Vice President of Policy & Advocacy
If there is such a thing as a veteran in the war on HIV/AIDS, Ronald S. Johnson, AIDS United’s Vice President of Policy and Advocacy, is just that. His “tour of duty” began in 1984, at the very beginning of the epidemic. Johnson became a volunteer with Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), one of the first organizations responding to the devastating impact of AIDS on gay men in New York City.
“There was a great deal of fear in the gay community in New York City,” said Johnson. “As a gay man and as someone used to getting involved in causes I believe in, I felt that I needed to do something rather than give in to that fear and panic.”
After volunteering at GMHC for two years, Johnson was invited to join its Board of Directors. His volunteer HIV/AIDS experience became professional when he became executive director of the Minority Task Force on AIDS, then as the City of New York’s Citywide Coordinator for AIDS Policy, then back to GMHC as Associate Executive Director. He then went on to oversee the policy activities of AIDS Action, which merged with National AIDS Fund in 2011 to become AIDS United.
As the AIDS Action/AIDS United chief policy staff member, Johnson has helped establish the organizations’ leadership role on many HIV-related issues, including federal funding for domestic HIV/AIDS programs, the Ryan White Program, the repeal of the ban on federal funding of syringe exchange programs in 2010, the Affordable Care Act, and the successful lifting of the HIV travel and immigration ban.
“The best part of my job at AIDS United is the opportunity to be engaged in progressive social change through the development of and advocacy for public policies that advance social and economic justice,” Johnson said.
Johnson, who is HIV-positive, has served on numerous boards of directors of non-profit agencies, and was a member of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS from 1996-2001. He remains committed to remaining in HIV/AIDS work as long as there is an epidemic to fight.
“The first and foremost reason I remain in HIV work is because I am a person living with HIV,” he says. “But I also remain involved because HIV/AIDS continues to be a major health crisis here in the U.S. and around the world.”