Friday, June 19, 2015

Trending at 24/7

AID Atlanta and AHF to Join Forces

The announcement from AID Atlanta on its board decision to "join forces" with AIDS Healthcare
Foundation came out nowhere and seems to have caught clients, consumers, local Atlanta activist and advocates off guard. The actual announcement came as follows:

AID Atlanta and AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) are joining forces to expand the Agency’s capacity and provide critical lifesaving services to those affected by HIV/AIDS throughout the 27 county Metro Atlanta area it serves. The organization will continue to operate as AID Atlanta and plans to continue current programs and primary care services at both locations with no anticipated disruption of services to patients.   No jobs are expected to be cut as a result of the affiliation. The organization will continue to provide holistic healthcare for patients including primary care, case management and ancillary services.
Both organizations have similar missions and serve HIV-positive patients with a wide variety of services.  The leadership of both organizations anticipate being able to test more and get more positive people into care no matter where in Atlanta they live. “We want to focus on the areas that have been neglected and where the epidemic is at its height.  AID Atlanta approached AHF because it’s a fight we want to win.” says James Hughey, Interim CEO of AID Atlanta.
After the announcement, some took to social media to share their concerns and observations as to nature of the move and its possible impact on the organization. At the core of the discussion is the
extremely strained to damn near disdain for AHF President Michael Weinstein and his position on the usage of  pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).  In a high profile editorial ad placement, Weinstein states,
“AIDS Healthcare Foundation is not against PrEP. Truvada can absolutely be the right decision for specific patients who, in consultation with their doctors, decide this is the best choice.” Weinstein explains. “However, the entire body of scientific data demonstrates that Truvada will not be successful as a mass public health intervention. Yet, this is exactly what PreP advocates, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recommend.”

“We have another incredibly powerful tool to prevent HIV infection: any person who is HIV-positive, whose virus is undetectable, is 96 percent non-infections to others,” Weinstein continues. “Yet in the United States only 40 percent of HIV-positive people are even seeing a doctor for their HIV and only 30 percent are undetectable. If every person with HIV in the United States knew their status, went on treatment, and had their viral load under control, there would be no new HIV infections.”

Local ATL activist and Counter Narrative founder Charles Stephens took to Facebook stating, "in a city like Atlanta where the HIV rates are through the roof, you wanna merge with an organization that has continually been out of step with scientific realities and the HIV community? That has been
adversarial to PrEP?" Also in the FB thread there was speculation to both the management and financial solvency of AID Atlanta also issues around agencies capacities within the communities in which they serve.

This situation was highly discussed at US Conference on AIDS last year as workshops addressed how agencies will or will not survive in the face of funding cuts and shifting resources. The mantra "grow, merge or die," was a dominant discussion that found it way back to Arkansas as apart of Arkansas RAPPS's second Impact session held in February which also raised the issue among local organizations about their sustainability and strategic planning.( )

Emily Brown added to the FB conversation with, "I'm not here to call out AID Atlanta specifically, but ASOs around the country have been in a race to the bottom for a while now, mostly choosing to compete against each other for funding rather than collaborate and scale up. Few operate as true community centers even before takeovers become "necessary," even though they were built on the backs of people who literally died trying to build community-centered health entities."

COP 24/7 will continue to monitor the dialogue and share more about how the changing health care delivery system will be affecting local community based organization who will either "grow, merge, or die."

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