Posts Tagged ‘ACA’

 
 

This year was the first year that I attended the ADAP Advocacy Association’s (aaa+) annual conference. I went there knowing that some states have AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAP) that are under some questionable measures and are causing many who need meds to be put on waiting lists and even some who have been experiencing trouble accessing care. My purpose in attending was to learn ways in which to support as an ally and advocate for family members, friends, and those that I work with in regards to ADAPs and the possible changes to come with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Medicaid expansion. Little did I know that attending this conference would touch me way beyond the spectrum of my current position as linkage to care coordinator, and allow me to connect with true champions in the fight against AIDS and become more empowered than ever before.

Day 1: Right from the start of the first plenary session I was introduced to Bob Bowers, One Tough Pirate, AIDS activist, educator and survivor. Living in the small city that I am from, I had never met such a warrior, so full of ambition, motivation, and courage to stand up speak on his combat for justice for himself and those living with HIV/AIDS. He absolutely blew me away. He was so real and so blunt that I almost wasn’t ready, but I knew that if he could get on stage and be so passionate about this fight, that I had to become more than just a health department worker; I had to become a rebel against those opposed to true nurturance, the true belief that diversity of any kind is indispensible to a truly healthy society.  

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 But that wasn’t all! The rest of the day consisted of breakout sessions on the topics of Africa’s use of technology to provide continuity of care – the use of an electronic health record system where clients utilized a simple health card to take to appointments that kept track of all their dates of visits, lab results, etc.; and HIV medication self-management – how individuals in one community were able to create their own intrinsic/holistic ideals of empowerment to deal with their diagnosis and manage care, all from many different walks of life.   The day ended with the wonderful launching of the ADAP directory…

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The fabulous invention of aaa+, a resource page full of word lists and links that handily locate AIDS Drugs Assistance Program information for all US states and territories! This is a way for those newly diagnosed or currently living with HIV/AIDS, those who are moving, plan on moving to another state, or just need to locate info within their own state, to review all the ADAP information and find ways of locating healthcare coverage and other financial sources; to improve the quality and accessibility of HIV/AIDS healthcare and support service organizations; and provide grant information. The best part is that the creators of the site are connected to the states info in a way that they are able to keep the information listed online as up to date as possible. So…as soon as something changes, their notified and updates are made!! How awesome is that?!?!? This is a way to keep people connected and even aware of changes that may need to be made or added in their areas. That’s true advocacy at work and making sure that we’re starting to push toward creating consistency across the US and its territories!

Day 2: Lots of information provided this day! A rep from the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD), “the voice of the states”, provided and excellent presentation on AIDS Drug Assistance Programs. As of February of 2014, only one state has a waiting list consisting of 35 people and other states that had previous lists are now on cost containment measures. Meaning they have put a plan in place to attempt to avoid tight budgets and not being able to provide everyone with the care and medication that they need.

More good news concerning this program is that as of 2013, the ADAP budget (consisting of Federal, state, and rebate dollars), exceeded a budget of 2 billion dollars for the first time! This means funding for the program is steadily increasing to where care and meds can be provided to those who need it within the ADAP income eligibility range of the federal poverty level.  We as advocates just need to be sure that within our own states, the money is actually reaching the people!

The day continued on with powerful breakouts from organizations such as Positive Champions Speakers Bureau (http://www.positivechampions.org), a group of HIV positive people who share their first hand experiences and the effects that HIV has on communities. They work to educate their community on the issues of living with HIV & AIDS and work to fight against stigma. This breakout allowed the speakers themselves to not only share, but also engaged the participants to share and connect as well.

I could go on and on but because there was so much information shared that I believe was helpful to both PLWHA and allies….but I don’t want to take up too much of your time lol. So I’m listing some websites that I believe are truly beneficial and that you should definitely checkout:

www.speakup.org – enables youth to make positive life choices and parents and educators to support them as they navigate the journey to become happy, confident adults (great resource)

www.needymeds.org – a national non-profit organization maintained website of free information on programs that help people who can’t afford medications and healthcare costs

http://www.panfoundation.org/ – offers assistance and hope to people with chronic or life-threatening illnesses such as HIV/AIDS in which costs is the reason for limited access to advanced medical treatments

http://www.lambdalegal.org/ – founded in 1973 as the nation’s first legal organization dedicated to achieving full equality for lesbian and gay people

Later that night, I met this fabulous guy…

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a fighter, an advocate, a trailblazer, a survivor…the true definition to me, of a believer. He is a believer of life, a believer of living, and believer of the fight being bigger than just himself. I was honored to have sat with him at the 4th Annual ADAP Leadership Awards dinner as he accepted the award for Social Media Campaign of the Year for himself and his co-creators of the The Poz Life. P.S. – you guys are doing amazing things!

