August 8, 2008
HOUSING ADVOCATES ROCK THE IAC
IAC delegates hear about AIDS housing
This week at the International AIDS Conference in Mexico City, housing activists took a major step forward in ensuring that world leaders, governments and other AIDS advocates understand that without universal housing we'll never end the global AIDS pandemic.
On Sunday, the first-ever IAC satellite session addressing homelessness and AIDS attracted an audience of more than 150 people, which led to a pledge from the International AIDS Society to confront the lack of adequate housing as a barrier to HIV prevention, treatment and care. Throughout the week, activists staged protests that turned up the heat on IAC dignitaries Bill Clinton and UNAIDS executive director Peter Piot and showed conference attendees the growing international muscle behind the housing movement.
The week started off with a bang. Housing Works activists Julia Pena and Shasta Harrison smuggled two halves of a banner reading "Housing for People with AIDS Now!" into the IAC's opening ceremony under long skirts. When Piot approached the podium to speak, they and other activists hung the reconstructed banner from a balcony and shouted, "What do we want? Housing! When do we want it? Now!" The action provoked rousing applause from the crowd and held up Piot's speech. Check out Notibote.tv...
This Bacharach would never force poor people into HMOs
After weeks of angry speculation about New York State's plan to force HIV-positive Medicaid recipients into managed care, State Medicaid Director Deborah Bachrach publicly confirmed that mandatory HMO enrollment was in the works. In an interview with the Update this week she said, "We have recommended mandatory enrollment, but the Department of Health has not made a decision. We expect it in the next few weeks."
For the first time, Bachrach also publicly laid out some of the plan's specifics:
- HIV-positive Medicaid recipients will receive a letter explaining that they will lose their exemption to mandatory HMO enrollment, followed by a letter instructing them how to pick a managed care plan. Recipients will be able to enroll in either a standard HMO or one of the state's Special Needs Plans (SNPs), HMOs that specialize in HIV care
- Healthcare providers will receive a letter informing them that their HIV-positive patients are required to select a managed care plan. The letter will ask providers to talk to patients about what plans providers participate in, in order preserve treatment relationships
- Community-based organizations will receive information asking them to help HIV-positive Medicaid recipients transition to an HMO
- HIV-positive recipients of safety net benefits will have 60 days to enroll in an HMO once they receive their instruction letter; HIV-positive of recipients of SSI benefits will have 90 days.
- If recipients don't enroll in an HMO, they will be auto-assigned to one. After auto-assignment, they will have another 90 days to select an HMO plan.
BOTTOM OF THE CLASS
Walt Senterfitt at the CDC demo
"Condoms, needles, housing, AIDS treatment now! The U.S. fails on AIDS!"
Hundreds of U.S. activists at the International AIDS Conference on Thursday held up "F"s as they called for a national AIDS strategy and a plan to end AIDS in the U.S. The activists marched their failing grades up to the front of the conference stage where the CDC's director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention Kevin Fenton was speaking. Fenton was attempting to explain away the CDC's report released this week that showed a 40 percent increase in the annual incidence of HIV in the U.S.
Because of improved data, the annual U.S. infection rate is believed to be 56,300 a year, as opposed to the previously reported 40,000 number. Forty-five percent of new infections are among blacks, and 53 percent of new infections are among men who have sex with men, with numbers in this population increasing since 2000. Fenton said the CDC has "already begun" to work with these populations and that infections have "stabilized."
"The CDC is a failed institution at this point," said New York City AIDS Housing Network's Charles Long at a press conference about Fenton's speech. "As a black HIV-positive gay man I find it deplorable to say I'm 'stabilized.'"...
Abbott playing tug of war
On Wednesday and Thursday, the final two days of this year’s International AIDS Conference, activists from around the globe took advantage of the fact that the world’s eyes were focused on the Mexico City confab. With conference liaisons looking on to make sure nobody got hurt, demonstrators staged myriad protests, some more genuine than others. (The Update was excited about a female condom protest, until, what do you know? It was sponsored by the makers of female condoms). Here’s a look at some of the IAC’s more notable demonstrations.
Sex work is work! Sex workers and their advocates were out in full force. A group of Mexican sex workers threw up balloons at the opening ceremony and protested when the Mexican health authorities denied them IAC scholarships. Another international coalition of sex workers protested UNAIDS guidelines on Wednesday, and criticized the lack of prevention programs by sex workers, for sex workers. "They're always coming up with programs to save us. They assume if you give sex workers sewing machines, they'll quit sex work. But women are not going to make as much money sewing as they will engaging in sex work," said Susan Lopez, a stripper in the U.S. who is a member of the Desiree Alliance.
1%. That's the percentage of people with HIV being screened for tuberculosis, even though TB is the number one killer of people with AIDS in Africa. On Thursday morning, the Treatment Action Campaign held a silent die-in and march to the booths of the biggest donors and highest burden countries. TB is unrepresented at the IAC, with only seven sessions devoted to the disease (out of hundreds of possible sessions throughout the week)...