Nancy Kern devoted 30 years in services and in contributions to public health and social justice issues in Hawaii. She was one of the pioneers to advocate for HIV prevention services to the community and worked in HIV education and prevention for 25 years.
Born in Vancouver, Canada, Kern was a teacher and also taught at Jefferson Elementary School after coming to Hawaii 35 years ago. After staying home to raise three children, she earned a master's degree in public health from the University of Hawaii. She did a practicum and began working on HIV/AIDS issues with the Governor's Committee on AIDS, established in 1986.
In February 1994, Nancy became HIV prevention coordinator with the STD/AIDS Prevention Branch of the Hawaii Department of Health. When she began to work in HIV, she said, the program was moving from general education about the disease to targeted interventions with high-risk populations. Nancy served as a communications hub, a major link with community-based organizations and the community so the Health Department and the community could collaborate in providing prevention services not just to the general population, but to high-risk groups statewide.
Among her many awards was one from Harm Reduction Hawaii, which honored her as someone "whose work has shown light upon unclear paths of life."
Nancy also served as Co-Chair of the Statewide HIV Community Planning Group for 12 years. She was involved in the process of bringing affected groups together and assisting in the development of recommendations and strategies for HIV prevention for populations at risk. “At-risk populations are represented on the committee, and services have changed over the years to reflect their input and their recommendations,” Kern said. “Services were recommended for the transgender community, and they were provided as a result of these recommendations. The culture of Hawaii is very inclusive. Around the table sit representatives of these groups that are respected and addressed in this process. The main reason I became involved in HIV prevention was to advocate for those at risk for HIV whose voices were not always heard."
Nancy Kern retired in December 2013 after 25 years with the Hawaii Department of Health, 16 of which were as the HIV/AIDS Education and Prevention Director for the STD/AIDS Prevention Branch of the Hawaii Department of Health. Finally, she served on the GHP Board as a member and officer for past five years. Nancy relocated to Southern California in June 2015 to be with her grandchildren.