About Us

The African American Coalition Against AIDS was founded in 2002 for the explicit purpose of filling a void in the landscape of organizations engaged in HIV/AIDS work.  Many existing organizations engaged in HIV/AIDS-related work are committed to providing services to persons who have already contracted the virus.  Other organizations are committed to the very important task of raising funds for medical research and advocacy.  However, there are far too few organizations committed to engaging in the kind of direct outreach and grassroots approach that we believe is critical to reach those communities most marginalized by and vulnerable to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
As an organization with a strong community-based identity, our programs and work are structured to reach African Americans and other communities of color.   We continue to diversify and refine our outreach program and educational resources in order to keep lock and step with the growing complexity of and challenges associated with the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Since our founding, we have distributed over 1 million condoms to African Americans and others who reside in communities that have proven most vulnerable to this public health crisis.

Our Philosophy

In our view, there are certain problems that place the African American community in a particularly vulnerable position with respect to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.  These problems must be confronted in any meaningful effort to promote HIV/AIDS awareness. First, too many young people are not provided with factual information regarding HIV/AIDS.  Many young girls believe that they are abstinent while engaging in behaviors that nevertheless expose them to the risk of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).  Also, many young people are dealing with self-esteem issues that may also make them more likely to contract an STD. Second, many African American seniors have seen rising rates of HIV infection, in large part, because they dismiss HIV as a disease that does not affect their generation.  Third, lingering levels of homophobia have resulted in many African American men who choose to have sex with men and women who choose to have sex with other women leading "lives in the closet." As a result of this, Black gays, lesbians, transsexuals and those who reject these labels may not be able to find the support network needed to come “out of the closet” and seek needed resources. As evidence of this is the Down Low (“DL”) Phenomenon, which has been the subject of much recent public attention and debate. Fourth, many Black churches continue to deem topics of sexuality taboo. As a result, discussions about safe sex, STDs, promiscuity and other topics are sidelined in pursuit of the very singularly-focused theme of celibacy. Although celibacy is the safest way to protect oneself from the HIV/AIDS virus and other STDs, we recognize that celibacy is a choice that does not necessarily resonate with everyone. We believe that it is important to educate those who choose to be sexually active about the importance of using condoms and using them correctly.

Fifth, we must confront what he have dubbed the "Magic Johnson Phenomenon." Because there are virtually no African American leaders, celebrities or public figures who are HIV positive, Magic Johnson has come to represent the face of AIDS in Black America. Johnson, diagnosed with HIV close to 2 decades ago, has been given access to some of the best drugs available including Glaxo and non-Glaxo drugs. However, many of these drug companies do not provide low-cost incentives and thus, their drugs are not widely available to low-income individuals.  Some African Americans may trivialize HIV/AIDS as something that is conquerable given Johnson’s unusual position. Finally, we recognize that many African Americans continue to believe the false stereotype that AIDS is a "gay white man’s disease." We work to overcome this stereotype by packaging our education message in a way designed to resonate within the African American community.

Our Progress

Since our founding in 2002, the African American Coalition Against AIDS has distributed over 1 million condoms across the Washington, Baltimore and New York metropolitan areas.  Through condom distribution, we seek to encourage the kind of behavior transformation that will help people make smarter personal choices.

Our Strategy

AACAA targets neighborhoods and communities that have been particularly impacted by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. We believe in the importance of getting information and resources into the hands of people who would not otherwise get it. We also believe in the value, importance and effectiveness of street education and our street outreach program has served as an effective vehicle to disseminate information among those most vulnerable. Through our street outreach program, volunteers are paired up with certified HIV/AIDS instructors to canvass targeted residential areas, shopping centers and commercial strips to distribute educational pamphlets, condoms, female condoms, and testing site information. Our street outreach programs provide an opportunity for mass impact advocacy.  During a typical 2 hour street outreach session, we distribute as much as five thousand condoms and hundreds of educational brochures. In addition, to our street outreach events, we also sponsor educational tables at large social and cultural events such including expos, music festivals and public conferences.  Through these events, our volunteers distribute condoms and educational material in mass quantities and have the opportunity to educate patrons of these events regarding the impact of HIV/AIDS on the African American community. Finally, we also partner with local barbershops, hair salons, spas, clothing stores and record shops that serve as community-based distribution sites for our materials.