October 19, 2007
OBAMA'S SORT-OF-OK AIDS PLAN
but question his global vision.
Obama's plan to fight global AIDS didn't pass the funding test
Sen. Barack Obama released his plan to fight HIV/AIDS on his website Tuesday morning and reviews are decidedly mixed. On the home front, there are cheers for Obama's call for universal health care, a national AIDS strategy, passing the Early Treatment for HIV ACT (ETHA), focusing on HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment in the African-American community and ending the federal ban on needle exchange, among other initiatives. Domestically, he hit all the same notes as his fellow candidate John Edwards last month.
That's just fine with David Munar, vice president for policy and communications for AIDS Foundation of Chicago, and other advocates. "Domestically, we're thrilled," Munar said.
But Obama's international AIDS plan failed to have the same exciting effect. He didn't commit $50 billion a year for five years to fight HIV/AIDS worldwide—as he sort of, kind of told bird-doggers he would. Instead, he pledged $50 billion to cover all United Nation's Millenium Development goals which, in addition to fighting AIDS, include halving the number of people who die of tuberculosis, malaria and avian influenza, as well as reducing global poverty.
Obama also said he supports adding $1 billion a year to fight global AIDS through the President's Emergency Program for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). But Obama didn't make clear if he wants to add $1 billion to the $15 billion annually in PEPFAR funds or the $30 billion Bush proposed. It is also unclear whether Obama plans to add $1 billion annually to PEPFAR or play the future by ear. Paul Davis of Health GAP points out that Obama's total for PEPFAR could be anywhere from $20 billion to $45 billion over five years, depending on the details of his position. (Obama's campaign could not be reached for further clarification)...
THIS TIME IT'S PERSONAL
HIV care horror stories
SC capital hosted RW town meeting
The last time the Campaign to End AIDS and NAPWA held a town hall meeting on "Creating New Ryan White Legislation" it brought together hundreds of people in a hotel ballroom in Cleveland with simultaneous sessions in English and Spanish on the problems PLWHAs face getting and keeping HIV health care all across the country.
This week in Columbia, South Carolina the proceedings were a little quieter—and a little more personal.
"I've been off of HIV meds three times in the past two years, for a few weeks each time," said one participant. "I've gone from eight months on the ADAP waiting list to a pharmaceutical company program to nothing and back again. It's not the way it should be."
C2EA and NAPWA are holding the town meetings (with help from advocates and policy wonks from Housing Works, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, the AIDS Institute and others) to elicit real-world testimony on how the U.S. HIV care system functions as part of the preparation for the 2009 reauthorization of the Ryan White CARE Act. There's an online survey here that hundreds have already completed, and a series of sessions to get real stories from real people.
CALLING HRSA OUT
to take control of Puerto Rico's AIDS crisis
brriiing! briiing! briiing!...
After Monday's massive fax and phone zap of Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt's office, one thing is for sure: The Secretary knows about the AIDS crisis in Puerto Rico and the growing grassroots movement to force the U.S. to take responsibility for resolving it. Leavitt's office admitted it received calls "every five to ten minutes" on October 15, which advocates chose because it was National Latino AIDS Awareness Day.
The Update has heard talk that high-level meetings are planned this week to address the situation in Puerto Rico, so the fax and phone zap was perfectly timed. Unid@s Dandole Cara Al Sida (UDCAS), a group of Puerto Rican AIDS advocates that want more HHS oversight, is sending a grateful letter to the Latino Commission on AIDS, the Campaign to End AIDS, Housing Works, Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project and other groups who organized the effort. The letter reads, "It was very timely and helpful to have all of you engage Mr. Leavitt on National Latino AIDS Awareness Day, given that his office has virtually ignored all of our previous attempts to reach out to him. In the face of years of neglect and denial by the U.S. Department of Health and the Health Resources and Services Administration of our ongoing crisis, your deeds helped make our plight in Puerto Rico impossible to ignore."HRSA's 'pat answer'
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), which is the part of HHS and is responsible for distributing Ryan White CARE Act funds to the various eligible metropolitan areas (EMAs), responded to Monday's action with a disingenuous statement: "HRSA continues to work with grantees from the Commonwealth and from the Municipality of San Juan to ensure that essential HIV/AIDS services are in place. HRSA has met with officials of the Commonwealth to explore ways to create a more viable fiscal strategy. In addition, HRSA officials continue to work with the mayor's office in San Juan on a variety of possible corrective actions. While HRSA will continue to provide technical assistance to its grantees in Puerto Rico; legislatively, each grantee is ultimately responsible for planning allocating, and administering its funds."...
JULIAN BAIN (1944-2007)
Julian Bain, AIDS activist
This week the AIDS community mourns the passing of Albany, New York-based activist Julian Bain, who died of a heart attack on October 10 at the age of 63. Diagnosed with HIV in the 90s, Bain fought passionately to bring resources and respect to people living with HIV/AIDS, whether they lived in the South End of Albany or the townships of South Africa, which he visited on numerous occasions.
Bain served on the boards of a number of Albany-area HIV/AIDS service organizations while maintaining an extraordinary number of person-to-person connections with individuals and families struggling with HIV/AIDS. He was recognized as an "Unsung Hero" by the National Minority AIDS Council.
Frequently dressed in sharp-looking suits, Bain gave dozens of talks at Albany-area schools, churches and service agencies, and was particularly dedicated to making links between domestic and global AIDS advocacy and activism, starting the non-profit group AIDS Global Advocacy and traveling regularly to South Africa as an activist and AIDS ambassador...
RESOURCEFUL DAY IN D.C.
