While Kevin Jones had several leadership roles involving HIV/AIDS research, his own 2009 diagnosis with HIV gave him new insight into the fight against the disease.
“Being infected gave me a whole other lens to look through the disease and to ask some different questions [from health-care providers],” said Jones, who is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania. “Fortunately, I had the support to take my new diagnosis and to use it as a learning tool and to really use it to understand my next professional direction. That was one of the things that was an eye-opener for me: Despite the work that I had done, I did not have that lived experience.”
The openly gay 40-year-old will take his lived and professional experiences to the Urban Coalition for HIV/AIDS Prevention Services (UCHAPS), where he was recently appointed as national executive director. The Washington, D.C.-based organization collaborates with health departments and community partners to prevent new HIV infections. The group includes nine member jurisdictions, including Philadelphia.
Jones said, “Philadelphia has a wonderful and strong community,” noting how he felt when he started seeing national stories about the city’s new rainbow flag featuring black and brown stripes.
“I [thought], This is so Philadelphia. I love it,” he said. “Philly has always been able to take the lead on certain issues and create identities that support the people that live there as well as people who don’t. I’m happy to have been a part of that Philadelphia scene and be able to drink from the wells that continue to inspire Philly’s LGBT community to really advance racial equity throughout the community.”
Jones’ work in Philadelphia includes being a founding member of the Black Gay Men’s Leadership Council, serving on the advisory committee of The COLOURS Organization and founder of the Black LGBT Archivists Society of Philadelphia.
Additionally, he served as a qualitative researcher and project manager for Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine, where he managed several research projects and implemented strategies to introduce communities to early PrEP studies and HIV/AIDS vaccine trials. Jones said the “hallmark” of his time at Penn was when he coordinated “Ms. Lady V & Mr. V,” a drag competition held at Voyeur to educate the community on HIV/AIDS.
Jones noted that HIV research is a subject he follows passionately and hopes the country gets to a point where there are zero infections.
“Since at least ’83, when I was about 6 or 7, and hearing my pastor clearly describing HIV as ‘God’s gift to the gays,’ that was something that troubled me then and it’s something that continues to trouble me to this day,” Jones said. “So that side of me keeps me looking forward to this work because I believe we can end this disease. I believe we can help inform and educate our loved ones so that they can also be the most ardent supporters to ending the epidemic.”
In a statement, UCHAPS Board President Tony Sillemon noted that the team is “incredibly happy” to see Jones join.
“It’s hard to imagine anyone whose lived and professional experience has better prepared them for this leadership opportunity,” Sillemon said. “Throughout his career, Kevin has demonstrated a deep personal commitment to the kind of work UCHAPS does and the people and organizations we serve. His ability to lead our public health, community-based and national partners will further strengthen our one-of-a-kind coalition. We couldn’t be any more thrilled.”