March 8, 2012
On Feb. 22, several dozen representatives from LGBT and AIDS service organizations met with officials from Philadelphia's Health Department and the AIDS Activities Coordinating Office to generate ideas and secure commitments to fight the epidemic. The meeting came about in response to community concerns following cuts to a CDC award administered by the city.
"It was an opportunity for the community to have its voice heard in terms of how they're being affected by the epidemic, their ideas for prevention and for linking people to care, and for the Health Department to see how they can work more closely with the community," said Terri Clark, a prevention coordinator for Action AIDS who helped facilitate the meeting.
A recurrent topic of conversation was the epidemic's effect on Philadelphia youth. Some noted the recent delays by the city school district in enacting a condom-distribution program in schools. The dispensers were ordered and are currently sitting in a warehouse awaiting district approval to be installed.
Health Commissioner Donald Schwarz said he wants to make young black men who have sex with men a priority. "There's a need for ongoing dialogue between African-American MSM and the Health Department and service organizations. That's a really important issue right now. We welcome ideas on how best to engage this community, in particular young men of color," he said.
Organizer Kevin Trimmel Jones noted that some "unanswered questions" remain as to how the city and the HIV and LGBT community will work together on the local strategy. Clark said a consensus among attendees was the need to hear input from youth and those in mental health and addiction services.