Final Funding Details of FY11 Budget

May 25, 2011 in Policy/Advocacy, Uncategorized

by Donna Crews, AIDS United Government Affairs Director

The funding details for fiscal year 2011 (FY 11) were released May 16. Although the general appropriations process was completed on April 14, when President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH), reached a deal in the final hour to avoid a government shutdown, the work of allocating funds to programs within governmental agencies remained unfinished.

Public health programs as well as programs and agencies that specifically benefit people living with HIV were impacted by the final funding details. The majority of the cuts seen below are the result of the across the board 0.2% cuts that were implemented in all governmental agencies. Here is an update with final numbers.

  • Funding for syringe exchange programs (SEPs) remains available for use at the federal level and at the local level for the District of Columbia
  • The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is funded at $5.66 billion, a $740 million cut across the agency.
    • The HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention Center received an increase of $27,650 million
      • Health Departments $7,442,000
      • Surveillance $8,027,000
      • Enhanced testing $21,000
      • Improving HIV Program Effectiveness $13,015,000
      • HIV – National, Regional, Local, Community, and Other Orgs $3,037,000
      • Viral Hepatitis $6,000
      • STD  $49,000
      • Tuberculosis minus $3,947,000
  • Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the primary Federal agency for improving access to health care services for people who are uninsured, isolated, or medically vulnerable, is funded at $6.27 billion, a $1.2 billion cut below FY10 level.
  • For the Ryan White Care Act (RWCA),
    • Part A, grants to eligible metropolitan areas, minus $358,000
    • Part B, grants to states and ADAP got an increase of $26,163,000.
      • AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) will total $885 million, an increase of $25 million, with $50 million set aside for the program that targeted the ADAP crisis (waitlist, decreased eligibility, and decreased formularies)
    • Part C, grants to HIV/AIDS clinics nationwide, funding will total $205,564,000, minus $819,000
    • Part D, grants to organizations for children, youth, women and families, is funded at $77,313,000, minus $308,000
    • Part F, AIDS Education & Training Centers (AETCs) grants for training and workforce development, is funded at $34,607,000, minus $138,000
    • Part F, dental grants for Dental Education, is funded at $13,511,000, minus $54,000
  • Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) is funded at $334,330,000, minus $670,000 from FY 10 level.
  • Title X, funding for family planning, remains. It is appropriated at $299,400,000 million, minus $17,432 million from FY 10 level.
  • Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative is funded at $104,790,000, minus $5,189,000 from FY 10 level.
  • The Social Innovation Fund received $50 million in funding for FY 11
  • AmeriCorps State and National received $349 million in funding for FY 11

The Senate is expected to vote on both the House and Presidential FY 12 budget proposals as soon as tomorrow. Please e-mail your Senator TODAY and urge them to reject the House proposal, which would make severe cuts to Medicare and Medicare, programs that are essential to providing care to people living with HIV.

AmeriCorps Week Reflections from Team Indy

May 23, 2011 in AmeriCorps

Throughout my time serving as an AmeriCorps Member I have had the privilege of becoming acclimated not only to the field I am interested in but was empowered to bring about significant programming and support within the same community I was raised in.

Transitioning out of college into the real world, I have been given the chance to take on leadership roles, individualize my own experience by creating my own curriculum and along with my team create a long-term project.

These long-term projects I must say have been the most significant aspect of the program to me. My first year in the program, we hosted an HIV/AIDS art show. The second year we hosted a youth conference on healthy relationships. Both years the feedback we received from attendees was similar. They wanted to know this was going to continue-that this would become an annual event.

Sustainability of a team’s long-term project who only serves one year is not necessarily feasible. On the other hand, it is feasible that we have made a path towards understanding of how an abstract concept can come into existence, that may be duplicated by others.

Each year, each team nationwide in our program puts together a long-term project, and although it is typically created as a onetime event the impact is still significant and speaks volumes to the desire for the community to have groups like ours in place to fill these gaps in the community. Perhaps the foundation of the impact these long-term projects have stem from the fact that most of our members are eager, energized, and ready to work. They have not had the opportunity to become jaded by the ins and outs of the work world, therefore bringing a fresh perspective to an idea that may have become typical and monotonous.

