Michael O. Leavitt
Secretary of HHS
United States of America
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20201
Dear Secretary Leavitt:
It has taken a lot of thought and almost three years for me to finally sit down and write down details of what has been occurring in Puerto Rico, the administration of RWCA funds for parts A and B.
Nevertheless, acknowledging that my health is downhill I believe the time has come for you to understand the matters that have made me finally decide to inform you of certain patterns regarding the relationship of HRSA's HIV/AIDS Bureau, and patients, like me, who try to defend our rights and the absolute compliance of a law that was done to protect HIV/AIDS patients from stigma, discrimination, prejudice and possible, bigotry.
I have to go back to year 1999, when the AIDS Institute scandal trial proved that approximately fourteen administrators, lawyers, politicians, doctors and high ranking officials from the Municipality of San Juan were tried and jailed for the embezzlement of $2.2 million dollars of funds destines to the care and treatment of PLWHIV/AIDS. See United States vs. Kourí, Sotomayor and Borel, the first of the three trials in which all the accused were convicted for using money for personal use, political campaigns and kickbacks in a period that ran from 1988 to 1994. During this period HRSA's HIV/AIDS Bureau was silent, and incredibly did not investigate the issue in depth, even though when they never received or asked for audits, reports on the way the money was spent. A gentleman named Mr. Lawrence Poole, who I recently found out, already retired from HRSA.
The record of the trial states, when he was being interrogated that HRSA was very bureaucratic and that documents got lost from office to office and building to building. I recently visited the HIV/AIDS and saw with my own eyes, and was told by Ms. Laura Cheever that what Mr. Toole said was not true; she said that “this is not a big building.”
As you may know there are two measures which have restricted HIV/AIDS funds both to the Part A Grantee, Mayor Jorge Santini, and part B, the Governor of Puerto Rico, Honorable Aníbal Acevedo Vilá. An intervention by the Federal Bureau of Investigations took an extensive amount of documents of four municipal offices: the San Juan AIDS Task Force, the Office of Federal Affairs of the Municipality, the Municpal Tower and, once again, nine years later what today is called “Programa SIDA Más Salud con Salud”, which was called nine years before the San Juan AIDS Institute, where the scandal occurred.
These measures where taken after numerous grievance letters and communications from Executive Directors who provide services with these funds, and participants of the San Juan EMA Planning Council who asked questions regarding late payments, problems with their contracts, and the rhythm of expenditures of the AIDS Task Force of the Municipality of San Juan. which turned into demoralizing employees of such dependencies, and of course the quality of treatments given to patients who received them either at the CBO's or through governmental health facilities.
It is to me like a “deja vu” in which personnel like Mr. Douglas Morgan of the HIV/AIDS Bureau were working there then, and are working with them still...
About approximately four weeks ago a group of CBO's Executive Directors and some patients decided to visit the Bureau and met with Ms. Cheever and surprisingly, with Mr. Douglas Morgan. During the conversation I asked Mr. Morgan if he remembered a conference call that we had with other members of HRSA's staff, whose names I can not remember. He smiled, put his hand in his chin, sank a bit in the chair, and that was it. I, seeing that he seemed not to remember refreshed his memory about the conversation, specifically when I asked him for he to tell me what had happened and he answered that “some mistakes where committed”, to which I questioned “what mistakes, and by whom” and all I got was silence as an answer.
Exactly the same silence which has permeated for quite a long time now, leaving PLWHIV/AIDS with no one to talk to, frankly without a Project Officer to go to and claim for our rights. And there, in that same office is still working Mr. Douglas Morgan, which in my opinion does not care about the problem, or has been brainwashed by some local politicians, wearing health professional hats, when they are running to the post of Resident Commissioner these next elections. All of this has truncated, and I hope that you do not blame me, because all I am doing is struggling for quality and continuum of care not only to myself but also for the approximate persons living with HIV or AIDS in Puerto Rico, mostly of whom are American citizens.
This does not seem to keep up with the standards of a Federal Government Office. (It is incredible that we get responses from HRSA through a Communications Officer, and not from what the CARE Act and Congress detail and perceive should be done by a Project Officer. When will we have one, and when will this veil of distrust disappear, so we can have a legally constituted Planning Council, (which is working now with an Executive Committee delineating the rules and regulations of a PC which in my humble opinion has been created as a rubber stamp for San Juan's Grantee).
TA has been given, visits have happened, telephone calls, e-mails and the process of going through all the appropriate channels have been complied with. May it be that Puerto Rico is being treated differently than other EMA's?
In regards to Part B of Puerto Rico's DOH, a very understaffed office, which quarters now are unsafe and clustered with whatever equipment and/or employees they have been able to contract, discriminatingly declared a waiting list, denied its existence and sent letters of it only to CBO's that offered primary care, not including their eight Immunological Centers around the island. In other words, some patients were on a waiting list and other not, depending where they were treated...
I am dying with cancer, diabetes, chronic pulmonary obstruction, osteoporosis, chronic asymptomatic dermatitis, and in November of 2006, had a heart attack. It is quite a endemic complicated health, but, nonetheless, I still have the strength to write this letter on my behalf and all other HIV/AIDS patients in Puerto Rico, which affects not only the island, but many of the states in which patients have had to migrate looking for a better quality of life...
I need for you to read this letter intensively. I have no doubt that it entails details which I do not know, and probably you neither. I strongly believe that an internal evaluation and/or investigation should be carried ASAP because we have already lost 63% of the almost 30,000 cases documented by the Health Department's Statistics Office.
I am quite aware of what some health officials involved in the administration of funds, quality and continuum of care might say about me. This is because I have not stopped for one second to try to get justice for all that died during the San Juan AIDS Institute Case scandal, and those whose lives are in jeopardy now.
I wish you can answer this letter soon. Time is precious...
Mr. José F. Colón
55 years old male Puerto Rican AIDS patient
C-1 Ronda Street, Villa Andalucía
San Juan, Puerto Rico 00926