policymakers. We suggest finding and then building on areas of common ground between other players in your geographic area or who work on your issue. Collaboration isn’t easy but the time invested is well worth it to align and amplify your collective impact.

How has AFJ’s Bolder Advocacy initiative helped your organization?

We found the Investing in Change: A Funder’s Guide to Supporting Advocacy to be helpful. Advocacy programs can be impactful, but they are different from other types of grant programs.

Who inspires you? This can be an inspiration to the person submitting the response or an organizational inspiration.

One example of someone who inspires staff here at AIDS United is Pedro Zamora. Zamora was an HIV/AIDS advocate and educator who became one of the first public faces in the United States of HIV, youth, and LGBT issues. He appeared on the groundbreaking third season of MTV’s The Real World. Zamora dedicated his life to educating people—especially young people—about HIV. He bravely shared his story to humanize HIV at a time when we knew much less about the disease and epidemic.

Note: If you are attending the 2014 AIDS Philanthropy Summit December 8-9, join Bolder Advocacy counsel Isaiah Castilla for “Funding policy & advocacy: Not just allowable, but needed!” AIDS United is a member organization of Funders Concerned About AIDS, the organizer of the summit.