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HIV Prevention Justice Alliance LiveBlogs PACHA, Persists When Fed Call Goes Awry

PACHA Says Sorry, Announces Last Minute Public Comment Call for FRIDAY

June 30, 2010

This article was provided by the HIV Prevention Justice Alliance.

Thanks to everyone who joined us yesterday for the first HIV PJA LiveBlog.

We started the conversation as people with HIV and other activists around the country while we waited on hold for the teleconference meeting of the Presidential Advisory Committee on HIV/AIDS (PACHA), the top advisory body to President Obama on the epidemic. Its membership includes people living with HIV, and it also includes long-time allies of CHAMP and members of the HIV Prevention Justice Alliance.

The main item of business was passing a resolution that addressed the crisis in access to AIDS drugs, referencing the need for more (and more than one year) funding for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), and the need to accelerate expanded access to Medicaid coverage for people with HIV through the Early Treatment for HIV Act (ETHA).

But halfway through the call, things went haywire when they open up the phone lines, unmuting everyone and then cutting everyone off abruptly and terminating the call! It was a disappointment to those who were scheduled to give public comment (only eight were allowed to begin with, but then only one got a chance to do it) and everyone else who wanted to chime in but was not allowed.

Seems like our homegrown first time liveblog ran more smoothly than the actual PACHA meeting, even though our servers crashed just 15 minutes before we went live!

People on the call were left confused and disappointed, and even angry that it was unclear if or how they could give comment. It didn't help that the call itself started about 15 minutes into the one hour session ...

Within minutes of the blog wrap-up, the HIV PJA got calls from HHS and the Office of National AIDS Policy, apologizing and asking how they could make this right. We asked them for an explaination in writing of what happened; for a reconvening of the meeting as soon as possible; and for all future PACHA meetings to be announced not only in the goverment-ese Federal Register but have additional plain-language announcements of what will occur, how the public can be involved, and all ways to get your input to PACHA.

We noted that PACHA Chair Helene Gayle never announced during the call that the public could submit comments to Melvin Joppy or otherwise explained the format for the call, which gathered the PACHA members on the phone but was also open to the rest of us as well, and demanded that this be rectified in future meetings.

Then today, PACHA posted on their website an apology and notice of a follow-up call two days from now -- the Friday afternoon before a holiday weekend! -- but neglected to notify us, once again ignoring a vital channel of public information. The apology and details on the call follows. We will also let you know if the call is pushed back to allow more time for people to put it in their calendars....

But first, a few follow up points:

1) Here's a recording of the PACHA Call itself.

2) The actual PACHA members lauded our blog, and are not responsible for the meeting's faults:

If you go to the liveblog transcript on our site, you'll see that multiple PACHA members joined us. We want to stress that they did not set up the meeting nor are they responsible for communications or technical difficulties. Thanks for participating, and for being open to public comment to PACHA, and for participating in public engagement on PACHA.

3) LiveBloggers prepare to use PACHA resolution for mobilization for US Treatment Access!:

Even as the resolution on drug access was passing, our LiveBloggers were springing into action. They started making plans to collect endorsements for the PACHA resolution as a mobilization tool - look for that in the coming days and get ready to accelerate action for universal AIDS drug access!

4) Public access to government processes affecting our lives is a human right and vital for HIV Prevention Justice.

Everyone has tech problems. Don't we know it...

But we need to see a clear and sustained committment to openness, transparancy and public involvement from the leadership of PACHA. Holding a follow-up call on little notice, in the waning hours before a holiday weekend, is not the answer. Clear and timely public engagement that is consistent and truly accessible to the broad range of people living with HIV and their allies is necessary. This engagement includes not just listening but actually responding, working with the public to move forward on HIV prevention justice and other key issues in the domestic epidemic. As we prepare for the release of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS), we demand a visible and measurable commitment to true public engagement as the NHAS moves forward.

Read the PACHA apology and announcement.

See Also
Advocates Urge Obama to Address HIV in the U.S.
President Obama and HIV/AIDS


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