The AIDS United program as well as all other AmeriCorps Programs most importantly, connect people to other people, resources, information, and support for a minimal cost, while giving the AmeriCorps member the opportunity to grow.
-Ebony Barney

I am grateful for the opportunity to serve as an AIDS United AmeriCorps member, this opportunity has allowed me to gain work experience in the field public health. This has been a rewarding yet challenging experience that has brought about professional and personal development. Deciding long ago that service would be one of my life’s objectives, I could not imagine not taking the opportunity to expand my skills and comfort zones through this program. I have been blessed to meet new friends and colleagues along my journey as an AmeriCorps member as well making community connections in a new city.

My main joy from this experience comes from the daily interaction I have with clients that come through the Damien Center food pantry. I have the opportunity to educate and engage people from various backgrounds, cultures, and social groups as I serve as the Food and Nutrition Coordinator. Although, not my ideal position I have took on this arduous task of being a great resource to help meet the nutritional needs of all clients. In working through my personal restraints of this position I have found enjoyment in being an aid to people. Every time I hear, “thank you,” I begin to remember my purpose and how each food pantry order is fulfilling my needs of others.

I believe that AmeriCorps is mutually beneficial to the communities in which volunteers serve as well the volunteer. My personal situation is testament of this, I graduated from college with a degree in International Relations, but I aspired to pursue a career in public health. In having no health background I was not making progress in my desired career, but the opportunity of AmeriCorps has allowed me to breakthrough this barrier and gain hands-on work experience in the field I most seek to work in. As I gain the work experience, my community gains a willing and dedicated volunteer ready to serve her community in any capacity. AmeriCorps has enhanced and challenged my skills in many capacities; helping to develop my leadership and professional abilities while satisfying my personal desire to serve my community.
-Ashley Kirkpatrick

Joining the AIDS United AmeriCorps/Caring Counts program was one of the best decisions I have ever made for myself. I developed an interest working with HIV in college and I could not imagine a better way to continue that work and develop my skills in the field. Working with people infected and affected by HIV truly makes me feel like I am making a difference in the lives of others and also makes me grateful for the opportunity to be able to do so.

Through my agency placement at Step-Up, Inc. and my work in their Youth at Risk program I am able to talk to youth who are currently in a juvenile detention center or drug/alcohol rehabilitation facility and give them the facts about HIV/STDs, sex education, drugs/alcohol, pregnancy, and various other topics that affect the lives of at-risk youth. Through discussions, videos, and worksheets the youth and I are able to have conversations about activities they participate in and steps they might take in the future to protect themselves and their partners.

I feel the difference AmeriCorps makes when I have a youth tell me that they are going to start using condoms or are going to talk about HIV/STD testing with their partner upon release. I feel the difference when youth from the rehabilitation facility I visit join me for various talks with other groups and bravely share their stories of drug/alcohol abuse, struggles, and recovery so that others may avoid taking that same path. I feel the difference when I reflect on my day and think of all the people I talked to, the places I have been, and the questions I have answered.
-Katie Doherty

Someone recently asked me if the work I was doing for AmeriCorps was “working.” I took a moment to sincerely ask myself if I felt I was making any kind of an impact on HIV/AIDS in the United States.
My mind immediately flew through the handful of patient interactions that have stayed with me all through my ten months in AmeriCorps. As an HIV tester in an emergency room, many of my days are filled with much monotonous testing.

With a prevalence of roughly 1 in 1,000 coming through our ER, the odds are that most of my patients will test non-reactive. However, when the reactive line on the Oraquick test shows up and I have to give news to someone who wasn’t even asking for it in the first place; these moments are the reason I am there. More than often, the reactive patient is one that comes in with a common ailment. HIV is the last thing on their mind.
Beyond the number of tests and newly diagnosed infections, there are less tangible effects. Every patient that I interact with (regardless of whether they are tested or not) has HIV/AIDS brought to the forefront of their mind. In addition, having HIV testers readily available to physicians and nurses not only reminds medical staff of this potential diagnosis, but makes testing patients with suspicious symptoms easier and more efficient.

