PCAF press release.
Ace Robinson, a global leader in improving HIV health outcomes, takes the helm at PCAF, the South Sound’s leading HIV organization.
After a national search, the PCAF Board of Directors is excited to announce that they have unanimously voted to appoint Ace Robinson, MHL, MPH (he/él) as the new CEO of PCAF. Robinson, who will begin serving the PCAF community on July 14th, identifies as a Black queer man who has spent his career focused on improving health outcomes for historically unserved subpopulations disproportionately impacted by HIV and associated illnesses. Robinson will be the first BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) executive in PCAF’s 35 year history.
Following the departure of PCAF’s most recent Executive Director at the end of 2021, the Board began a diligent process to find the organization’s next leader. A Selection Committee, co-chaired by PCAF board members Russell Campbell and Chris Barrans, was formed and skillfully guided this process, working closely with Hagel Executive Search to conduct a national search.
The committee represented a variety of perspectives and consisted of clients, former and current staff, former board members, and community members. Stakeholders at all levels of the organization had the opportunity to be involved in the process over recent months. Staff identified the top qualities considered important for PCAF’s incoming leader, with the goal to find someone to build upon the work the agency has been doing since 1987, with a vision to lead the organization forward strategically to meet changing needs. Stakeholders and community members had the opportunity to participate in a meet and greet with final candidates in June and to provide feedback on the candidates that informed the decision making process.
“The PCAF Board of Directors is so pleased to have Ace, who brings vast national and international experience, joining us to lead the organization. We are excited for the vision that Ace will bring to this leadership position,” said Maggie Webb, PCAF Board President.
Robinson brings twenty years of experience in the HIV field which began in Seattle at Fred Hutch while he worked on HIV vaccine design in Sénégal, West Africa. As a globally respected leader within the HIV community, Robinson is eminently qualified and equally passionate. He shared, “My primary goal is to strategically align resources within South Puget Sound and beyond to improve not only the HIV-related health, but the holistic wellbeing of our community. We will uplift the voices of excluded communities to provide new and innovative resources to dismantle the systemic structures that have prevented so many from achieving better health outcomes. Healthcare is a human right. And in partnership with the PCAF staff, volunteers, and Board of Directors, I am sure that that phrase will never just be words, but lived action.”
Robinson brings a history of leading bold initiatives like the End AIDS Washington State plan, developed and launched in 2014 under his guidance, in addition to the programs like ESCALATE, focused on HIV-stigma eradication. He has helped to craft the groundwork to adjust institutional structures in HIV healthcare management and delivery to support impacted individuals, populations, and communities, and has committed to doing this work until all communities equitably receive access to prevention and care.
Robinson is a proven, transformative leader focused on creating systems to dismantle, rebuild, enhance, and/or maintain best practices to improve our collective response to HIV and associated illnesses. He has a track record of creating improved outcomes that stem from effective partnership with trusted community leaders, public and private funders, elected officials, and key public health entities.
Robinson is committed to realizing PCAF’s mission to assist people living with HIV to meet their holistic needs by building a fabric for health justice and human rights to alleviate disparities to finally bring an end to this pandemic.
“I am beyond excited that Ace will be joining PCAF and the HIV leadership of Washington state. Ace brings leadership that is laser focused on ensuring that prevention and treatment services reach the most underserved and ending the epidemic by addressing related infectious diseases, sexism, homophobia, racism, and home security. He is well versed in policy and systems change, clear thinking, and respected nationally,” stated former Washington State Secretary of Health John Wiesman, DrPH, MPH who currently is the Co Chair of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA).
During his career, Robinson was a lead advocate for expanding awareness to Treatment as Prevention at the High Level Meeting to the United Nations and later became a founding steering committee member for Prevention Access Campaign’s Undetectable equals Undetectable (U=U). Ace also served in senior leadership roles at NMAC (formerly known as the National Minority AIDS Council) in Washington, D.C., Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation in South Africa, Lifelong AIDS Alliance in Seattle, and Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) in New York City.
Currently, Robinson co-chairs the Federal AIDS Policy & Partnership (FAPP), chairs Brown University’s Advisory Council to Eliminate Anti-Black Racism, and serves as a board member for several other organizations.
“Ace Robinson is a leader with the vision, experience and integrity needed to lead PCAF at this time. I congratulate the PCAF Board of Directors for selecting such an outstanding national and international leader in HIV/AIDS. Ace has my unequivocal respect and support,” said E. Duane Wilkerson, MPH, MDiv, PCAF Executive Director 2007-2016.
In the over 35 years since the HIV epidemic began, the face of the HIV community has changed. Today, HIV is a manageable chronic illness, and people living with HIV are increasingly entering old age, which poses unique issues that have to be addressed. At the same time, HIV continues to impact younger age groups, and disproportionately impact LGBTQ+ communities, incarcerated and policed people, immigrant and refugee communities, and communities of color.
