Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tuesday's Panorama

Away we go, as we seamlessly slip through 2009's 3rd Quarter, slowly descending into an either August dog days or an Indian Summer, depending on the weather. As usual this forum continues without delay in delivering substance admist the raging noise that's litterally filling the airways. Here at COP:24/7 it's all about keeping it real and sourcing "just the facts mam..." With that said, let's lift the veil shall we...

The Department of Veterans Affairs on Monday began "offering routine HIV tests to veterans who receive medical care," the Associated Press/Washington Post reports. The new policy follows CDC's recommendations for voluntary, routine HIV testing and no longer requires veterans to sign a consent form, the article states, adding that "veterans must verbally consent to the test. They can also decline it." According to the news service, "The CDC says all patients should be offered HIV testing even if they are not considered at risk. The hope is that by dropping the written consent, more veterans will get tested and get medical treatment earlier" (Hefling, 8/17).

HIV/ AIDS in Arkansas: Lessons Still Being Learned
This forum has been a long term outlet which has disseminated news, links, updates and open sources for information concerning HIV/AIDS. We've echoed the concerns of consumers as well as chided officials for perceptions that have cause us paused, ranging from miscommunication to perceived insensitivity's. Even as the national health care rhetoric soars to a fever pitch, locally within this broad issue lies forthcoming dilemmas that will have to be addressed in Arkansas' HIV/AIDS community. To begin exploring those scenarios COP:24/7 was afforded a meeting with Kevin Dedner, ADH Section Chief (HIV/AIDS) which shared some revealing statistics and consequences that face his department and end users. Our two hour conversation covered much ground that was supported with stark facts, observations and bold realities. I found myself broadsided by much of our conversation due to the fact that I had to admit that unfortunate stance which I often rail against, namely "abdication." I came to realization that "I thought that some one else was dealing with the crisis, with the LGBTQ's best interest at hand." How wrong was I. Mr. Dedner firmly asserted, 48 percent of Arkansas' new HIV/AIDS cases are African American MSM's ( men having sex with men.) Despite the fact that African Americans only make up 13 percent of this states entire population. Add to that fact that many of those, and possibly future cases perhaps don't know their status, are not being reached by prevention messages, have access to affordable health care nor early treatment options. Dedner also accentuated that factoid with the news that "co-infections," such as syphilis have also spiked across the state which have become apart of the health mix. Even as this toxic combination was taking place, it was alarming that there was no actual minority driven SGL organization in place to coalesce, furthermore a lackluster approach of direct action to address the problem. I was encouraged as he cited recent testing efforts during last months Black Gay Pride, joint endeavors with JCSSI and establishing future partnerships with Brotha & Sista's. I asked Dedner about ongoing negative perceptions as well as underlying mistrust of AHD. To which he acknowledged unfortunate management problems causing dissent, confusion and oversights. He reported that many of those involved have either departed or been replaced with new team members. Furthermore he shared his excitement about this new dynamic and the direction they are now pursuing. " On many days, I've held my head in my hands as I've read through much of the Ryan White Act itself. It's a complex set of regulations and provisions that takes time to completely understand." Dedner stated. I concurred with Dedner, as I also looked at some of the language which can be quite verbose and steeped in "congressspeak." I found myself asking, "exactly what does this mean or did it say?" Dedner continued," even though approximately 1.2 Million dollars has been spent in dental cost and other assistance, we are now facing a $600,000 reduction in congressional funding." I believe that this flat lining will most likely have repercussion, as I discovered during our conversation that ADH will have to face some hard decision concerning policies, procedures, guidelines and programs such as ADAP and HOWPA. This is where the conversation took a serious turn...that side of the story will drop in Thursday's edition. I should suggest that you keep it locked in and tell some friends. You don't want to miss it!

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