Meet the Newest Board Member: Aryah Lester

aryah lester headshot in teal circle frame

“Elevating and uplifting the voices of those who are most affected has always been my passion, which is embedded within the very fibers of the Southern AIDS Coalition.”

—Aryah Lester, Southern AIDS Coalition Board Member

Q1: Introduce yourself, where do you come from and why do you want to take this important step in pursuing the end of the HIV epidemic in the South?

I am Aryah Lester, a Black woman of transgender experience born in Queens, New York. I lived in the state until just before my 10th birthday, when my family moved us to rural Georgia. My mother was originally from Washington County, where the population never really rose above 20,000, although we had a large land area as a county. It was here that I first experienced what it means to be Black in America, and also where, retroactively, I have noticed a lack of education and services for both public and sexual health, as well as anything pertaining to LGBTQIA matters. I suffered through years of mental health issues, alienation, and even suicide while being affected by the very things we now face as a nation in ending this epidemic of HIV. My lived experiences, as well as my education and skills gathered throughout my four decades of service on Earth, propelled me into the space to be able to support the Southern AIDS Coalition.

Q2: What excites you about joining the Board of Directors of the Southern AIDS Coalition?

The Southern AIDS Coalition is an organization whose makeup and diversity align with the representation we want to be reflected in the decision makers of policy and allocation. Black and Brown peoples, the LGB community, the transgender and gender nonconforming communities, rural communities, immigrants, and Southern folk: time and time again we see these communities reflected in data yet few in number amongst governing agencies and departments. It is indeed a pleasure to stand and share resources and strategies with such esteemed folk.

Q3: What do you hope to accomplish as a new Board Member for the Southern AIDS Coalition?

I hope to bring a clutch of intersectional lenses to add to our conversations as a nation in facing HIV and ending its effect on our most vulnerable. Our country’s successful systems are rooted in misogyny, racism, colonialism, reflecting the very faces we pass among ourselves daily in dollar bills. I bring my lived experience as a Black person, as a woman, as someone with lived transgender experience, and as one whose struggles and successes are shared with many brethren worldwide. Elevating and uplifting the voices of those who are most affected has always been my passion, which is embedded within the very fibers of the Southern AIDS Coalition.

Meet the 2024-2025 Transformative Grant partners!

This is the final round of funding for Gilead’s groundbreaking COMPASS program, a 10-year, more than $100 million collaboration between Gilead Sciences, Emory University Rollins School of Public Health, Southern AIDS Coalition, University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work and Wake Forest University School of Divinity.

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