Monday, March 03, 2008

AIDS in Arkansas 2008: Revisited

Over twenty years ago, I wrote my first article about AIDS was printed in The Advisor, entitled "Dollars and Sense Tackles AIDS." That article which is proudly framed in my office, was one of the first factual peices written openly from within the local GLBTQ community. I scooped the local mainstream media by being the only journalist in attendance to a groundbreaking health department symposium on the issue and getting the story to our internal outlet. Personally, it was even more significant because I had to stand firm on it's verbage after wading through so much misinformation and then debated opponents to the use of what was considered racy front page graphics. I also remember the papers then printer, Copy Cat Printers citing objections to certain content and the use of a book cover by noted gay author John Preston written about erotic safe sex. My rationale, was that the intriguing graphics would grab the attention of readers and hopefull pull them into the story. However, I prevailed and there was no backlash or outrage within our small circulation or anywhere else for that matter. In preparing for this post I re-read what I wrote then with the after thought that my decision to pursue the story was the right choice. Subsequently here I am today, juxtaposed to the long journey in dealing with this health crisis and the fact that it's no secret that Arkansas has had a turbulent and tottering history that has had beacons of insight as well as blips of despair. This forum has been committed to bringing to our readership a broad range of information and links that keep the information flowing. However, after all the fundraising, committee meetings, task forces, organizations, and protest, there is still discontent and unrest within the HIV/AIDS community with those charged with facilitating the services to those in need. The $64,000 question is WHY? All this week we will be in search of some answers and explanations about AIDS in Arkansas 2008. To begin I wanted to share an (2/28/08) e-blast that I got from long time humanitarian Bob Coffey who has garnered a double edge sword reputation as strident activist or persistent gadfly as he continues to demand accountability from those "paid" administrators in charge with dispensing decisions that ultimately affect peoples lives. Mr. Coffey granted me his persmission to reprint his item which was forwarded to a host of other individuals ranging from state officials to Capitol Hill. His words are unedited or unfiltered. I felt that his passionate statements were the flashpoint that would set in motion this fourms attempt to get a dialouge started. Your voices, opinions, observations, rebuttles or clarities are all welcomed concerning your experiences with local agencies or entities. Here we go...from his HIV Support...Anyone minding the store?

1. Asked questions back at the end of 07 and start of 08 relating to changes that occured with income limits being raised to 51k for single person. Also inquired on dental increase from 500.00 per year to somewhere up to 2300.00 to 2500.00. Have not received a response.

2. Requested information from AAF in Nov and Dec on the same matter. Finally, went to AAF Executive Director, Berna Thomas in Feb and was advised she didn't have a copu of letter that was sent to Consortia Care Clients (individuals already meeting income criteria), nor did she have anything in writing about the changes.

3. Went to ADH HIV/STD/HEPC office. Asked for Kim, she was in Wash DC. Asked for Gary, he was unavailable (medical), asked for Dr Jim Phillips, and was told he was on the second floor. Finally, asked for Tere, whom I had worked with on ARCPG in years past. She gave me copy of new formulary, copy of in-house brochure, Jan 2008, outlining changes, and letter that went to clients of Consortia Care.

4. Called Kim about a week ago and asked to have her send out brochures with information to all the Executive Directors of Consortia Cares throughout the state. Was told that they were waiting till graphics could make it appear more professional, and waiting for her supervisor to okay release of the information.

5. Hearing that 3 million dollars was passed to the state for HIV. Also hearing that based on the late information out to potential users, that much of these funds may have to be returned in the near future. Question here is: What about those who are scheduled later in the year for dental. Dental plans that have been submitted, are those considered funded and obligated, and will those obligated funds remain with the state for use?

6. What expenditures are authorized for this money without wasting it, and within its authorized use. If I were Governor of the State of Arkansas, I would be very sad at the loss of that kind of funding. And, as we know, ya don't get money back in subsequent years if you couldn't use it.

7. Here is an unsolicited comment from someone based on the closure of the AAF on 28 and 29 Feb 08 for training. "Hey - just wanted to bitch for a minute...I understand that it's important to keep up with staff training; and should even be one of the biggest expenses for a company or agency....AAF is closed today and tomorrow for a meeting/training. I think that it is absolutely irresponsible for them to not even have anyone there to so much as answer the phones for these 2 days, let alone have anyone there that can handle any situations that may arise...makes NO sense to me at all..."

8. I wanted to highlight this closure based on my experience just yesterday, of taking an AAF client home from a medical visit. Individual has a severe hip problem and is certainly requiring some hands on casework.

9. Who is it that I really need to be addressing this to in order to get information and determine who has withheld information from citizens of the State of Arkansas regarding HIV support assistance?

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