A Black History Month Tribute to Harold Phillips and his Historic Tenure at ONAP

Harold Phillips in front of a black background smiling with the words Black History Month in yellow, the CHLP logo in white at the bottom and in the background red, yellow and green stripes.e

To kick off Black History Month, CHLP is celebrating Harold Phillips and his living legacy by honoring his contributions to the HIV justice movement. 


On January 19, Harold Phillips departed his role as the Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP). Appointed by President Biden in 2021, Harold has worked to lead the administration’s focus on ending the HIV epidemic.


As a Black gay man living with HIV, Harold worked at the intersections of so many forms of oppression and stigma and it was this lived experience that has anchored him as not only a seasoned advocate from his years of working in the HIV movement but informed the way he is able to connect with so many others. 


In this role, Harold accomplished a great deal and was able to move the White House to address issues as never seen before. Most notable was his work to advance the Biden administration’s release of a new National HIV/AIDS Strategy on World AIDS Day, 2021; working with the FDA to end its discriminatory ban on gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men donating blood, bringing it in line with the latest science. At the International AIDS Society Conference in July 2022, he played a key role in the U.S. reconfirming its commitment to the key message of U=U and launched the Bi-directional Federal Initiative. 


And Harold has always been a champion of CHLP’s work and mission,  making sure one of ONAP’s priorities is to encourage and educate states to repeal and modernize HIV criminalization laws. To that end, in January 2022, ONAP hosted a listening session on HIV criminalization laws and met with staff from CHLP and other national organizations along with a host of state advocates to learn more about work at the state level and the ways the federal government can uplift and otherwise support. 


Before becoming CHLP’s Executive Director, S. Mandisa Moore-O’Neal attended this session as a representative of the Louisiana Coalition on Criminalization and Health. “As a state advocate, it was very meaningful to be invited to be heard at this meeting alongside the national organizations. My presence there was a credit to Harold and the way he values the local and regional work just as much as the national,” said Moore-O’Neal.


Another highlight of CHLP’s work with Harold came in June 2022, when we worked with ONAP to host a convening of nearly 50 state prosecutors, attorneys general, federal officials, and national infectious disease experts at the White House. This historic convening looked at concrete ways to modernize state criminal laws and the criminal justice response to HIV-specific criminal laws. 


Harold's tenure has been monumental and while we are sad to see him leave, it is an honor to carry forward his legacy. We hope the Domestic Policy Counsel will not only move swiftly to find another ONAP Director, in this pivotal election year, but will also ensure that the position has a greater degree of resources and support to carry forward Harold’s work. 


Photo of Harold courtesy of HIV.gov.