Carl Sciortino, a former state representative from Medford, is hitting the ground running after becoming the new executive director of the Jamaica Plain-based AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts.
AIDS Action, which moved to 75 Amory St. in 2009, is described as New England’s first and largest AIDS service organization. The nonprofit, which was founded in 1983, operates the popular local Boomerangs thrift store.
“I’m really excited to be the executive director at AIDS Action. There is a lot of work to be done,” said Sciortino in a phone interview April 4, having just come from an organizational meeting on the day he resigned from the State House.
One piece of work Sciortino wants to tackle is washing away the stigma associated with AIDS and HIV. Sciortino, who has HIV, said he has been open about having the virus with his close friends and family and is “excited to bring my personal story to the organization.” He said being “open and visible” about having HIV will keep the “conversation going.”
“I think on the last point, there still persists fear and misunderstanding about what it means to have HIV,” he said. “AIDS Action will address the stigma about living with the virus and support those who have it.”
Sciortino said he was first contacted about the job late last fall by people from AIDS Action and the Fenway Health Center, which the organization partners with. He said he was at first hesitant to take the job, but soon realized he could do more to address social justice at AIDS Action than at the State House through “helping clients and working on issues I think are important.”
Sciortino called his departure from the state Legislature “bittersweet,” saying the “the sweet side is where I’m going.”
As executive director, Sciortino said, he wants to continue to make sure that AIDS Action clientele have the “support and health services they need.” He said the organization helps one-sixth of Massachusetts’ AIDS population, which he said is 16,000 and growing.
Sciortino said that despite the AIDS population growing and people living longer with the AIDS virus, the “public attention is elsewhere.” He said the funding from federal and state governments and philanthropy is shrinking.
Sciortino said he also wants to continue to educate the public about the historic and sociological aspects of the disease, including how the virus disproportionately affects communities of color, particularly young gay black men. He said that poverty, racism, homophobia and sex are still issues surrounding the disease.
“Those don’t go away unless we tackle them head on,” he said.
Sciortino said educating the public will help people make healthy choices. He said the organization’s upcoming AIDS walk June 1 is a “great event” to do that.
For more information about the organization, visit aac.org.