So, yes. My work is making a difference in the HIV/AIDS epidemic. I am testing more people, getting patients into care quickly, and spreading the word about the realities of the disease in our country. For these reasons, this year of service with the AIDS United/Caring Counts program will resonate with me well into my career in the health field and for the rest of my life.
-Lisa Passmore

Strongly believing in the existence of social justice for all, and becoming aware of others struggles and disadvantages are reasons AmeriCorps is so powerful. AmeriCorps’ mission clearly emphasizes the readiness to provide services to any persons, which coincides with my willingness to assist anyone regardless of circumstances; this is why I serve in AmeriCorps.

Thus far this year has been a remarkable experience and has allowed me to see firsthand what a little care can do and has inspired me to seek change within myself. To be a part of this service opportunity that allows me to further educate myself and other individuals who may suffer from disease, disability, and other economic & social challenges, moves me every day. Working within this program, I now understand the true definition of service and realize what a little can do in prolonging the life of a client.

Throughout this year I have allowed myself to be open to new surroundings and increase my leadership abilities. Through this program I have mirrored AmeriCorps mission by assisting my community regardless of class, cultural differences, and sex; there is nothing more self-fulfilling.

I recommend this program to anyone that is serious about service and is willing to put the effort in to assure change…everywhere!
-Naomi Williams

Am I mad for signing up to train for a marathon?

May 20, 2011 in Team To End AIDS

by Rob Banaszak, AIDS United Communications Officer & Team to End AIDS Participant

It is the day before our first training run for the Team to End AIDS training program.  Just three miles tomorrow.  Piece of cake, right?  I think I have what I need.  My awesome new running shoes (the most I have ever paid for athletic shoes), my gear belt, water bottle and i.d. tag.  I have had some really great short runs and cross training throughout this week.  I am about halfway to my fundraising goal.  As Jodie Foster’s character Dr. Ellie Arroway says in the movie Contact when she is in the spaceship about to be sent into the depths of space, “I’m okay to go.”

But as this Friday afternoon draws to a close, I feel my heart starting to beat a little faster when I think about the journey I am about to embark on.

Let me start by saying that I have always had the idea of running in a marathon in the back of my head.  I have run most of my adult life, but it was basically as the cardio component to my daily workout.  Two to three miles a day, 15 miles a week TOPS.  Though I did the first DC AIDS Ride back in the late 90’s, which was transformational, running an endurance event just didn’t seem like a possibility.  I was never a long-distance runner, so never really thought that running in a marathon was a REAL possibility, despite my musings about it.

Then a few years back my husband and I became acquainted with a man whom I will call Joe.  He was a man in his late 50s or early 60s.  A kind and gentle soul, who, soon after we met him, got very sick with some sort of ailment – not even sure what it was – that made him swell and caused him pain and nearly killed him.  So sad, right?

Except flash forward about a year after this happened, and Joe had fully recovered.  And not only fully recovered, but was training to run in the Marine Corps Marathon.  And then started training for Boston, and New York, and  other marathons AROUND THE WORLD.  It was one of the most inspiring life transformations I have ever witnessed.

So that really got me thinking…if JOE could do it at his age and after his nearly-fatal illness, SURELY I could run in a marathon!

Did I do anything about it at the time?  Nope.

Flash forward a few more years.  I am now in my 40s.  And now I have friends here in DC that are regular marathoners.  For them, doing the Marine Corps marathon every year – as well as other various races — is second nature. And now I’m starting to feel that nagging thought again that I should try this.

It is January 2010.  I have joined the National AIDS Fund (now AIDS United) as Communications Officer.   I have decided somehow that I really need to find a marathon to run. So I go online to check out the only marathon training program I can recall, working in HIV/AIDS and all.  The National AIDS Marathon training program.  Except that it no longer exists.

Oh well.

Then at the end of 2010, National AIDS Fund decides to launch Team to End AIDS in DC.  T2, as it is abbreviated, is a fundraising endurance training program developed by AIDS Foundation of Chicago a few years back.  And T2 DC’s training program will train you to — guess what?  Why, run in the Marine Corps Marathon, of course!