Day 3: The conference ended with a town hall meeting in which all attendees met to discuss issues and set plans to go home with to continue working, begin new initiatives, and move forward in empowering others to join in this movement towards social/civil justice and equal rights.  

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So…as I left DC and headed back to my little old city, I thought about how if associations such as aaa+ remain in the fight to ensure care and funding is available, accessible, and awarded to those in need, programs such as ADAP have no choice but to remain. But we also have to become part of the battle and we can’t be afraid to speak up. If we remain in the background, watching as others struggle for our rights and necessities, then what are we doing? Why aren’t we helping? Are we really a part of the fight? Are we really standing up for what we believe in? If not, I think we have to then start asking, what do we believe in? What is our purpose? I think if we follow the quote made by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and read by the keynote speaker of the awards dinner, John D. Kemp, we can only go up from here…

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

By moving forward, we work towards growing our communities from repulsion, to tolerance, to acceptance, to support, to admiration, to appreciation, to true nurturance for all – believing that diversity is indispensible to a truly healthy society. And in order for our society to truly be healthy, we have to all have all be treated as equal and have consistency in access to medical care, medicine and other resources that keep us living in this fight TOGETHER!

On another note…I LOVE DC AT NITE!!!

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Rimage-2yane Hill, from Akron, Ohio is a  University of Cincinnati graduate with a Bachelors of Science in Health Education and Promotion with a Community Health focus. Currently she is working towards her Masters of Public Health at the University of Akron while working at Summit County Public Health with the HIV/STD Education and Prevention Program.  Ryane‘s dedication is working to educate those in underserved populations and communities on risk behaviors, prevention, treatment, and ways to access care while empowering them to self advocate for their health and future.  

 
Image  April second through the fourth saw 55 young black men from across the nation to meet in Atlanta, Georgia for the YBGLI’s second Policy and Advocacy Summit. When I confirmed to my parents that I was gay so many years ago they warned me that my life would be very difficult, and that it would be full of barriers that would require me to be the very best in everything that I do. This belief stayed within and made me believe until more recently that if I was not perfect or the best in whatever I was attempting then there was no reason trying to pursue.

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  While on my flight heading to Atlanta so many thoughts were running through my head. I really wanted to work hard to learn as much as possible and network. I am not going to lie when I felt as if the summit would be the same as any other conference, which would be information overload and maybe some opportunities to network. We all met downstairs to talk and network before walking over to the location we had our first session waiting for us. It was a great opportunity because it was a happy hour. This allowed us to begin the process to truly get to know each other. It was truly great to see old friends but have the ability to start the process of making new ones. Our first night had us at The Evolution Project. The Evolution Project is a drop-in community center for young black gay/bisexual men and transgender individuals between 18 and 28 years of age. There we got an overview of the drop-in center, listened to representatives of AID Atlanta and the state health department, and got to hear from Jose R. Rodriguez-Diaz who is the CEO of AID Atlanta. We then received a presentation on the Affordable Care Act and then had a private screening of Blackbird by Patrik-Ian Polk.

  Throughout the next day and a half we discussed health disparities, policy, advocacy, HIV prevention among Young Black Men Who Have Sex with Men (YBMSM), research, leadership, Feminism and its importance to Black Gay Men, and personal development & personal branding. The always-fantastic Testing Makes Us Stronger Team gave a presentation on their program to us before the Twitter Town Hall that will forever remain one of the most interesting experiences of my life.

On the final day, we had two very special events and both of them I will cherish for the rest of my life. We had the pleasure of having Dr. Theo Hodge, whom is a provider in DC, yet shared his story about his experiences in the district during the AIDS epidemic. Hearing him tell the stories of having clients taking HIV medications in the handfuls, the effects of AZT that were physically noticeable, and more importantly reviewing the timeline of then to here. The recording of the presentation needs to happen so it has the opportunity to play for every Young Black Gay Man (heck everyone) who is not familiar with the history of HIV. Our group truly enjoyed his charisma and his ability to convey such a serious story in a way to continue to engage us throughout our time together. Finally, the last session of the summit was one where Dr. David Malebranche, Dr. Sheldon D. Fields, Robert Miller, and Mr. Bernard Owens each gave us their stories and additional encouragement. I cannot tell you how much I saw the future me in these men. Each of them made me feel so comfortable I was able to break down my walls of protection and cry on their shoulders. I finally was able to let out my internalized stress and express my frustrations in a space where I felt as if I did not have to be either politically correct or forced to give some bullshit pageant reply like “I just want world piece.” It is truly a blessing to be in this position; however, it sometimes makes me feel extra diligent to stay on my Ps and Qs (even if that means saving those conversations for ‘kitchen table talk’). Immediately they offered their experiences and friendships and I am happy to say that post YGBLI’s Policy and Advocacy Summit we are still in contact and their words and perspectives have been invaluable. Having this opportunity would have been very difficult to achieve outside of this space.