The South Sound in general, and Pierce County specifically, has some of the highest rates of HIV transmission in the state, and people from marginalized communities are disproportionately impacted. People of color collectively accounted for half of all new infections, despite making up roughly 25% of the population. Every 4 days, in Washington, both a person identifying as Hispanic and a Black person are diagnosed with HIV. Washington Department of Health data show that the impact of HIV has been undercounted among American Indian/Alaska Native people, due to multiracial identity.
Ending HIV requires addressing racism and all the other systems of oppression that impact the likelihood of contracting HIV. This is because HIV is more than a disease; it is a symptom of systemic discrimination. HIV is intersectional, and its impact is multiplied by racism, homophobia, transphobia, poverty, and more. Equity work is central to PCAF’s mission and ongoing work of ending the HIV epidemic in the South Sound.
Robinson has a wealth of experience creating and executing strategic plans to provide timely and culturally responsive HIV prevention and and treatment services for people of color, transgender and gender non-conforming individuals, unhoused people, and people who use substances, and those in need of behavioral health services including substance use.
Robinson is also an experienced coalition builder, working with key local, national, and international organizations focused on reducing the impact of HIV. He has organized and facilitated input from a cross-section of communities with diverse points of view and lived experiences through workshops, listening-sessions, and meetings to improve service delivery.
Robinson has created numerous public policy strategies to affect legislative agendas and strategies to create sound public policy, providing leadership, vision and oversight to drive the national agenda for HIV policy.
“The wealth of knowledge and experience Ace brings with him will be a great addition to the fight against HIV in the South Sound. His focus on health equity, social justice, and fighting HIV-related stigma are right in line with PCAFs values,” said Erick Seelbach, PCAF Executive Director 2016-2021.
Robinson comes to PCAF as the 4th executive leader at the helm of the 35 year old organization, which provides HIV prevention and care services via community-centered programming and culturally responsive case management services throughout the South Sound region of Washington State, and has grown to serve four counties with offices in Tacoma and Olympia. PCAF also serves as a fiscal sponsor to Oasis Youth Center as well as to Latinxs Unidos del South Sound (LUSS).
Regarding PCAF’s local community, Robinson noted, “PCAF sits in a geographic region that is not eliminating its highly impacted populations due to gentrification, but is actually increasing its population of historically unserved people due to regional pressures on housing, food, and job security. It will be exciting to meet the Community’s needs in real-time and work hand-in-hand with staff, volunteers, and the Board of Directors to find an innovative way forward.”
Robinson is looking forward to bringing his vast experience with coalition building, public policy, strategic planning, and revenue generation and putting it to work in the South Sound region. “I’m excited to work with the PCAF community–staff, clients, and all of our stakeholders–to further develop the vision and strategy that is community centered and a model of healthcare that is progressive and responsive to the political landscape. Working together, I am more than sure that we will find a way forward whether we must go over, under, around, or through those who are working to harm our bio-/chosen-families and people that we serve.”
When asked about his goals for leading the organization, Robinson replied that he hoped to foster an inclusive, supportive, and collaborative work environment that inspires colleagues while bringing high staff morale, an integrated teamwork model, and a solid connection to the mission and vision of the agency.
As a servant leader, Robinson prides himself at establishing a healthy organizational culture and implementing a horizontal work culture. This is accomplished through meaningful investment in staff development from a personal or professional lens,and through ensuring that staff know that their input is vital to the success of the organization.
In addition to welcoming Ace, the PCAF Board of Directors wishes to extend gratitude to the Search Committee led by board members Russell Campbell and Chris Barrans, the members of the Search Committee, and our search firm Hagel and Associates for their diligence in securing such a qualified leader; to our interim ED team, Caitlin Simmons (Interim Executive Director), Lorenzo Cervantes, Emily BC, and Jill Rose, for skillfully guiding the organization during this transition; and to the entire PCAF staff for their hard work and professionalism throughout this time of transition.
We’re grateful to our clients and community for your ongoing support over the years as we work to prevent HIV and support those living with HIV to lead their fullest lives. With your continued partnership, PCAF is poised to do even more for the clients and community we serve in the future, and to end the HIV epidemic in the South Sound.
Please join us in welcoming Ace to PCAF. PCAF will provide opportunities for the Tacoma and Olympia communities to meet and get to know Ace in the coming months and years.
Through education and service, PCAF prevents HIV infection, assists persons affected by HIV/AIDS, addresses related health problems, and combats associated stigma and discrimination. With offices in Tacoma and Olympia, PCAF serves Pierce, Thurston, and Lewis Counties. PCAF is dedicated to assisting persons living with HIV or AIDS to meet their needs for food, housing, healthcare, and personal support. PCAF also provides extensive outreach, education and prevention programs including free HIV testing to help stop the spread of HIV and work to combat HIV related stigma. More information is available at www.pcaf-wa.org