Opportunity – and transformation – knocking!

By Rob Banaszak on March 17, 2011 in Access2Care

by Cheryl Roberts Oliver, Executive Director, Saint Louis Effort for AIDS

At 2 this morning, the words “opportunity and transformation” were not on my mind, but after the first day of the AIDS United Access to Care Initiative Grantee Convening, they are at the top of my mind.  The sleepless night (one of many) caused by the daunting task of raising funds to match the Social Innovation Funds just granted to Saint Louis Effort for AIDS has also been experienced by representatives of the other nine agencies that were awarded SIF grants.  Today I learned that AIDS United must raise $3.6 million matching funds by August, and that none of us are alone in our challenges or our incredible enthusiasm to create innovative programs that will truly transform healthcare models, not just as they relate to HIV/AIDS, but how we approach chronic diseases among vulnerable populations across the country.

Being with my colleagues and sharing information has raised my awareness and my spirits.  The “opportunity” is that this is the first time there is a significant chunk of non-HIV money going into the HIV community, and each of the grantees can leverage each federal dollar so that in the end we are tripling the amount.  More importantly, the projects that we are implementing will change systems and provide new answers to old problems.  I suspect that I may wake up again at 2 a.m. tomorrow, but feel confident now that I will focus on how the work of these public/private partnerships will help us tackle the real causes of illness in our communities.

The convening in New Orleans is the biggest and most complex for AIDS United because it includes the 10 SIF grantees, plus the Positive Charge and Wal-Mart grantees.  The messages that come out of this meeting will help shape our communication about how we will get PLWHA into care.  Urban, suburban and rural initiatives will be implemented over the next twelve months.  At the end, instead of saying “what the heck have we gotten ourselves into” we will be realizing the benefits of having moved HIV/AIDS thinking out of silos and into a learning community.  Enthusiastic trepidation, matched by so many caring and creative minds, is bound to be transformative.

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