BTAN Chicago: Building Strategic Relationships and Mobilizing Coalitions

Posted in: News, News 2018
Anthony Galloway, BTAN Chicago

As the recently elected chair of Chicago’s Black Treatment Advocates Network (BTAN), Anthony Galloway views that work as the perfect complement to his full-time job as director of civic engagement at Equality Illinois, the state’s LGBTQ civil rights organization.

At Equality Illinois, Galloway travels the state mobilizing advocates and organizations to affect state policies concerning issues affecting the LGBTQ community. “My work is to build the civic engagement of LGBTQ and our allies to improve regional support,” Galloway says. This includes conducting training sessions and disseminating information about HIV criminalization laws that need to be modernized.

Similarly, Galloway adds, “The purpose of BTAN is to educate on the science and treatment of HIV/AIDS and give voice to policy/advocacy concerns that come up in outreach” to Black communities. “BTAN allows us to have a platform as it applies to Black people.”

He continues: “HIV is an issue within the Black community, but so is education, so is health care, racial profiling, discrimination and criminalization. We’re being hit hard, so I’m loving the fact that we’re bringing all these issues together.”

Galloway intends to increase BTAN Chicago’s presence in the city’s HIV/AIDS community. “We’re working to build a solid foundation so that we can really deal with the science and treatment of HIV and also build strategic relationships with other organizations, like the AIDS Foundation of Chicago [AFC], Equality Illinois, Southside Health, and be intentional in those relationships,” says Galloway, who is also a graduate of the 2015 cohort of the African American HIV University. Since he was named chair, attendance at BTAN Chicago meetings has already increased 50 percent.

One way BTAN Chicago will move forward is by co-hosting conferences addressing the LGBTQ and African American populations.

In collaboration with the AFC, on Nov. 2, 2017, BTAN Chicago sponsored a full-day conference entitled “Countering the Invisibility of Bisexual Health,” to explore the relationships between racial equity and social justice among bisexual people. “The conference was to bring attention to the disparities facing bisexual people and how we can best remedy them within the HIV service sector. There is a need for us as providers to have more knowledge of the ‘B’ [bisexual] and where they stand and what the differences are,” says Cynthia Tucker, AFC’s vice president of prevention and community partnerships, and chair of BTAN Chicago’s HIV Treatment Advocacy Committee.

According to the Movement Advancement Projectan independent think tank that provides rigorous research, insight and analysis that help speed equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people”—bisexual people make up 52 percent of LGB people in the United States (pdf), with people of color more likely to identify as bisexual. For example, women of color make up 36 percent of bisexual women, as compared with 26 percent of heterosexual women.

Because they are often overlooked and underrepresented, bisexual people may not get tested for HIV or navigated to services. Discrimination, stigma and undiagnosed HIV among the bisexual population were among the topics covered at the conference.

One of the conference outcomes was the formation of the Bisexual Health Task Force, “a coalition working to build a framework and purpose on advocacy training and increasing structural interventions that target bisexual people,” says Galloway, who once worked for Tucker at AFC.

“Anthony has fifteen years working in the HIV field and is really good at mobilizing coalitions and folks to work on community-based programs,” Tucker says.

In December 2017, AFC and BTAN Chicago collaborated on “The Dance of Race, Class & Privilege,” an all-day conference exploring how racism, class and privilege are interwoven in HIV health disparities, featuring Black AIDS Institute President and CEO Phill Wilson as a speaker.

“We all know that racism and poverty are some of the biggest things within the HIV epidemic. A lot of times we don’t talk about them,” says Galloway. “So we really wanted to talk about how White privilege—cultural, structural, institutional racism—actually hampers us from being able to engage and mobilize individuals in HIV prevention.”

April Eugene is a Philadelphia-based writer.

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