A final Farewell

Earlier this month, Kim, one of my oldest and dearest friends, died.  This is certainly not how I expected to begin my final communication as Executive Director of FCAA, but our friendship happens to parallel exactly my career in HIV, so it feels fitting.

I met Kim in 1987 when I showed up for the first time as the social worker at an HIV clinic in Wilmington, DE.  Kim was a volunteer at the clinic and ran a healing arts group for people with AIDS.  In the absence of effective medication, meditation, reiki and the like were all that was available.

Over the next few years, I lost count of the number of hands Kim and I held as more and more people died of AIDS, but their faces came flooding back to me as I held her hand on her last night.  Those visions make me grateful for all the advances I’ve witnessed in my 30+ years of work in HIV, but also remind me that too many still don’t have access to life saving medication, and too many still face HIV alone due to unrelenting stigma.  Lots of progress, but miles to go before we rest.

The final chapter of my HIV work has been as Executive Director of FCAA over the last 13 years, and I’m very proud of what the FCAA community has accomplished together.  We have held hundreds of webinars, conferences and events reaching thousands with our analysis of HIV funding and guidance on how to better match resources to needs.  Our investment in the collection and analysis of private funding data has positioned us uniquely to advise philanthropy on how to maximize impact.

The responsibility of responding to a global epidemic also demanded that we expand our vision and our membership to build a global network, and we have made great strides toward that goal – though clearly need to continue to build our capacity in the global south and east, where HIV continues to ravage the most vulnerable and isolated.

FCAA’s most recent strategic plan introduces the notion of “HIV informed grantmaking.” This designation is meant for those funders who recognize the value of the lessons learned over four decades of the response to HIV and who put those lessons to work in broader efforts to promote equity, health and rights for all.

The notion of addressing the underlying drivers of the HIV epidemic has really taken center stage in FCAA’s work as it has become increasingly clear that HIV is the symptom of systemic inequality, and that curing an epidemic will not heal those deeper wounds. 

This is why FCAA’s work must continue to move upstream toward empowerment, equity, and justice for marginalized and neglected communities, promotion of health, rights, and social and economic opportunity, and government responsiveness and accountability to people’s needs.

For me, this work has always been dedicated to those whose faces come back to me now.  Our success in these endeavors will be their legacy. 

Whenever Kim and I parted, she would tell me I was divinely guided and protected.  As I part ways with the FCAA community, my wish for you as you continue in this work, under the very capable leadership of Masen Davis, is that you too will be divinely guided and protected.

Warmest Regards,


Related Resources

  • Read a collection of memories and fond wishes for John (or feel free to add your own) on this Kudo Board
  • Learn more about FCAA’s Incoming Executive Director Masen Davis