This summit was definitely a success and far exceeded my expectations. The participants were very diverse and came from different geographical areas and professional (not just HIV). Topics were set but we had the ability to truly dissect what we were discussing, even if it transitioned off-topic for a bit. Having the ability to speak to representatives of our government agencies (CDC, HRSA, SAMHSA, and the Georgia Department of Public Health) gave us the ability to voice our concerns, thoughts, and ideas. The lack of job vacancies/internships and leadership positions, slow approval times for marketing materials, lack of funding to rural and other low socioeconomic communities that are seeing a rise in HIV, lack of cultural competency, and a vast array of others issues that were mentioned during this time period. I concern I had was that many of the representatives on the panel were white and only two members participating were Black. This is a perfect reminder that we need to have more opportunities to have Young Black Men Who Have Sex with Men (to include those who are HIV-positive) to fill these seats in the future to ensure that decisions made for us are created by and come from us. A huge shout-out though goes to Mr. Harold Phillips of HRSA who saw a need to address our questions due to the lack of time/ability of those reps on the panel to answer them. He graciously volunteered his own time to say back lack from 12am-1am to answer any of the questions he could. During this time, our awesome Organizing Committee Members took who concerns down and later brought them up with Douglas Brooks, the New Director Imageof the Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP). Feeling as if we had a voice was very empowering. Having that experience has and will continue to ensure engage my government on concerning issues.

The Policy and Advocacy Summit allowed for the formation of new relationships and partnership .It was like a beginning of a new brotherhood. From my end, there were phenomenal conversations and I cannot wait to announce fantastic news in the coming weeks! Addressing surviving as an YBMSM professional, leadership, and more importantly branding made me look at myself and analyze ways I can still to this day continue to seek self-improvement. This summit created a space where we could exchange stories, ideas, experiences, and more importantly continued support for one another. To this day, I am still in contact with many of my new friends and colleagues as we check in or support each other through the struggles of being an YBMSM in a society that has serious issues accepting us as social norms.

Coming to a close of the summit Daniel Driffin, Chair of the Organizing Committee for YBGLI said something that we all took back to our homes, careers, and everyday lives. This was that our voice does matter, no matter where we were, no matter how hard the struggle was, and no matter how muchImage we felt like our voices were unheard. This can seem very frustrating at jobs or ASOs where our advice or knowledge isn’t used; we continue to be disenfranchised; we deal with disrespect or ignorance from Cisgender white men (even gay) who do not truly understand the struggles and barriers of being a young Black Man who loves Men. These men still face a huge war within our own communities, to include mainstream society. His words really were soothing and helped to bury anger and resentment I had from some of those situations. In the end, I truly hope that this summit continues and wish that many more could take place across the country. If we can get more YBMSMs to go through a program like this, our community would see an increase in advocacy, activism, enlightenment, and progression toward more solidarity.

 

A very special thank you goes out to NGBMAC, NASTAD, The City of Atlanta, AID Atlanta, The Evolution Project, Testing Makes Us Stronger, Sphere Lab, The Red Door Foundation, Inc., AIDS.gov, Gilead, San Francisco AIDS Foundation, Georgia Department of Health, Impulse Group, AHF, Hudson Grille, Patrik-Ian Polk, HRC, Broadway Cares, Levi Strauss Foundation, Renaissance Atlanta Midtown Hotel, Summit Faculty, OC Members, and more importantly the participants for making this event happen.  For more information check out www.ybgli.org

Fairfax County, Virginia Releases Document Supporting the expansion of medicaid in Virginia.

Take a look what I ran across this week.  Now if only other counties and cities in Virginia can release data showing how medicaid benefits their residents, and pressure the commonwealth to expand medicaid we would be doing a service for the many people in our state that would benefit!