Us Helping Us, People Into Living, Inc., (UHU) was founded in 1985 by Rainey Cheeks with the support of his friends. All of them were African-American gay or bisexual men. Rainey's motivation for starting the organization was the experience of losing numerous friends to AIDS, the death of his lover to the illness, and the discovery that he too was HIV-positive.
UHU began as a group of volunteers that provided holistic health information for people living with AIDS. The strategy was to teach natural holistic techniques – involving the body, mind and spirit – for health maintenance. In 1988, UHU registered as a nonprofit corporation in the District of Columbia. There were four incorporators: Rainey Cheeks, Prem Deben, Aundrea Scott and Howard Morris.
UHU meetings were held at the legendary discotheque, the Clubhouse, where Rainey worked as the manager. When the Clubhouse closed in 1990, Rainey moved the organization's activities into his apartment. He and Dr. Prem Deben designed a curriculum for a 12-week holistic health support group that taught HIV-infected individuals holistic techniques to maintain their health.
In 1992, Ron Simmons, Ph.D., a member of the support group, volunteered to serve as the executive director of the organization. He and Rainey developed a strategic plan to reorganize the Board of Directors, expand the program and raise funds. The Board approved a mission statement that advocated "holistic therapies as a complement to drug therapy and as an important factor in the quality of life of persons with HIV/AIDS." The organization's total revenue for 1992 was approximately $8,000.
In 1993, UHU rented a two-bedroom house at 819 L Street, SE, as its first official facility. Eventually, UHU would expand to six rented sites in a four-block area. Also in 1993, UHU was awarded its first grant by the Washington AIDS Partnership to pay the executive director's salary; that grant was a critical factor in the organization's survival as an agency. During the next decade, with funding from the Partnership, UHU developed several innovative HIV prevention programs, including: condom kit distribution in Black gay bars and nightclubs; the "Down Low" Help Line; the Barbershop Program; and the "Down Low" Online Project.
In 1994, UHU received its first Ryan White Title I grant to provide peer-led support groups for HIV-positive Black gay and bisexual men.
In 1995, in response to the urging of HIV-negative Black gay men, the Board of Directors expanded the mission to provide programs for men regardless of HIV status.
In 1996, the D.C. Agency For HIV/AIDS awarded UHU its first prevention grant targeting Black gay and bisexual men.
In 1999, UHU received its first five-year grant from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to provide HIV prevention activities for Black gay and bisexual men in Washington, D.C., suburban Maryland, northern Virginia and northeast West Virginia.
In 2000, UHU conducted the second-largest needs assessment in the nation focusing on Black and Latino transgender persons, and started a HIV prevention program for transgender persons. Also, in 2000, UHU received a CDC grant to provide HIV prevention activities in barbershops targeting Black men regardless of sexual orientation.
In 2001, UHU purchased a building for its new headquarters and service facility. UHU launched a capital campaign and raised enough money to renovate the building in 2004. Also, in 2001, UHU was awarded a five-year grant by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to provide mental health serves targeting Black gay/bisexual men and transgender persons.
In 2003, UHU received funding from the State of West Virginia to provide HIV prevention programs targeted to the Black communities of Jefferson and Berkeley counties. The West Virginia program resulted in collaborations with local churches, barbershops, beauty shops, retailers, the NAACP, and the Masonic Lodge. The program ended in 2007.
In 2004, UHU was awarded a grant by the Academy for Educational Development to reduce HIV-related stigma. Also, in 2004, UHU was awarded its second five-year grant by the CDC to conduct rapid HIV counseling and testing, the Popular Opinion Leader intervention, and the Many Men, Many Voices intervention.
In 2005, UHU relocated to its new headquarters and service facility at 3636 Georgia Avenue, NW. Also, in 2005, UHU was funded by the local health department to adapt and tailor the Many Men, Many Voices intervention for transgender women. The resulting intervention was called "Girl Talk."
In 2006, UHU received grants from the MAC AIDS Fund and the United States Conference of Mayors to implement the Popular Opinion Leader intervention targeting Black women and beauty salons in residential Wards 7 and 8. Also, in 2006, UHU was certified as a "free-standing" mental health clinic by the DC Department of Mental Health. The program ended in 2009.
In 2007, UHU completed a three-year strategic plan that included a new mission statement, vision statement, and a statement of values. The strategic plan called for the expansion of programs targeting Black gay youth and heterosexual women. The plan was approved by the Board of Directors in 2008.
In 2008, UHU received a grant from the Washington AIDS Partnership to develop a social marketing campaign to increase HIV testing among Black gay and same-gender-loving men.
In 2009, UHU received a grant from the local health department to implement the Defend Yourself! (D-up!) intervention for young Black gay men, ages 18 – 24. D-up! is a community-level intervention designed for Black gay men, and recommended by the CDC for effectiveness.
In 2010, UHU received its third consecutive five-year grant from the Centers for Disease Control. UHU also received a grant from the Washington AIDS Partnership to implement a strategy of social networking to increase HIV testing among Black gay men.
In 2011, UHU was one of 34 agencies in the country to receive a five-year grant from the CDC to provide HIV prevention programs for young Black gay and same-gender-loving men, ages 18 - 29. For this project, UHU will implement the Mpowerment intervention to develop a youth center for young Black gay/SGL men and their friends and partners.
In 2012, UHU received a grant from FHI360 to increase awareness of bio-medical HIV prevention and vaccine research among Black gay/SGL men, White gay men, and Black heterosexuals. The project is in collaboration with the agency Heart to Hand, Inc. in Prince Georges County, Maryland, and the INOVA program at Fairfax Hospital in northern Virginia.
Since 1992, Dr. Ron Simmons, the President/CEO, has raised over $24 million for UHU's programs and services. Under his leadership, UHU has grown from a small self-help group for Black gay men living with AIDS to a premier AIDS services organization specializing in HIV prevention and support services for African Americans, in particular gay and same-gender loving men. UHU has 15 full-time staff, 6 part-time staff, over 50 registered volunteers and an annual budget of approximately $1.5 million. All of our programs and services are free.