At the end of this week, my colleague Mr. Christopher Bates will retire, bringing to a close a distinguished career in federal service to the HIV/AIDS community.
Christopher has served this office and its predecessor for nearly 15 years. He began work at the office then known as the Office of HIV/AIDS Policy (OHAP) in 1999 after a number of years of work addressing HIV/AIDS, locally, in Philadelphia and Washington, DC. His prior experiences at the community level included serving as the Interim Manager of the City of Philadelphia’s HIV Commission and as the Executive Director of Washington, DC’s Comprehensive AIDS Resources and Education Consortium.
During his tenure at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Christopher held numerous leadership positions, including Deputy Director, Acting Director, and Director of OHAP. He also served as Executive Director of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA). These positions afforded Christopher with the opportunity to lead/be involved in various efforts designed to strengthen and expand our nation’s response to HIV/AIDS, including:
- Serving on the development team of OHAP’s adaption of the Rapid Assessment, Rapid Evaluation (RARE) initiative, which supported more than 60 local health departments and community-based organizations in using qualitative and quantitative tools to better understand behavioral drivers of local HIV epidemics so they could more effectively adapt and target HIV prevention interventions to reduce rates of new infection.
- Initiating the National HIV Testing Mobilization Campaign, a three-year, national campaign to raise HIV awareness and promote the CDC’s HIV testing guidelines specifically among populations disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS, including racial/ethnic minorities and gay/bisexual men, as well as other key populations such as faith communities, older Americans, and youth workers. The campaign ultimately reached more than 8.5 million individuals.
- Managing the annual allocation of the Secretary’s Minority AIDS Initiative Fund to HHS agencies and offices.
- Serving on the Executive Committee that developed the National HIV/AIDS Strategy.
- Planning and conducting national consultations with non-federal stakeholders to identify opportunities to strengthen both federal and non-federal HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment activities in accordance with the priorities of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. These included a consultation with LGBT community leadership about opportunities to bolster engagement in HIV prevention, care and treatment; a consultation with people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWH) to discuss their perspectives on the Strategy and to identify opportunities for their meaningful involvement in an array of activities in pursuit of the Strategy’s goals; and a consultation on how to best address the HIV prevention, care, treatment, capacity building and research needs of Black gay and bisexual men.
Following Christopher’s return from a detail to the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in 2012, we asked him to apply his knowledge and skills to the arena of viral hepatitis, which had been newly added to the scope of responsibilities of our office. Over the past year, serving as a Senior Advisor to me, he has led many of our efforts to enhance outreach and education about the silent epidemic of viral hepatitis among racial/ethnic minority communities and other populations that bear a disproportionate burden of this disease. You have probably read some of his blog post on these topics or participated in one or more of the webinars he has coordinated.
In addition to his many programmatic achievements, my colleague Miguel Gomez, Senior Communications Advisor at the Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy, observed that “Christopher has also served as a mentor to many of his staff who continue to work in the fields of HIV and public health in the DC metro area, Atlanta, Sacramento and elsewhere.”
All of this experience will serve him well as he transitions to the next exciting chapter of his life which includes his moving to Florida to be closer to family. No matter where Christopher is, I am sure that he will continue to be an asset and advocate for people at risk for and living with HIV/AIDS and viral hepatitis. As he begins that new chapter, we send him off with sincere gratitude for his many contributions to our work to address HIV/AIDS and viral hepatitis across America.
Good luck, Christopher, and thank you.