Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Tuesday Step Off

It's countdown to all things Chirstmas 2011 this weekend. If you are still looking for that special this or that, it awaits you at the latest door buster or close out sale. Even though there's much talk about recession, economic down turns and all manner of "people suffering," it seems that the cash registers are ringing up record sales. In the meantime, the world takes a licking but keeps on ticking including COP 24/7 which will bust out our weekly original post this week. Starting next week I will offer a series of the "Best of CorneliusOnPoint, featuring some of our notable items to make the cut complete with some updates. Our 2011 re-birth has been an interesting twist and turn so far and I'm looking over my list and checking it twice on who's been naughty and who's been nice. Thanks for your support and readership during the year and stay with us for our next chapter in 2012!

AIDS in Arkansas
A Reality Check: The HIV/AIDS Fatigue Syndrome

It all seemed so surreal for myself as I watched the trailer for the film AIDS: The 30 Years War, directed by Josh Rosenzweig. There it was again, the recall of the stories and remembrances  that have been an integral part of my friendships, mindset, and vocabulary whether I liked it or not. For three decades of my entire existence, HIV and AIDS has moved about the landscape without boundaries or discretion despite the rallying cry of activist and advocates from coast to coast. Not to mention my own involvement working on events, local groups, boards and contributions. During my engagement I also had a succession of hospital visits, hospice watches and ultimately funerals, which comforted me to stay hopefully steadfast that as more medical break through would come forth,  I would eventually see a daybreak in this health crisis.  Recently, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton added to my hopefulness by citing that the goal of "zero" infections or deaths are within our grips as additional treatment regimens are used as prevention. Yet with all of this movement and fiery strategies I believe that many are caught in a AIDS "fatigue syndrome" that has impacted our systems which are bogged down in "policy speak", leadership vacuums and political vice grips. The movement is loosing important advocates due to burn out dealing with the rigors of navigating state agencies, constant development of funding sources and the overwhelming paradigm of social determinants affecting their client base. Local community fundraising is at an all time low not due to economic conditions but rather the lack of making the needed emotional connections and "buy-in" to this ongoing health dilemma. Unbelievable as it seems after thirty years of HIV and AIDS, there are prevailing attitudes in this city that assume the position that "some one else is taking care of that."

 Dr. Anthony Fauci framed the situation as early as 2007 in a CNN interview by stating,"... we're victims of our own success in some respects, where we have drugs that have really transformed the complexion of HIV. Whereas a decade and a half ago we had people in hospices, we had 30-40 percent of the hospital wards in inner-city hospitals occupied by people with advanced HIV disease. And now because of the success of the therapies -- which is great news -- we don't have that.
Unfortunately, that has lulled the public in general and even people at risk for HIV into a complacent state, which is very dangerous because we still have over 40,000 new infections each year in the U.S. And the distressing part of that is that number has remained stable over 10 years. Which means we have not been able to crack that wall in numbers of infections. So, we have to be even more creative in our prevention measures. His words could not have been more prophetic as this year the CDC announced a national 48% increase of infection incidences among young gay Black males. Arkansas fairs no better with continued spikes of not only HIV but numerous sexually transmitted diseases including Chlamydia, Gonorrhea and Syphilis.

Locally AIDS service organizations and community based groups are struggling with revenue streams while attempting to craft messaging opportunities for consumers who are dealing with the impact of soci-economics indicators such as housing, employment, food, treatment and education. It is these elements of living that directly affect the work of local CBO's whom can not achieve viable outcomes or results if these prevent clients from participating in any evidenced based intervention. With individuals boxed in by these barriers, is it unreasonable to believe that any such prevention messages would be capable of transmitting the importance of their health. Especially when trust factors and personal responsibilities are serious dynamics surrounding an individual who has internalized marginalization on numerous levels. Is it too far fetched to believe that consumers have tired of being "assessed," with rewarded trinket incentives while dealing with the "big picture" of their lives. If CBO's are faced with the lack of local continuity in conjunction to the latest developed initiative, how can they really be effective to their client base or realize any significant change. This is most challenging among African Americans whom bring additional baggage to the consumer table that adds to the complexity of servicing this population. Consequently as consumers and end users face these "fatigue" circumstances, I was intrigued by a Facebook posting from local entertainer Diamond Rose in reference to the Helping People With AIDS fund raiser held last weekend. He stated, "...It breaks my heart that our community doesn't support AIDS benefit's. I pray that there doesn't come a day when you need the help with getting medicine or just need help in paying bills, because you've been off work due to a illness because of HIV. If we don't help support the organizations they may not be here to help in the future..." 

Rose was sharing his apparent disappointment with the response the event received and observations such as his have been noted from others who are surprised and to some degree amazed at the lackluster interest within the LGBTQ community. The over arching question that should be asked is "to what community is he referring?" Is it the "gay upwardly mobile people" that have secured careers and homes of the wine and cheese set?  Could it be the working stiff gay person that doesn't have much disposable income? Or is it those who register below the FPL, ( Federal Poverty Level) who are seeking commodities, entitlements or drug assistance programs. Who is the target audience that he speaks of and exactly what would he have them to do?

It's no secret that HPWA as an entity for all practical purposes has been a rather cloaked organization operating as a internal organ of the NK apparatus. As a "private" source they have the right to operate as they wish, yet from Rose's perspective he cites the "community" as not being supportive of this effort. However, I beg to differ that no community can be expected continue to support any entity that has haphazardly cultivated a connection with it primary donors. That being any bona fide non-profit or otherwise operating in this city or state.  Why show up to donate to something that hasn't demonstrated any return on investment such as "how many people have been assisted?" Since its inception, how much money has been raised and how was it allocated? "What's the growth plan for 2012? Anybody know? 

And so it goes. Its thirty years and counting as I raise my head to reassess, re-boot and reflect on my commitment to stand in the gap of advocating and addressing the plight of HIV and AIDS in our city and in our lives. I've seen so much that has been developed over the years from video modules to radio shows. There have been organizations from A to Z, Millions of dollars have flowed in and out of this state and still we have over 4,000 individuals not in care in 2011. What say you consumers, end users, allies and community members? Has the HIV/AIDS fatigue syndrome found a welcoming host who will allow our progress to become stymied and stowed on a departmental shelf awaiting another assessment. Let's face the fact that addresssing these issue will be vital in 2012 and ultimately its all about "what you gonna do?"    

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