It’s  January, 2011. National AIDS Fund has become AIDS United and AIDS United’s first announcement as a new organization is the launch of T2.  I am the communications person in charge of promoting this launch.  The money raised by participants will benefit my organization.  I have been thinking about running in a marathon on and off for years and years.

HOW COULD I NOT SIGN UP?

Well of course I did.  In fact, I, and my colleague Suzanne (who is an endurance athlete), are the very first two people to sign up for T2 DC.

Which brings me to this place at 3 p.m. on Friday afternoon, and the eve of our first training run.  My heart is racing because of my anxiety for tomorrow.  Oh, and because the caffeine is kicking in from my late afternoon dirty chai (chai latte with espresso, in case you were wondering).   And all I can do to calm myself down is return to my preparedness, my longtime desire to see if I could run a marathon, and all the ways that the Universe aligned to lead me to a program that will train me to complete the event while raising money for my amazing organization.

“I’m okay to go!”

Asian-Pacific Islander HIV Awareness Day

May 19, 2011 in Policy/Advocacy, Uncategorized

By Julia Cheng, Zamora Fellow, AIDS United

Two AIDS Awareness Days in a week?  Yes!   Yesterday was HIV Vaccine Awareness Day and today is Asian-American and Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS (API HIV) Awareness Day.  Since we’ve already covered the importance of finding an HIV vaccine, I’d like to speak on API HIV Awareness Day.

I know that AIDS Awareness Days can feel somewhat perfunctory to some.  However, the importance of AIDS Awareness Days is in highlighting specific populations and issues.  Awareness days  remind us that AIDS isn’t an equitable disease, that all forms of discrimination precede negative health outcomes.  I have also heard it said often the HIV is a series of epidemics in the United States.  The point being: different communities, whether distinct by region or other social markers, face different barriers and challenges.

Why a day focused on APIs?  While currently APIs have low rates of HIV prevalence relative to other groups, APIs face increasing HIV infection rates along with consistently low testing rates according to the CDC’s latest data.  The API community is extraordinarily diverse, so just as we need to treat HIV in the U.S. as a series of epidemics, such is true within the API community as well.  At the same time, there is a vital conversation about Pan Asian-American needs, which is why, as much as I am loathe to speak about needs of a dynamic group, I am writing this blog piece.

Here is a brief description of just some of the key issues and barriers that I think face the API community in regards to HIV.

Sexuality: Though this is often discussed in our community, I feel as if many conversations about sexuality remain focused around politics and stereotypes.  More forthright conversation about sexual needs and health is needed but without forgetting the position of those who may not be able to open up about their needs.

LGBT: Issues of gender and sexual orientation may clash with perceived cultural values.  As in many places, sexual orientation continues to be perceived as a Western innovation despite a varied history of sexual orientation, sexual practice, and gender identification within Asian cultures.  Homophobia and transphobia are dangerous to the health of communities and individuals.

Mental Health: Asian American’s have low indicators of mental health and are unlikely to seek help for mental health problems.   Though there remains little research about Asian-American mental health, studies have suggested higher levels of depressive symptoms and API women ages 15 to 24 lead in the highest suicide rate among all ethnic groups in the nation according to the Department of Health and Human Services.  According to the Asian Counseling and Referral Service, forty percent of Southeast Asian refugees suffer from depression. For a population already under stress, stigmas around sex, being gay, being positive, can only exacerbate poor mental health and put individuals at greater risk for HIV.  Furthermore, poor indicators of mental health may also correlate with drug use that puts individuals at risk through the use of non-sterile syringes.

Culture and Language: Similar to other racial and social minorities, mistrust of the establishment and lack of cultural competency and language are barriers to positive health outcomes.  Asian-Americans face issues similar to other migrant communities.  While cultural specific attitudes depend on the individual; the ideas of “saving face” and not “making waves” are prominent among API communities.  In addition, conflicts of traditional versus modern medicine can present an unhealthy dichotomy of choices.

Unity: The API community should celebrate and recognize our diversity and understand it is in our own common interests to advocate and understand the wide range of needs within our community.  We also have unified needs, of which preventing and treating HIV are vital.

