I never would have thought that while attending a lecture by Phill Wilson, prominent African-American HIV/AIDS activist and CEO and president of the Black Aids Institute, that I would be analyzing and discussing the strategies behind running a marathon. Phill Wilson joined the fight against HIV/AIDS specifically within the black community in the United States in the ‘80s when the AIDS epidemic was just starting in the US. Diagnosed with AIDS in the early ‘80s and close to many friends affected by the disease, Wilson has educated and mobilized many communities in the fight against AIDS. In 1999, he founded the Black AIDS Institute and continues in the fight despite what he calls “The Alice in Wonderland School of Public Policy” – a society and government in denial of the existence of HIV, racism, and LGBT throughout the US. After successes in the fight against the epidemic, including treatment and new prevention strategies, our country has finally “hit the wall”- believing the fight has finished and we have succeeded. However many people still suffer greatly from the disease in the states and throughout the world due to a lack of knowledge of treatment strategies, limited access to proper healthcare, and the much believed façade that the HIV fight is both conquered and now history in the US.
Willson continues against this struggle as he sees his survival from AIDS as a “privilege”: “I fight because I can; to be able to get up and try to make something happen is a huge privilege.”
Willson will serve the global health community, all activists, changemakers, and me to take that next step at mile 20, even if it is small, slow, and difficult. I cannot wait to take on what may be a marathon of a year with the courage, determination, and love Willson has portrayed throughout his career.