Lindsay, Hader and Dunington
Last Tuesday was only Dr. Shannon Lee Hader's second official day on the job, but Washington, DC's new director of the Department of Health's HIV/AIDS Administration knew where she needed to be—at DC Fights Back's Resource Day. Hader gave opening remarks, where she spoke about the need for the government to work more closely with people with HIV and AIDS service providers. Hader then surprised organizers by staying for the duration of the program and making her way around the crowd to meet every person in attendance.
"I was very pleased to attend the DC Fights Back Resource Day on Tuesday and very impressed by the excellent participation from so many members of the HIV/AIDS community, both persons living with HIV and service providing organizations," Hader told the Update. "For my second day on the job as the new administrator of the DC HIV/AIDS Administration, it was a great opportunity to hear directly from the community on service needs and exchange ideas on improving programs to fight the HIV epidemic in the District of Columbia."
DC Fights Back members were equally impressed by Hader. "It says a lot about her priorities," said Alex Lawson, a member of DC Fights Back who helped organize the event. "That's pretty new to DC, where walls fly up very quickly." DC Fights Back, a chapter of the Campaign to End AIDS, has been reaching out to Hader since Fenty announced her appointment in August, and even devoted a section of their website to welcoming her as DC's new top AIDS official.
Hader has a tough task ahead. It is estimated that 1 in 20 residents of DC has HIV—or five percent of the population. Hader is entering a post that has been vacant since Mayor Adrian Fenty took office in 2006...
SINGLE PAYER TAKES TO THE STREET
Moore won't settle for anything less than
single-payer health care
Health care for people! Not for profits! That's what the 300 people who attended the inaugural rally and march for Private Health Insurance Must Go! Coalition on Wednesday shouted as they left Bryant Park—they were on their way to let Sen. Hillary Clinton and the insurance company Aetna know their belief that single-payer health insurance is the only way to provide true universal health coverage.
"The presidential candidates shouldn't expect our votes if they don't support a single-payer plan," the event's MC, Adjamu Sankofa, of the National Conference of Black Lawyers, said as the crowd erupted in cheers. "From the womb to the tomb!"
While all of the Democratic presidential nominees, and some of their Republican counterparts, have proposed plans for universal health care, only Rep. Dennis Kucinich's calls for a single-payer health care system, akin to Medicare or the Canadian health care system, for everyone, as outlined in H.R. 756, introduced by Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan). Supporters of single-payer health care believe the only way to provide quality, affordable insurance to everyone is to cut out the middle-man of the health insurance companies and allow individuals to contribute toward their health care through a "single-payer" plan run by the government.
Representatives from the coalition's 30 member organizations attended (including Physicians for a National Health Program, Healthcare-NOW, and ACT UP/NY), as well as hundreds of concerned individuals, all with their own stories about how they or people they know have been hurt by the fragmented insurance system...
WOULD YOU TAKE THIS ADVICE?
AAC member Bill Viscovich and his boss Nettie Mayersohn with
Bush Surgeon General Carmona
The New York State AIDS Advisory Council hasn't played much of a role in HIV/AIDS policymaking and funding for over a decade. In the early years of the epidemic, the Advisory Council was a vital force for the provision of advice and counsel to executive and legislative officials who were desperate for effective measures to combat AIDS and save lives.
But in recent years the Council has lost much of its force and effectiveness: It often can't muster a quorum for its meetings, and has been widely criticized for its lack of diversity (though more than 80 percent of people living with AIDS in New York are people of color, the Council has a majority-white membership, and a majority of HIV-negative members as well).
Last week the Council—after just barely mustering a quorum— tried to assert its relevance by voting 6-3 to get rid of legal protections ensuring full consent for HIV testing in New York.
Observers and activists were skeptical that the vote would have much impact. Vince Marrone, a veteran lobbyist for the New York AIDS Coalition, said, "It's disappointing that the AIDS Advisory Council would vote to eliminate the right of patients to consent, in writing, to this very important health care decision. However, given the reduced role the Council has played in recent years in setting state policy, I don't expect their vote to be decisive."...
STRENGTH IN NUMBERS
Color me united
HIV/AIDS service providers and stake holders came together in Syracuse, N.Y. Tuesday for the inaugural meeting of the Communities of Color Coalition of New York State, which is a composed of community-based groups that serve communities of color (COC) in the state. The coalition's main goals are to develop an annual advocacy agenda based on the concerns of coalition members, mobilize and educate leaders in COC, enhance access for COCs to public policy and resource allocation and to "serve as advocates for frontline agencies in their daily war on HIV/AIDS in New York State."
The group was formed because "resources for small community based organizations serving people of color are dwindling and the resources that are available are being redirected to clinic based settings which are limited in their cultural competency," according to the Communities of Color official literature. Rather than fighting among themselves for the limited funds, group members—including Action for a Better Community, American Indian Community House, Group Ministries, Inc., Grupo Ministerial De Oeste De Buffalo, MOCHA Project, Inc, and Native American Community Services—want to unite smaller frontline service providers with budgets under $1 million and help them advocate to keep resources in the communities that they serve.
The working lunch also served as an open call to other "small" community based organizations to come on board with the coalition. Seasoned lobbyist and staff from the Department of Health AIDS Institute spoke to attendees about trends in the state and how the coalition could be most effective, and participants were eager to brainstorm possibilities for collaboration. Coalition chair Michael Martin (Executive Director of Native American Community Services) and co-chair Reverend Arthur H. Boyd (President and CEO of Group Ministries, Inc.) spoke of the need they saw in their respective communities that eventually brought them together to form the coalition. The Communities of Color Coalition of New York State's tagline is "Your Venue to Expand Resources." And together, there is only room to grow...