AIDS Foundation of Chicago ( AFC ) Community, Advocacy and Social Justice Manager, HIV Prevention Justice Alliance co-manager and Black Youth Project ( BYP ) 100 member Maxx Boykin is prominent not only in the ongoing fight against HIV/AIDS but through his seemingly tireless efforts for Black empowerment.
Now Boykin faces a new set of challenges in a cause to which he has dedicated his life. The election of a new U.S. president could mean the loss of lifesaving HIV/AIDS services through the dismantling of the Affordable Care Act ( ACA ) and the defunding of Planned Parenthood.
Many believe President Trump is also engaged in attacks on the Black community, particularly given the appointment of Jeff Sessions as attorney general and the chief executive's tweeted and verbal perceptions of inner cities.
Ahead of the Feb. 7 National Black AIDS Awareness Day, Boykin spoke with Windy City Times from Washington, D.C.now the front line in a war that is not merely political but one in which there are lives and communities at stake.
Windy City Times: How would you characterize the progress that has been made in the fight against HIV/AIDS and what are your concerns under this new administration?
Maxx Boykin: In terms of HIV/AIDS in this country and across the world, we made a lot of progress over the last eight years. We have a national HIV/AIDS strategy. It was not a perfect document, but [Obama's] Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS continued to improve that strategy year in and year out. Along with that, the advent of PrEP and trying to get it to African American communities really gave people access to groundbreaking technologies, treatment, prevention and helped to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS in this country. With the Affordable Care Act coupled with [the] Ryan White [CARE Act], we have also seen people who couldn't afford healthcare get the kind of access they had never had before.
There were limitations, especially in Southern states where Medicaid was not expanded and we have seen the spread of HIV/AIDS because of lack of access to insurance.
The main concerns I have now are the ways in which Black communities across this country will be attacked on many sides; with this "new healthcare" that Republicans want to roll out but that we still have not seen, attacks on our chances of really ending the epidemic. If the current administration defunds a lot of the programs they say they are going to, it really impacts people of color more than anyone by removing direct services that help communities the most.
WCT: There is a lot of concern that a lot of HIV testing that had been free for low income people is just going to evaporate with the defunding of Planned Parenthood and the dismantling of the ACA coupled with the groups suffering financially under the Illinois budget impasse. What can people do to make sure that testing remains intact?
MB: We must continue to find ways to resist and people must understand what it means to resist. The Women's March was a beautiful thing. There must be economic boycotts of those who support racist policies in this country. There are also ways in which to celebrate people's lives such as going to Art AIDS America and learning about what is really going on. We must continue to educate people, push back against elected officials and policies that are racist or discriminatory in nature and which do not allow the access that people need to health insurance or PrEP. We must fight for access to proper education. That is huge.
WCT: Recalling the time when people with HIV were barred admission to the United States, now there is a different type of ban implemented ( and now being fought ) against Muslims. This must bring up some very bad memories. It's still a ban on personhood.
MB: I truly believe in the freedom of expression, of religion and always in the importance of immigrant rights in this country. This country was built on the backs of slaves and immigrants. It would be nowhere near where it is today without that influx of people, knowledge and culture coming into this country. The fact that we would ban a particular group of folks from particular countries is un-American, illegal and I am glad there has been some push-back.
WCT: Black Lives Matter ( BLM ) co-founder Patrisse Cullors said she hopes the organization can gain more political capital. Do we have an opportunity now for that to happen with the resistance movement?
MB: I think the movement for Black lives will push for political power both in local settings and also on a national level. I am also a member of Black Youth Project 100 and we have a vision for Black futures and economic empowerment through policies that must be moved in a political context. We need to make sure that all elected officials understand that Black lives do matter and policies that uplift our communities, uplift America. There will be a continued push for years to come. This will be a long fight.
For more information on the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, visit AIDSChicago.org .