Monday, August 06, 2012

And the beat Goes ON and ON Monday

Every now and then, I have to reflect on much of what has taken place in within this community and do my best to look at it from the position like many of those candidates when they say "are you better off today than yesterday?"  However, when you do the assessment, you ponder just what hell happened and how did we get to this point anyway. If you don't indulge in this exercise I certainly encourage that if we are to move ahead then we must take stock of where we've been as we move forward with destination undefined. I've always been a history buff in search of past truths or untruths depending on the subject matter. I find it totally fascinating to pour over documents, pictures, recollections and time capsules that contain valuable information. As I begin this experiment in citizen journaling, I never considered it an actual "historical scroll" but as I've looked over my archives, this little mouthpiece has covered much ground and continues to pour it out on a daily basis. Many thanks to those of you who stop by, check in, and follow COP 24/7. It's been the little blog that has just kept on keeping on and then some. So without further delay, shall we work...

Arkansas HIV/AIDS Task Force Final Report Requests $3 Million for Awareness Efforts, Testing Sites

The above headline was featured in an item posted by The Body website in 2008 concerning the recent formation of a HIV/AIDS Task Force created by Gov. Bebee in his response to the health dilemma. Why is this important you ask? Thanks for asking, because recently representatives from AIDS United were deployed to the city this week in an effort to offer some policy and advocacy technical assistance to this group. What's more interesting is the fact that COP 24/7 pondered the thought that since this entity has been around since "2008" what have they been doing in the meantime to scale up their proficiency in "advocating" before now? It's not like HIV/AIDS didn't need more ardent advocates to address the issues, especially since they were appointed from the Governor's office, one would think that they would have had some type of expertise before being selected? So, what gives?  If you recall and most likely you don't because nothing actually happen, as
this task force filed a report citing that "money is needed to create counseling services and 15 HIV testing sites in black, Hispanic and other high-risk communities around the state. The report proposed an annual budget of $150,000 to hire two staff members to manage the services and to pay for overhead costs, such as office space, supplies and travel reimbursement. The task force said the testing and counseling sites would cost $975,000 annually. They also budgeted $225,000 annually for an HIV/AIDS awareness campaign." Then task force co-chair Rick Collins went as far to say, "that the state's tight budget might make it difficult for the state to allocate the requested money. But he added, "We're keeping our fingers crossed. We hope our state will step up to the plate" Well here we are some four years later and from our vantage point the effectiveness of this group has resulted in nothing more than "listening tours and community forums" of which I can't determine any real outcomes. As far as that technical assistance goes, it appears that there will be efforts to follow up on a "HIV Opt Out" testing bill that will allow patients to "opt out" of routine HIV/AIDS testing from their primary care physician. Yet, what COP 24/7 finds  disconcerting is exerting energy on this effort would be minimal and the focus on encouraging the state to adequately self fund the section that deals with Hep C and AIDS would be more focused with greater impact on the future.

Meanwhile those dollars slated for administrative cost could be streamed into the prevention pipeline to shore up the now insufficient $350,000 threshold that's being used to cover the entire state. Of which most national advocates and activist agree has been an awkward and probably not cost effective way of handing the situation. Furthermore, it seems that if this area needed additional funds wouldn't it behoove them to do as other health department do and pursue interesting funding announcements that could be leveraged to their benefit? I applaud agencies that seek technical assistance to help them energized their efforts but what's got this forum perplexed is the notion that
doesn't the good Gov. keep any tabs on his task forces progress and if they are achieving any of those pesky outcomes that we often hear about. If not, then what's really going on with a task force charged with dealing with what former President Bill Clinton characterized just about a week ago at the International AIDS Conference as one of the world's most important health crisis, especially in the south. It's all so interesting and this forum will keep an eye out for the latest updates. Because it looks like this will require more questions, inquiry and a drill down to understand how all this is or not working. Stay tuned...

TRAX's, MK's and New Six Center Mixes Up

We can't do COP 24/7 without a check-in with the local watering holes and venues that are have undergone some new internal management changes. At the helm is now Levi  Zaffrio and Luke Henley as the dynamic duo charged with handling the day to day operations and such. All of this comes at the learning that former management die heart Todd Chambers allegedly resigned from the management post. Ironically he's posted to his FB account that he is "looking for a job," which we have to assume under other working conditions. As that may be,  the trio of venues have been rolling on with a host of announced activities ranging from that odd geo-location based thingy, the "nail salon and drinks on Mondays to the venerable Annual Fish Fry slated for August 19 at TRAX's. I've been a patron of this establishment since its opening and have witnessed it go through the up's and downs over the years. Not to mention the cast of employees who have come and gone, often without notice and sometimes with regret. However, management has always stated to me that "it is the train that keeps leaving the station, with or without passengers!" Its an amazing mix of mash-up, old heads and all those who haven't decided that keep the place either teetering from one extreme to another. If you haven't had a chance to check it out and for the life of me I can't wonder why you haven't, then may I suggest that you take the plunge and come be whoever you are in that space. If you don't like one then you have the choice of checking out the other offerings at either MK's or 610 Center. Tell I sent ya...

Summer Explosion Picnic: More Pride?

Last Sunday, the Summer Explosion Picnic sponsored by Arkansas Black Pride took place at Murray Park under threatening skies amidst shaky planning that resulted in lackluster attendance that the group had not anticipated. As we've mentioned before, all of these "pride" themed events have had us scratching our head and wondering out loud "WTF?"  Therefore, it behooved us to roll out and check it out in an attempt to further our understanding of these events, only to leave again wondering "who, What, What and more "WTF?" questions. It was billed as a chance to Come out and meet the board of Directors of Arkansas Black Pride! Food will be provided. $10 gift Cards will be given out to the first ten people to show up and get an HIV test. J-setters, strollers, steppers come out and support the new improved Arkansas Black Pride. Yes this is the same  group that didn't exist, then did exist, then went on to not accept any responsibility for bizzare busisness dealing and so on and so forth. It's all too much to even try to reaccount.

Certainly if these entities find that there's a "need" then by all means fill it, but wouldn't it be a better bang for those small dollars to be collaborated with other interested parties to perhaps have a more fulfilling and better attended function? In our opinion continuing to have underwhelming events does nothing for credibility and definitely creates no relevance for any organization or entity. Of course, our advice has fallen on deaf ears for some time and yet these marginal outings based on a premise of "need" persist to perhaps self serve without having a viable mission to be of service to the marginalize communities they are meant for or designed to reach. Therefore, it rolls on and it appears that it will continue with low expectations and using meager funds that could be maximized in a better manner. If I'm wrong about it and don't fully understand, could some one enlighten me...

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