Tuesday, April 29, 2014

On the Road with COP 24/7 and More

The AIDS WATCH 2014 Swarm: Issues, Insights and Integration

The amount of information, data dumps and agenda items discussed during AIDS Watch 2014
amounts to a "swarm" of information that can be mind boggling at one level and overly simplified at other junctions. Ultimately the delegates to this years AIDS Watch had a rallying cry of "If not now, when?" That cry revolved around a bounty of issues and challenges that the delegates amassed from their personal stories, daily ground work, as well as client interactions. Meanwhile many in attendance cited dealing a plethora of changing systems and funding sources that embraces more integration across the board.Picture: Mr. Doug Brooks, MSW, Director ONAP addresses delegates at opening of AIDS Watch 2014.

TEAM Arkansas Participates

The Arkansas delegation of Bob Coffey, Tommy Lockett, Kari Coffman, and Jimmie from West Memphis, Arkansas represented the state during the conference as well as hill visit. Unfortunately due to the severe weather back home, meeting with members themselves was done through office staff persons with the exception of Rep. Rick Crawford whom met with Mr. Jimmy of the delegation.

For the Arkansas Team despite the overarching  "big tent" themes of the meeting, each delegate cited the lack of resources offered to those wishing to attend and the communication flow to inform or update about impending conferences.

Furthermore each chided slow and lackluster responses within both policy systems as well as poor dynamics in supporting PLWHA to attend meetings referencing southern issues. Coffey was extremely vocal that "if I can find money for gas to car pool folks to a meeting, we got a problem. I have an issues where only those with degrees or ADH ties seem to be able to get any travel assistance." Both Lockett who served as State Coordinator and Mr. Jimmie stated that they too had experienced issues around securing resources and questioned if there are individuals ready to advocate why are resources so miniscule to none. Each attendee worked their networks to acquire a range of donations, hotel rooms, scholarships and personal contributions. AHPG Co-Chair, Mabin, was given a ear full from participants as to the piece meal funding stream to support this type of activity. "This situation is unacceptable and will require some serious dialog. Its embarrassing to know that entities and organizations from other cities are stepping up to support Arkansans with everything from  (pictured from left: Lockett, Jimmy Samuels (TN), TN representative, Coffey)
frequent travel miles to Metro passes in order for them to fully engage their policy makers. I will make it a priority to address the situation and seek remedies to this all but "tin can" approach to supporting this community."

Hot Button and Flashpoints

Under auspices of AIDS United, USPLWH ( United States People Living With HIV Caucus) and TAEP ( Treatment Access Expansion Project)  along with a numerous other supporters ranging from AMFAR to Bristol Myers Squibb the event drilled down on the critical points around Ryan White funding which will require additional reauthorization which has been seen as essential bridge especially among states that did not follow through on Medicaid expansion unlike 21 other states. Currently RWP ( Ryan White Program) parts include Part A for eligible metro areas with five years of cumulative cases between 1,000 and 1,999. Two thirds of its funding is distributed by formula and supplemental grants based on demonstrated need. Part B provides funding to all 50 states which supports care, treatment and other services deemed critical to improve access and retention in care including the bulk of funding serving as the foundation for states AIDS Drug Assistance Program ( ADAP) which ensures direct access to needed medications.

A hotbed of discussion was around President Obama's inference that RWF Part C and D be merged in an effort to enhance comprehensive primary health care in outpatient settings including family centered outpatient care for women, infants and youth living with HIV/AIDS. Delegates wanted assurances that this move would not be short circuited or short changed. It was noted that current budget adjustments are already in place despite the possible merger. Part F funds AIDS Education Training Center's ( AETC's) to ensure an adequate workforce to respond to the other associated needs such as dental care and SPNS ( Special Programs of National Significance) designed to deal with emerging needs.

There was significant energy around HIV Criminalization, adolescent sex education and sexual health, the continuing federal ban on syringe exchange and a wave of support around the theme that "housing is also healthcare." Across the board, delegates from major metro areas such as Philadelphia to rural areas across the south offered cases in which affordable housing was a factor in the care continuum.

 At the core HOWPA formulas and outdated policies around local rental values plus flat line budgeting were highlighted as crisis barriers in establishing stable housing. The National AIDS Housing Coalition has called for a $350 Million level resulting in a $20 Million appropriation. To date some 60,000 are served by HOPWA however up to 145,000 households with HIV positive members lack stable housing.

COP 24/7 offered real time coverage across its social media platforms of Twitter, Facebook, instant messaging and this forum. For additional pictures and coverage check out www.facebook.com/corneliusonpoint, www.facebook.com/arkansasHIVplanninggroup and other coverage will be linked to www.AIDSUnited.com and Mr. Team Friendly Tennessee portals. Share your comments, thoughts, and opinions with us!!

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