In February, the Black AIDS Institute made a crucial and substantial move. The organization opened a prevention clinic in Los Angeles, in partnership with St. John’s Well Child and Family Center (SJWCFC), to address the growing needs of those community members most at risk for HIV/AIDS. The clinic offers a wide range of services—including access to biomedical interventions like pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), non-occupational postexposure prophylaxis (nPEP) and treatment as prevention (TasP)—and linkage to other prevention support services.
But the Institute and SJWCFC’s strategic partnership didn’t stop there.
On April 20, 2018, the organizations launched A Clinic for Us: Community Health Services, specializing in Black men’s health, HIV, hepatitis, STDs, prostate cancer, diabetes, family medicine, and dental and mental health.
The force behind these clinics is BAI’s Prevention and Care (PAC) Team, led by Program Manager Erica Lillquist. Made up of seven staff members, the team is dedicated to serving Black Angelenos and other racial/ethnic minorities in the Los Angeles County metropolis. They provide clinical and support services, specifically HIV testing and counseling, PrEP services, referrals and linkage, support groups and peer mentorship.
The PAC Team will also address some of the health-care challenges in Black communities, including medical mistrust; the lack of awareness of lifesaving biomedical treatments (like PrEP); and a shortage of competent, sensitive and responsive health-care professionals.
For this dynamic PAC Team, there is much to do, but these determined professionals are ready to serve and advocate for an often overlooked and underserved community.
Meet BAI’s Prevention and Care Team:
Brittinae Bell, Program Coordinator
“My responsibilities include ensuring we’re adequately staffed at the front desk, as well as having HIV testers readily available. I also maintain the protocol for referrals and ensure that our HIV testing procedures are meeting the standards set in place by Los Angeles County. Our team is important to the Black community because the people we serve can be our mothers, fathers, brothers or uncles. People feel more at ease with us. We provide prevention and care from an unapologetically Black perspective, which is important to Black Angelenos and makes our organization stand out from the rest.”
David Coleman, Health Education Specialist
“I became part of the PAC Team last year when I decided to get back into HIV prevention work after taking a bit of a hiatus. The Black AIDS Institute was the perfect place to fulfill my desire to serve the Black community as well as focus on HIV prevention and treatment. My responsibilities are mainly around testing, condom distribution, communications and leading our youth group, Revolution in Color. There is no other organization in Los Angeles that makes the Black community a priority.”
Thomas Davis, Program Coordinator
“I became part of the PAC Team because I wanted to work for an organization that unapologetically focused on the communities I am a part of. I assist with our behavioral intervention programs and am the lead for our Peer Mentor Project. It’s imperative that we focus on engaging the Black community and specifically programs that foster mentorship.”
Kidron E. Fellows, Health Educator
“I became part of the PAC Team because I wanted to be the face of my generation and spread awareness about HIV and the importance of mental and sexual health. I primarily deal with intake and data entry, and I’m the first face the clients see when they enter the doors. I also help with outreach, raising awareness about the PAC Team. There are not many places or teams like us that not only provide the community medical services but also understand how to best serve them.”
Erica Lillquist, Program Manager
“Though I am responsible for the strategic direction of the team and its implementation, I like to think of my role as supporting the other members to do their best work. Our team is important because the services we provide are for Black people, designed by Black people. As a result of this, we can provide services that best serve the community. Our goal is the same as that of the mission: We want to end the epidemic in Black communities. We have always worked to that end, but now we are doing it through direct services.”
Percival W. Pandy Jr., Linkage Coordinator
“I became part of the PAC Team because I wanted to build and provide sustainable health services to African Americans. I am responsible for linking individuals to services that will aid them in maintaining their HIV-negative status, and linking HIV-positive individuals to services that will help them achieve a barrier-free life. The community needs any network or service provider that addresses the multilayered needs of the Black community in order to prevent new cases of HIV.”
Saron Selassie, Program Coordinator
“Some of my responsibilities include leading the community advisory board, facilitating our weekly prevention clinic, monitoring and evaluating the overall prevention and care initiative, and liaising with some of our clinical partners. The PAC Team is needed in the Black community because the more providers that are trained in structural competency and cultural humility, the better. The Black AIDS Institute does a great job of providing a culturally tailored space where Black people can feel comfortable and supported. That is a big part of getting the community engaged in HIV prevention and care.”
LaShieka Hunter is a freelance writer and editor based on Long Island, N.Y.