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    Black Coalition on AIDS Announces Name Change, New Structure and New Programs

    BT052914-ONLINE-10

    By Perry Lang

    I believe there are two critical ques­tions facing small ethnic and LGBT nonprofit organizations today: How do we remain relevant and how do we combat charity fatigue?

    In an effort to address the first ques­tion, it is my pleasure to announce that the Black Coalition on AIDS (BCA) will soon adopt a new name, a new structure and new programs. BCA is scheduled to take on the new name in July, becoming the Rafiki Coalition for Health and Wellness (RCHW). The name change will better reflect our diverse service menu and our core purpose, which is to promote health equity and elimi­nate health disparities in black and marginalized communities in San Francisco.

    If we don’t remain relevant and at­tempt to address the growing health needs of our community, shame on us. The health of black people in San Francisco, both old and young, is no secret. Black San Franciscans suffer disproportionately from most dis­eases when compared to their white counterparts. For example, the lung cancer rate for blacks is 85.5 per 100,000 cases, compared to 49.6 for whites; the asthma rate for blacks is 21.5% compared to 15.3% for whites; the death rate for black males due to ischemic heart disease is 219.1 per 100,000, compared to 148.8 for whites, and the overall rate of HIV/AIDS diagnoses among blacks is 295 per 100,000, compared to 143 per 100,000 for whites.

    Our commitment to HIV/AIDS re­mains strong, but we also need to be fresh and relevant to the growing re­ality of our aging community. And I trust that we are on the right track. Since 2004, BCA has steadily ex­panded its service menu to include health and wellness through its Rafi­ki Wellness programs. BCA’s service expansion was a natural progression in response to a growing number of HIV-positive clients who were ag­ing and developed comorbidities, such as kidney disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. In 2005, the BCA Board of Directors officially expanded the agency’s mission to in­clude “health disparities.” Today, the agency records more than 3,500 com­munity contacts, conducts more than 200 workshops and classes, and hosts the largest African American health summit in San Francisco.

    BCA/Rafiki provides a range of ser­vices, including: (1) disease education, (2) nutrition education, (3) move­ment/exercise classes, (4) complemen­tary and alternative medicine, and (5) health screenings. BCA also manages an 11-bed transitional housing facility for formerly homeless HIV-positive clients.

    Remaining relevant to the commu­nity also entails addressing the health and wellness needs of an aging popu­lation, many with chronic illness. BCA/Rafiki is looking for opportuni­ties to expand its work with seniors at the George W. Davis Senior Center in Bayview and explore palliative care services if and when appropriate.

    The agency is responsible for some of the most innovative health and wellness services in the Bay Area, in­cluding its Rafiki Wellness Passport Program, committed to improving health biomarkers or changing nega­tive health behaviors for all graduates in 90 days. The agency also operates an LGBT-targeted program known as “Living Well,” a monthly well­ness support gathering that also pro­motes HIV testing and monitoring of viral loads.

    In addition to a staff of 20, BCA has more than two dozen culturally com­petent health practitioners, including instructors in acupuncture, therapeu­tic message, yoga, reflexology and more. No agency has done more to remain relevant to the growing health needs of our overall community.

    In terms of combating charity fatigue, BCA/Rafiki is looking beyond tradi­tional funding and is also embracing social entrepreneurship. Last year, for example, the agency renovated an old nightclub space and moved to 601 Cesar Chavez Street, between Third Street and Pier 80, between Potrero Hill and Bayview Hunters Point in southeast San Francisco. Our plan is to remodel and open a café and commercial kitchen in September to supplement unrestricted revenues and offer culinary opportunities for those interested in food trucks or similar businesses.

    The recent recession hit small ethnic and LGBT agencies very hard and, for the sake of our constituents, we must not allow our agencies to be in that position ever again. Like the Girl Scouts, it may mean that some of us will need to sell cookies; like Good­will Industries, it may mean that oth­ers will need to promote and charge for job training and placement servic­es; like the AIDS Healthcare Founda­tion, it may mean that some of us will need to open a thrift store and sell used goods; like Delancey Street, it may mean that some of us will need to sell Christmas trees.

    At BCA/Rafiki, we are commit­ted for the long haul and are look­ing for innovative partnerships with corporations, foundations and indi­viduals to assist our community to live healthy vibrant lives. Details of the agency’s ambitious plans will be highlighted on June 14 at our an­nual fundraising gala, Soulful Sum­mer Soiree, an evening of fun, food and community. Tickets are $50. For more information, call 415-615-9945 or visit our website at www.bcoa.org.

    Perry Lang is the Executive Director of the Black Coalition on AIDS and has been a resident of San Francisco for more than 30 years.