Monday, December 10, 2012

Slip Streaming COP 24/7

We Are You: Self Evident Tour Post Southern Swing

The project Self Evident Truths created by io Tillett Wright began photographing anyone that felt like they qualified to fall on some part of the LGBTQ spectrum, from bisexual, to transgender. Shot in simple black and white, in natural light, with no makeup or styling, the photos were intended to humanize the very varied face of gays in America today. “Guess what, we look just like you, your mother, your brother, or the coworker sitting right next to you.” Around fifty portraits were shot in the two weeks that she had, and were presented in stacks in a gallery in Los Angeles, to be taken away by viewers, for free. The tour also came through Little Rock earlier this year continuing its mission to collect and document that many of us are just like you. Pictures captured in Little Rock are posted to to their website at and features locals (Vernon S. pictured) whom turned out to participate as snaphot 943 of 1676 photos taken. The project team states that the Self Evident Truths portraits will be compiled into a series of large exhibitions, an online database, a book, several guerrilla art campaigns, and they will be disseminated through numerous digital outlets.A documentary team is also creating a film about the project, the people they meet, and the issues they face in their daily lives in different parts of the country.

Campaigns such as this continue to grow and evolve across the country including the newly revamped Know Now effort spearheaded by the Arkansas Department of Health's Hep C HIV Section that re-tooled its imagery to better reflect the target group of Black Gay men whom are being highly impacted with infection rates of the disease. Unveiled during February's Black HIV Awareness Day, the campaign was met with questions and inquires concerning images that were "MIA"( missing in action) during a ADH press conference. A counter campaign entitled "Know Not" was launched by the STRILITE group which criticized the roll out for its lack of cultural competency in regards to same sex couples or spotlighting the desired demographic. Currently the campaign has completed it re-shoot of images to be included as well as post production and there are plans to move forward with a distribution phase. With the release of funding announcements from ADH, another local community based organization is preparing to propose the "We R" campaign which will designed to show actual images of MSM's in daily life situations from shopping to sharing family moments to demonstrate the messaging that "We R your brothers," or "We R your customers." The campaign will be a one of the three waves of The PRISMS Project ( Promoting Relative Interventions for Sexual Minorities) being cultivated as competitor for the 2013 HIV Prevention grant rounds. The proposed program will address facts around the 2011 epidemiological data that in Arkansas of the 95 male to male HIV transmissions were African Americans, although these citizens accounts for less than 1% of Arkansas' population. Furthermore, the factors of homophobia, stigma and the challenges of various social determinants such as housing, employment, food, treatment and education play a significant role in early interventions through testing and access to a care continuum. COP 24/7 has been steadfast in its posting of the latest data, updates, links and breaking news about this ongoing health dilemma and pledges to continue bringing our readers the latest from all sources reporting on this issue.

The COP 24/7 Commentary:HIV/AIDS Section Chief Departs

Last Friday, Ms.Tina Long, MS CHES, Hep C/ HIV/ AIDS Section Chief at the Arkansas Department of Health abruptly resigned her post to allegedly work for another local community based group organization. Ms. Long departs some eighteen months later still shrouded in a cloud of mystery and uncertainty similar to her July 2011 arrival touted by then Infectious Disease Branch Chief, Dr. James Phillip whom cited in his internally circulated e-mail:

"Tina brings a wealth of valuable education and experience to the position. Tina has a Master’s of Science degree in Health Education from the University of Tennessee. Her Bachelor’s degree is in Health Education/Community Health from UALR. She is a certified health education specialist. Tina is coming to this position from the University of Florida, where she was a coordinator of education and training programs. Prior to that, she was education director for Planned Parenthood of East Tennessee and conducted training for HIV/AIDS prevention."

Meanwhile, in a "one line blip" reported in the August 2011 of National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors newsletter.( ) Ms. Long's arrival item didn't offer any accolades, report any awards presented, interviews given or writings produced nor collaborations that Long may have participated. It seem that she appeared out of no where and no one knew who she was or exactly what she had done specifically in the area of HIV and AIDS. The statement said, "conducted training for HIV AIDS prevention..." so what training was that and what outcomes were achieved were never concluded to my satisfaction nor anyone else. As an advocate and concerned citizen, I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt although I had my reservations then which I now realize were those gut feelings that I rely on when situations just don't seem right and usually they are not.

Apparently Ms. Long shared her resignation news among her colleagues but decided not to make a formal public statement to stakeholders, consumers, advocates or activist to perhaps cites the challenges, barriers or accomplishments if any of her tenure as the point person in this important ADH section. I certainly respect her prerogative to not do so, but to not do so again fuels critics into the mind set that the post of "Section Chief" appears to a stepping stone career move for those whom assume it. Furthermore most likely have no intentions of any longevity or possess any real formidable passion for the work in this critical position. This situation flies in the face of the fact that prior to Ms. Long being hired, the then Arkansas HIV Community Advocates damn begged ADH hiring officials to be in the loop on who was being considered with the possibility of additionally vetting the candidate or finalist for the position. Organization members were emphatic that not only that entity be apart of the process but that it would be in the best interest of the HIV/AIDS community to weigh in on what should be sought for the next director. Yet despite those outcries, letters forwarded, phone calls, e-mails and conversations, all request were quaintly dismissed. Again resulting in an individual brought into what the 2010 SHARP report ( State Healthcare Research Access Project) observed in the following:

 "part of the problem may lie in the fact that ADH has abrogated some if its responsibilities in the past, such as administration of ADAP, delegating responsibilities to community based providers. A reassertion of central authority over some functions may cause community based providers to feel that their contributions over the years are not being adequately respected or valued."

This was a high profile report which included a press conference and all the trappings of a forward momentum at that time. Subsequently, proponents of that report have returned to this state to find that only increments of progress have occurred amidst a rising infection rates among African Americans, no defined strategies to track over 4,617 individuals not in care, no coordinated follow through on the Consumer Office within ADH, inadequate HIV prevention interventions juxtaposed to current community structure and lackluster interaction or monitoring of day to day collection, movement or spikes in key data reports.

Ultimately what's needed in this position is an individual whom not only has some "fire in the belly" for the problems but some sure fire leadership skills to "stand for something or be at the mercy of all." Its imperative that hiring officials take a hard look at why it appears that candidates chosen opt out in about 18 months.  Money could be an actual issue even though other Section Chief's have earned up $80K and still vamped out. So if its not money then what the hell is it?

At this point the section is fully staffed albeit questionably funded to meet the demands of a state that has a "patchwork system of care." Its no secret that Arkansas has no line item in its budget for HIV prevention not to mention that federal dollars have seen some roll backs and flat lining across the board. For 2013 local CBO's most likely will have to include funding for purchasing testing packets within their minuscule budgets. Furthermore, there appears to be some nebulous understanding about budgets as well as grant writing that must be fixed either with the interim chief or whom ever is chosen.

The next leader of this entity needs to be prepared to assess the strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats of this section while engaging their considerable cultivated industry resources. We don't need another lightweight follower but a heavyweight direct leader who will be able to network and negotiate or comprise what's needed to get Arkansas in the game toward an AIDS Free generation. COP 24/7 wishes Ms. Long well on her next endeavor but now its time to roll up our sleeves and recruit a robust replacement to get the job done.

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