The National Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA) has closed down and it has filed for bankruptcy and liquidation. People familiar with NAPWA knew that more than $700,000 was unaccounted for or missing, according to media reports. NAPWA’s President Frank Oldham, Jr. was slated to resign Dec. 31, but left earlier in the year, perhaps pressured by his Board. The news came in an email press release last night from Tyler TerMeer, from the Ohio AIDS Coalition. It was a grim footnote to Valentine’s Day.
An article in this morning’s Washington Blade reveals failures to meet payroll and rent of its Silver Spring office, funds due the District of Columbia HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, and Sexually Transmitted Disease Administration (HAHSTA).
It’s a sad ending to an organization that was out front in the early days of the AIDS epidemic. As TerMeer writes: “NAPWA was founded in 1983 to implement the Denver Principles, in which those living with the still-new disease syndrome claimed the right to be called ‘People with AIDS,’ not ‘AIDS victims,’ and to be at the table to speak for themselves when medical and policy decisions were being made. Thirty years later, that is recognized as best practice in medical and policy settings and will continue to be so for as long as HIV is still with us.”
I first got wind of problems with NAPWA after Mayor Edward Koch died. I tried unsuccessfully to reach former NAPWA President Frank Oldham, Jr., who spent years working for AIDS funding during the Koch years. The NYTimes obituary of Koch omitted any attention to the AIDS crisis in New York City during the Koch years. It was later corrected and the subject of scorn on social media. Many people considered Koch in the closet and not respectful of AIDS activists. Oldham, also a person with HIV, was a major force in getting AIDS care in Chicago and New York.
In an earlier interview with Frank Oldham, Jr. for PatientPOV.org, he remarked to me how impossible Koch was in addressing the AIDS crisis. A broad infrastructure now exists, including many more grassroots organizations across the United States, to support people with HIV and AIDS. That said, nonprofits devoted to HIV/AIDS work struggle. This is especially unfortunate, given that in the early days of the AIDS crisis, NAPWA was a leading light.