Lastly, own the issue.

It’s interesting to me that despite a rich and burgeoning field of scholars on Asian-American sexuality that the API community seems to lack ownership of HIV issues.  This morning I did a brief peruse of blogs that focus on (non-HIV specific) Asian-American issues and didn’t find much of anything on HIV Awareness Day.  This includes blogs that often dissect and examine Asian-American sexuality (which I feel is most, as the history and current perception of Asian-Americans is uniquely shaped by sex and gender).  While the Banyan Tree Project, the lead organization behind API HIV Awareness Day, is doing a great job to raise consciousness, it seems to me that a great challenge is taking that message and owning the issue, as evidenced by the low rates of testing among the APIs.  So while there are many key issues and barriers that face the API community you might feel like can’t take on yourself, you can own the issue.  Consider your risk for HIV, get tested, and encourage others to do the same.

Super 5th Day Comes to Chicago

May 17, 2011 in AmeriCorps

AU AmeriCorps Super Fifth DayApril 29-30, 2011 – AIDS United AmeriCorps Teams Indianapolis, Detroit, and Chicago joined forces to help out at the PAWS (Pets Are Worth Saving) shelter in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood as part of a Super 5th Day collaboration.  During the day on Saturday, members from the three teams worked together to clean and disinfect animal cages and “dog beds” which look like mini trampolines.

We started off by carrying the folded up cages outside, which proved to be no small feat as some of the cages were quite heavy!  Members took turns spraying the cages with disinfectant and scrubbing off the animal residue with scrub brushes.  We let the solution sit for ten minutes before spraying the cages down with a hose.  Once the cages were rinsed off and had air dried, we prepped our muscles again and brought them all back up the stairs to the PAWS storage area.

Every half an hour or so, four lucky members got to take some of the shelter dogs for a walk in the neighborhood.  Some of the canines we got to know included a funny little chihuahua wearing a sweater, a three legged lover, and a stunted pit bull who would continue looking like a puppy forever.  Needless to say, the volunteers were smitten with the puppy-pit and he even made an appearance in our group photo at the end of the day.

The type of work was new to many of the AmeriCorps members; however, working with such a large number of volunteers was truly empowering.  It was incredible to see the amount of work we accomplished with such a large group!  The experience reminded us of how important it is to come together to get things done.  It gave us the opportunity to experience the essence of community organizing.  We also enjoyed catching up with members from other teams who we hadn’t seen since the pre-service training in Santa Fe.

The staff at PAWS were pleasantly surprised by our efforts and the speed with which we accomplished the challenging tasks they gave us.  Members were unafraid to get their shoes, pants and shirts wet and dirty.  It was a fulfilling experience that should be repeated in the upcoming AIDS United AmeriCorps service years.

When History Meets Health: Lessons from National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

May 9, 2011 in Access2Care

In observance of National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, Team Indy met with Doug Poe, Executive Director of American Indian Center of Indiana, to learn more about the impact of HIV on this population.

Although Native Americans make up .2% of the United States population, they constitute one percent of the total percent of people living with HIV. Given the growing importance and prevalence of HIV/AIDS in this community, it is crucial to understand how history, policy, and culture have shaped health outcomes of  Native Americans  and how those factors and will decide their future with disease.

The interactions between this population and the U.S. government over the past 300 years have had repercussions that affect Native American health even today. Displacement of populations, the types of food provided on reservations, and mass sterilization campaigns that occurred in the 1970’s are felt not only in individual health, but also in how modern health care is currently viewed and utilized by Native Americans. A poor understanding of cultural differences by health care workers may also create a barrier to care for this population. Increased understanding about herbal medicine, culturally-sensitive communication, and the complex system of access to and coverage of health care for Native Americans will be crucial if we are to effectively care for those with HIV.

Mr. Poe met all of the team’s questions with his wealth of knowledge about Native American history and culture. Our conversation with Mr. Poe highlighted the importance of historic events on modern issues. In future years, it will be important for AIDS service organizations, health care, and native populations to acknowledge and understand the implications of HIV. With strong and clear connections between these parties, we can bring attention to and control the impact of HIV/AIDS in Native American populations.