Summary: Douglas Brooks sends a letter thanking community and government officials for their partnership and work during his two years in office.
After two extraordinary years with the Obama Administration, today is my last as the Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy. It’s been the opportunity of a lifetime to serve President Obama, a man I admire so deeply, and the American people, helping to lead our efforts to improve HIV research, prevention and care.
The most important message I have for anyone reading this is: THANK YOU!! Thank you to every community member who wrote to me, spoke with me, shared her story, or advocated for his community needs. Thank you to each Federal, state and local official who works diligently every-single-day to implement the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. Thank you to my White House staff and colleagues, with whom I’ve shared many hours of work, email, and laughs. And importantly, thank you to the brave, inspiring women and men living with HIV who have taught me the true meaning of courage. With you all, there is much of which to be proud.
In the last two years, we opened up the White House to more community and conversation than ever. I’m proud that during my tenure, we hosted the first ever White House meetings—and took subsequent actions—on HIV in the Southern United States, HIV among Gay and Bisexual Men, HIV in the Transgender Community, and HIV Stigma (among many, many other meetings).
I’m proud of the many things we’ve achieved together, along with persistent advocacy: increased our focus on addressing the unique needs of gay and bisexual men (noting the disparities for those who are Black and Latino), Black women, transgender women, and people living in the US South; helped reform the ban on federal funds for evidence-based syringe access programs; began to break down the stigma and barriers associated with PrEP in order to best deliver it, and many other prevention tools, to the people who need them most. We also worked to advance employment opportunities for people living with HIV and we brought in federal and community partners who were missing from our work.
Chiefly, I’m proud that our team, along with input from thousands of stakeholders from around the country, produced our National HIV/AIDS Strategy: Updated to 2020 [PDF 2,230 KB]. With this Strategy, moving forward through the end of the decade, I strongly believe we have the best possible roadmap to guide our collective efforts. I urge every Federal office, every state and local health department, and every community organization dedicated to slowing and ending the HIV epidemic in America to join together, and collectively put the Strategy into action.
I’m pleased to announce that Dr. Amy Lansky, who has so ably served as a senior policy advisor, helped lead our Federal interagency working group, and co-authored our updated Strategy, will serve as Acting, then Director, of ONAP to the end of the Administration. Amy will no doubt serve with her trademark diligence and grace, and ensure that we implement our Federal Action Plan for 2016 [PDF 773 KB]. You are in most capable hands and I ask that you give her the same tremendous support you’ve given me.
I’ve had the privilege of traveling this great nation many times over, and have witnessed the truly extraordinary work people do every day to heal their communities: from Boston to Birmingham, Oakland to Atlanta. I can unequivocally say that, despite the challenges that remain, I know our response is stronger, more focused, and ultimately better today to reach the people we know must be reached.
Thank you again for the chance to serve, and I look forward to the years ahead.
All best to you.
Douglas M. Brooks
Editor’s Note: Watch this conversation with Douglas Brooks about the importance of addressing HIV stigma and the need for PrEP.