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Resourceful Day in D.C.

The District's New AIDS Czar Attends DC Fights Back's Community Resource Day

October 19, 2007

Lindsay, Hader and Dunington
Lindsay, Hader and Dunington
Last Tuesday was only Dr. Shannon Lee Hader's second official day on the job, but Washington, DC's new director of the Department of Health's HIV/AIDS Administration knew where she needed to be -- at DC Fights Back's Resource Day. Hader gave opening remarks, where she spoke about the need for the government to work more closely with people with HIV and AIDS service providers. Hader then surprised organizers by staying for the duration of the program and making her way around the crowd to meet every person in attendance.

"I was very pleased to attend the DC Fights Back Resource Day on Tuesday and very impressed by the excellent participation from so many members of the HIV/AIDS community, both persons living with HIV and service providing organizations," Hader told the Update. "For my second day on the job as the new administrator of the DC HIV/AIDS Administration, it was a great opportunity to hear directly from the community on service needs and exchange ideas on improving programs to fight the HIV epidemic in the District of Columbia."

DC Fights Back members were equally impressed by Hader. "It says a lot about her priorities," said Alex Lawson, a member of DC Fights Back who helped organize the event. "That's pretty new to DC, where walls fly up very quickly." DC Fights Back, a chapter of the Campaign to End AIDS, has been reaching out to Hader since Fenty announced her appointment in August, and even devoted a section of their website to welcoming her as DC's new top AIDS official.

Hader has a tough task ahead. It is estimated that 1 in 20 residents of DC has HIV -- or five percent of the population. Hader is entering a post that has been vacant since Mayor Adrian Fenty took office in 2006.

Building bridges with Hader wasn't the only goal for DC Fight's Back's Resource Day. Some 100 people gathered at the Westminster Presbyterian Church sanctuary from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. so people with HIV could learn where to access services and providers could make connections. While DC has a large network of AIDS service organizations and resources, residents don't always know how to get through the maze to access programs and have to lean on advocates and case managers to do the work for them. More than 20 organizations had tables that more than 100 consumers visited throughout the day.

In addition to making opening remarks, Hader sat on a panel with providers Patricia Nalls, of Womens Collective, who spoke about women's issues; Geno Dunington, of DC Fights Back, who spoke about mental health; Arnita Wilson of Metro Teen AIDS, who spoke about HIV/AIDS among teenagers; Renee Kelly of Housing Counseling Services, who spoke about housing; and Deborah Hagans of RAP, Inc., who spoke about substance abuse.

"AIDS as a disease itself is such a small part of what's going on," said Cherie D. Lindsay, of DC Fights Back, who was one of the event's facilitators, explaining why the panelists addressed such a broad array of topics. "You can care less about taking your AIDS meds if you don't have housing or if you have a mental illness."

During a question and answer session, facilitated by Campaign to End AIDS National Organizer Larry Bryant, attendees rose numerous issues, especially the difficulty of obtaining housing and jobs. The chance to air their concerns and hopes for the future, left people living with HIV, providers, advocates, and government officials feeling optimistic. "Collectively we all came together," Lindsay said. "The day far exceeded our expectations."

This article was provided by Housing Works. It is a part of the publication Housing Works AIDS Issues Update. Visit Housing Works' website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
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