The 4th Annual ADAP Summit; A Budding Advocate
By Kevin Maloney
July 12, 2011
Last week I attended the 4th Annual ADAP Summit in Washington, D.C. An event put on by Brandon Macasta CEO of the ADAP Advocacy Association (aaa+). The association's mission and purpose is to promote and enhance the AIDS drug Assistance Programs (ADAP's) and improve access to care for persons living with HIV/AIDS. They work with advocates, communities, health care, government, patients, pharmaceutical companies and other stakeholders.
This year's message was "When will Washington come to the rescue." Right now, as of July 1st 2011, 8,655 people across 13 states are on wait-lists to receive lifesaving HIV medications. When I began following this crisis the number was half what it is now, and each week the number keeps creeping up. Shockingly this number represents over 90 percent of individuals living in the South. In June 2009 Ninety Nine people were on a wait-list!
Particularly troubling is the state of Ohio's ADAP program where budget shortfalls have put that states ADAP budget in a 12 million dollar shortfall; they have dis-enrolled individuals, and are considering dropping the FPL to 100%, which equates to nearly an $8,000 a year maximum income to qualify. Ohioan's who may have previously qualified for the ADAP program, have essentially become "forgotten" by their state.
The conference was my first advocacy event, my first time in Washington, D.C. It was amazing to be surrounded by such advocates as Dab Garner with dabtheaidsbearproject, Butch McKay with Positive Living, Mark S. King with myfabulousdisease, and Jason King from AHF. It was also great to finally meet Robert Briening founder of poziam (a social support site for PLWHA), and dozens of "poziamers," and numerous others to long of a list to mention.
It was very empowering being at this conference and being around these incredible advocates, whom many have been advocating as long as I am old. We must not forget the history of HIV/AIDS and how in the 80s our government did nothing to recognize the problem. It wasn't until individuals, while watching dozens upon dozens of friends and loved ones die, and they themselves on the brink of death that a movement began to recognize AIDS and to demand treatment and services for those infected. I was fortunate to meet the Founder and CEO, David Purdy of the World AIDS Institute. His organization is committed to documenting and preserving the Global History of AIDS.
It is advocacy from early on in this epidemic that so many of us are alive today and LIVING with HIV. If I had awards to hand out; I'd give them to all of you who fought for the treatment and services PLWHA have today. Your commitment and dedication to the cause is honorable, and I know I am alive today because of your collective efforts!
Though as we enter the 30th year of the epidemic we are faced with a new challenge, and that is access to care. We are not a 3rd world country and those who are sick and in need of medicine and care should have a right to access that care. Why do I have access to care and medicine, while my fellow American's LWHA in other parts of the country must go without? Every person in this country should have equal access to care no matter where they live!
At the 1st ADAP Advocacy Association's awards dinner I was fortunate to sit at the table of Ramsell Holding Corporation, and meet the Executive Director of the Flowers Heritage Foundation. Both share similar goals, serving the community and improving the lives of the most fragile. Two caring organizations working hand in hand playing a vital role in access to care for PLWHA.
Another aspect of the conference included visiting our congressional leaders in the Senate and House of Representatives to address this concern. I had the opportunity to sit in on a congressional briefing where staffers from various offices sat in to listen about this crisis, and to hopefully bring back to their bosses critical information. I then got to sit in the office of the Speaker of the House and Ohio representative John Boehner. A group of 10 of us met with a high level staffer who works on health issues. While the focus was mainly on Ohio, opportunities arose to talk about the overall crisis. Though the meeting was short and I didn't get a chance to say anything I did follow up with an e mail thanking the staffer for his time and expressing my concerns about the crisis.
On day 1 the opening speaker of the conference gave a powerful message to rile up the crowd and evoke in us a since of duty and responsibility. I was shocked that out of the 200 people or so throughout the 3 day conference, only a handful of folks from my generation were represented. So I ask, WHERE IS MY GENERATION AT? I will not take for granted a single day I am alive on this earth; the sacrifices so many made before us. I have felt an innate since of duty and responsibility since my diagnosis. That duty being to bring further awareness of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C, helping to break down the stigma, and standing up for what is right.
Am I an advocate? I would say I am a budding one. The bud opened up a bit further this past week! Just sitting in on a meeting with a high level staffer IN Speaker of the House John Boehner (3rd in line to the presidency), smelly smoke filled office, felt empowering.
As a newly empowered and energized budding advocate I thank all those who I met last week in Washington. Until we have a cure, we must band together to help make sure PLWHA have the access to care and medicine that is so vital to keep people alive and healthy. If people do not get the needed medicine I fear a flashback to the 80s; people dying. When will Washington come to the rescue? When it's to late?!?
Join over 2,040 others who have signed the petition asking Obama and Congress to intervene in this crisis now!
ADAPs With Waiting Lists
(8,655 individuals in 13 states, as of July 7, 2011)
Alabama: 73 people
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Rising Up and Speaking Out About HIV and Hepatitis C
Random things about me: I am kind, caring, respectful and wanting to make a difference/impact in the World. I've been to Australia, New Zealand and 13 countries in Europe, and have traveled and lived all over the United States. I have a Bachelor's degree in Health Services Management and will be working towards my Master's In Public Health. I am an uncle of two of the MOST adorable girls in the World, and have one brother. I am a Momma's boy, and it is hard to see my mother's health in such a deteriorated state -- she has severe COPD (from 40 years of smoking). In March 2010 I was told that I have HIV and a month later, with follow-up labs, was then told I also acquired hepatitis C (not through IV drug use). I aspire to great things. Stay tuned.
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