HRC Mourns the Loss of Dr. Ron Simmons, LGBTQ Academic, Advocate & Public Health Leader

by Madeleine Roberts

The LGBTQ academic, advocate and public health leader made combating the HIV epidemic his life’s calling.

Today, the Human Rights Campaign released the following statement in response to the passing of Dr. Ron Simmons.

“Dr. Ron Simmons was a leader who showed so many in our movement that the fight for full equality does not begin or end with one aspect of our lives, but requires us to support each other fully and holistically,” said Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David. “Dr. Simmons made combating the HIV epidemic his life’s calling, and he was tireless in his efforts to demand justice and equity for Black and Brown communities who tragically continue to be the most impacted by HIV -- especially Black gay and bi+ men, and Black transgender women. We join Dr. Simmons’ loved ones in mourning, while we celebrate his invaluable legacy that will no doubt inspire and guide generations of activists and advocates to come.”

“Dr. Simmons was a visionary who believed in training for leadership,” said Human Rights Campaign Director of HIV & Health Equity J. Maurice McCants-Pearsall. “He was single-handedly responsible for providing many of the nation's leading HIV advocates with their first job. His leadership not only changed the lives of countless Black gay and bisexual men, but his vision transformed the Petworth neighborhood of Washington, D.C., by expanding access to vital HIV prevention and care services.”

In 1992, after a distinguished career at Howard University, Dr. Simmons joined Us Helping Us, People Into Living, Inc., as Executive Director. Along with the Board of Directors, Dr. Simmons transformed Us Helping Us into the first and only African American founded, community-based AIDS service organization for Black gay and bi+ men in Washington, D.C. After a long and productive career, Dr. Simmons retired from Us Helping Us in 2016.

In addition to his work on the front lines of the fight to end the HIV epidemic, Dr. Simmons was a storied author and scholar. Dr. Simmons’ published works include: “Some Thoughts on the Challenges Facing Black Gay Intellectuals” in Brother To Brother: New Writings By Black Gay Men; “Sexuality, Television and Death: A Black Gay Dialogue On Malcolm X” in Malcolm X: In Our Own Image; “Baraka’s Dilemma: To Be Or Not To Be” in Black Men on Race, Gender and Sexuality; “The Voice” in For Colored Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Still Not Enough; and “Joe, Essex, Marlon, and Me” in Black Gay Genius: Answering Joseph Beam’s Call.