Friday, June 26, 2015

Testing Week Friday

Endgame of HIV and AIDS in Arkansas

All this week we've been looking at the spectrum of HIV and AIDS both nationally and statewide as we look at snapshots of what has happened and what needs to happen in Arkansas. So what have we learned?  There's been a litany to assessments, calendars filled with meetings, focus groups, VCT training and capacity building opportunities with organizations such as NASTAD, Latino Commission, ACRIA, and many others that have come and gone. In between we've seen a litany of consultants, as well as, experts who were brought to town to put locals on the right track for better outcomes that didn't always happen. 

There has been almost an A to Z laundry list of programming ranging from fashion shows, gospel concerts, film projects, testing tours and tented testing extravaganza's, awareness and outreach events of all sizes and manner, including an over the top, if not ill fated attempt to build testing booths in a local bar.

Coinciding was also a roll out of DEBI's and EBI's ( Diffusion Effective Behavioral Interventions) prevention interventions such as "M3V," Many Men, Many Voices, "D-Up," and a mash up of other interventions that had marginal effectiveness in behavior changes. There have been large and small galas both inside and outside of conferences plus a couple of "prayer breakfast" events at the Governor's Mansion.

Also in this array of addressing this health dilemma we've had big talk media campaigns that were suppose to penetrate into our communities through barbershops, beauty shops and affinity businesses that were to allegedly increase the knowledge base of those whom frequented these outlets. Let us not forget the various press conferences across the city to highlight and ballyhoo all that was, is and supposedly happening to combat new infections or assure that all was being done in the name of public health. 

Yet with all this well meaning activity that offered some measure of deterrence or possible quantifiable outcomes, we are still grappling with the certainty that although infections may have plateaued otherwise in Arkansas, it is undeniable and indisputable that according to the CDC,

"The CDC estimates that 1 in 5 African Americans living with HIV are unaware of their status and over a third of Latinos receive an AIDS diagnosis within one year of testing positive. The reasons behind why people of color don’t get tested or delay testing are complicated, but many agree that stigma and fear are major factors. An unwillingness to take an HIV test means that more people are diagnosed late- causing unnecessary illness, delayed treatment, increased likelihood of transmitting HIV to others, and potentially early death."
Arkansans is not exempt from this scenario no matter how much anyone wants to see it through any other lens. Through all that we've sampled, here's COP 24/7's take away bullet items that should be apart of any forthcoming planning to End AIDS in Arkansas...:

1. Competent and stable leadership to champion issues inside the Hepatitis C/ HIV/AIDS Section of ADH. Plus a full assessment of current strategies, allocations, grantees, staffing and future planning.

2. Assess the effectiveness of the Governor's HIV AIDS Task Force, Office of Minority Health and the Arkansas Minority Health Commission's future focus on HIV in Arkansas.

3. Complete update on data gathering efforts initialized from current agency activity and updated information posted on appointed web portals.

4. An overview of Community Health Centers readiness to address or capabilities to navigate PLWHA individuals to all services.

5. Assess the impact of HOPWA client services as to rehabilitation or life skills building resulting in preparation to access stable housing or home ownership.

These are just a few items that might need to be considered if Arkansas is to be on board to make strives to end AIDS in Arkansas.

Stopping HIV: The Trudva Revolution, Part 3

This is the final installment of the VICE Report's series on Truvad and its impact or lack thereof among the MSM community. At best, COP 24/7 urges that there needs to be essential dialogue as to the levels of usage in Arkansas as well as the knowledge base of clinicians in prescribing this prevention method in the linkage and retention in care continuum.

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