Thursday, July 26, 2012

Waves of Rising Tides of Hope

From the Big Chair
Speaking Volumes for Tides of Tranformations

The 19th International AIDS Conference surges forward toward its climatic end this Friday and COP 24/7 has highlighted the event via the HJ Kaiser Family Foundation's web portal and all associated links. This forum was proud of its collaboration with The Living Affected Corporation which served as "mini-hub" while beaming much of the conference into its Argenta offices. As far as  its known, this agency was the only local community based group which offered its space as a destination for viewing the conference. Unfortunately a more coordinated approach was not pursued by public health officials as an further opportunity to scale up community wide dialog and awareness. The event was a global event that allowed itself to be used as platform for a multi-faceted "awareness week" or at least a couple of days of engaging stakeholders, allies, policy makers and advocates in additional capacity building. Its undoubted that "every moment is a deciding moment," and there's not a moment to waste as data continues to reveal startling facts concerning incidence rates and prevalence numbers that paint a swath of infections that are primarily among African Americans within impoverished and or blighted areas of Arkansas. Furthermore, though blacks account for 13 percent of the total US population, this community makes up nearly 50% of new HIV cases. That means, approximately half a million Black Americans are living with HIV. Many of those affected lack access to health care and treatment, making this population even more vulnerable. According to the CDC, black men who have sex with men (BMSM) accounted for 63 percent of new infections among black men in 2006." It is for this reason that I'm emphatic that the current Know Now campaign that urges testing, prevention and conversation must be totally coordinated before any significant shifts will occur in the black community. If It is not, then its another expensive lost opportunity to educate or inform.

 Although the impact of the conference perhaps wouldn't be of interest to many in these areas, but gathering those interested in the subject into a "think tank" mode could have resulted in some innovative strategies or steps forward in the battle to message, "treatment as prevention." There's no more time denying that gaps in services don't exist, transportation issues continue, social determinants such as housing, education, food, treatment and employment are crucial in the care continuum, and ultimately the trinity of substantial funding, distinct accountability and leadership must be fully engaged as this battle rages on. Such conferences are invaluable tools, rich in not only networking avenues but bastions of the most updated information is made available. Since this conference was designed to strategize to "end the age of AIDS," Arkansas's policy makers should have been thoroughly engaged if not in attendance certainly alerted to its access via the local micro hub or even this forum. The cutting edge technology which conference organizers embraced was a direct "teachable moment" for our area which has demonstrated low expectations in harnessing the power of the digital age. COP 24/7 utilized every aspect of that technology to promote our posting of key segments and panel discussions. At this junction of the crisis, its unacceptable to continue to move in a lackluster manner or poorly coordinated frames regarded as a response to this epidemic. If we are going to stop the spread of HIV and AIDS, then the time is now!

The Future of HIV Prevention, Health and Human Rights in Gay, other MSM and Transgender Communities: Towards More Effective Approaches with ICTs in a Web 2.0 World

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