HIV Advocacy Groups Join Forces in Michigan
July 6, 2010
AIDS service organizations (ASOs) across Michigan are joining forces to speak as one on statewide policy issues that relate to HIV.
The group, formed through the Michigan AIDS Coalition policy committee, will not charge membership fees. Policy committee Chair Derek Smiertka said the statewide group hopes to retain a lobbyist by the second quarter of 2011.
The new consortium is learning from the missteps of a predecessor organization, HIV/AIDS Advocacy of Michigan. HAAM assessed dues, which became difficult for member organizations as funding sources dried up.
Representatives from ASOs across the state are working out the details of how the new group will be organized, and they will consider positions on policy issues.
An attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) urged the group to get involved in conversations such as the legislature's recent debate on lifting separate informed consent requirements for HIV testing.
"A lot of education needs to be done," said Jay Kaplan, staff attorney for the ACLU's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender project.
The featured speaker at the meeting was David Munar, vice president for policy at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. He encouraged the organization's leaders to look to persons with HIV for energy and ideas.
"They need to be in conversations with policymakers to find out what their priorities and concerns are. The only way [lawmakers] are going to be concerned about HIV is for people affected by HIV to address them with their concerns," Munar said.
06.21.2010; Todd A. Heywood
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