Trailblazing Black Gay HIV/AIDS Activist Dr. Ron Simmons Dead at 70
Friends and family are mourning the loss of trailblazing gay and HIV/AIDS activist and educator Dr. Ron Simmons. News of Simmons' passing broke on social media on Thursday. As of now, the circumstances surrounding his death have not been released. However, Simmons leaves behind a rich legacy filled with advocacy that is well documented.
Before retiring in 2016, Simmons served for 24 years as the president and chief executive officer of Us Helping Us, People Into Living, Inc. (UHU), one of the largest Black gay AIDS organizations in the United States. Us Helping Us advocated that people could live with AIDS if they adopted a holistic approach to their health that involved the body, mind, and spirit. Under his leadership, Us Helping Us has become a free-standing mental health clinic providing HIV care services for men, women, transgender persons, and youth.
Simmons earned a B.A. in Afro-American Studies, a M.A. in African History, and a M.S. in Educational Communications from the State University of New York at Albany. He received his Ph.D. in Mass Communications from Howard University and served on the faculty of the Howard University School of Communications for 12 years.
A writer and artist that had the greatest impact on Simmons’ life were personal friends Essex Hemphill, the poet, and Marlon Riggs, the filmmaker. Simmons collaborated with Hemphill in developing images and backdrops for his poetry performances, and he was the District of Columbia field producer, still photographer, and cast member of Marlon Riggs award-winning documentary on the Black gay experience, “Tongues Untied.”
Friends and colleagues remember Simmons' impact