Activist resumes HIV treatment after Mazzoni Center CEO resigns

On Monday, Abdul-Aliy Muhammad started taking his HIV medication again.

He had entered his fourth day of refraining from taking his own antiretroviral medications for HIV in protest of Mazzoni Center CEO Nurit Shein’s continued leadership. Then he heard she had resigned.

“I’ve resumed treatment,” said Muhammad, 33, a former HIV prevention counselor and testing coordinator at the center. “I took my dose after I saw the official statement from the board of Mazzoni.”

Mazzoni’s board released a statement Monday announcing Shein and board president Jimmy Ruiz had both resigned.

“On April 23, the Mazzoni Center board convened, asked for, and accepted Nurit Shein’s resignation,” the board said in a statement.

The past few weeks have seen a blistering escalation of protests against the Mazzoni Center tied to the handling of sexual abuse allegations against former medical director Robert Winn, who resigned on April 13. Winn’s conduct is reportedly under “third party” investigation, the Center said, but Muhammad claims Shein was alerted to the allegations as early as 2009.

Shein had worked for three decades at the Mazzoni Center, a LGBT-focused health center in the Gayborhood that offers HIV and STD testing and other health services.

On April 20, Muhammad confronted Shein at the Center and demanded she resign for not addressing allegations against Winn earlier, as half of the staff walked out in a protest of her leadership.

Then he went on an HIV strike, documenting his protest on Facebook.

“This didn’t have to happen,” Muhammad said. “There were many points in this struggle where Narit, where Mazzoni as an institution … could have stepped in and alleviated some of the mess and some of the fallout and they didn’t.”

After Shein resigned, the mayor’s office of LGBT affairs released a statement saying they support Mazzoni’s staff and patients as they “call for increased transparency and accountability throughout the investigation of serious allegations of misconduct.” City Councilwoman Helen Gym thanked “the current and former Mazzoni Center staff who demanded — and now won — accountability from the organization.”

Muhammad, a co-founder of the Black and Brown Workers Collective, which has organized numerous protests against racism and discrimination in the Gayborhood, said Mazzoni needs to continue a process of reform.

“This is a good first step for Mazzoni to transform into an organization that disallows violence against the most marginalized, the most vulnerable – poz patients, people who have addictions to habit-forming drugs, trans and disabled staff, and specifically staff who are black and brown,” he said. “But this same board, a few days ago, backed Nurit. There needs to be a real hard look at the board and some changes.”

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