Morenike Giwa Onaiwu approaches her role as a CAB member through a social justice lens. Since joining the CAB 10 years ago, she has worked to address the issues of particular concern to her local community of Houston, TX, including the role that stigma plays in limiting testing. “We need to have more acceptance, we need to have better policies, we need to have better treatments, we need to eradicate stigma because stigma kills,” she says.
Morenike argues that HIV research needs to better address the multitude of the factors that result in disparities and suboptimal outcomes among people with multiple marginalizations – especially related to the intersections of various identities, including gender, race, age, ability, and mental health. “We’ve made progress in this area, but there is still a great need,” she notes.
Morenike hopes that she has demonstrated that there’s a place in HIV advocacy for everyone. “I came into this work as a 20-something year old working-class Black woman living in the South; I had a baby on one hip and another on the way – yet I have helped to make lasting changes that have had an impact on the HIV community on a global scale.”
Ultimately, she looks forward to the day when the ACTG is no longer needed because society will have addressed the systemic inequalities that drive the epidemic and researchers will have found a cure.