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HIV/AIDS Blog Central

Mayor Gray Announces the First D.C. Commission on AIDS

By Candace Y.A. Montague

February 24, 2011

Dr. Pappas, Dr. Akter, and Mayor Gray at the press conference. Photo: Courtesy of Larry Bryant

Dr. Pappas, Dr. Akter, and Mayor Gray at the press conference. Photo: Courtesy of Larry Bryant

On Wednesday of this week, Mayor Vincent Gray announced that his administration will initiate a commission on AIDS in DC. The commission will be charged with the task of ending the epidemic by focusing on treatment, prevention and taking care of the needs of people living with the disease. Mayor Gray, who was the director of the DC Department of Human Services when the first agency on HIV/AIDS was created, will serve as chair of the commission. The newly appointed director of the Department of Health, Dr. Mohammad Akhter, will serve as vice chair and the new director of HAHSTA, Dr. Gregory Pappas, will serve as Executive Secretary. They will be joined later by 27 appointees from the faith, medical, and business communities.

The commission will target four areas in their agenda.

  • Treatment on demand -- this addresses the needs of people who are currently infected which can reduce risk of transmission and keep them healthy.
  • Returning citizens -- this will connect HIV positive citizens who are returning to the community from federal prison with care and treatment.
  • Medical education -- the Department of Health will develop a Continuing Medical Education course on HIV/AIDS for medical professionals to keep them abreast of the latest developments in AIDS research. This course will be required for medical license renewal.
  • Certificate of Need -- Dr. Akhter has authorized the State Health Planning and Development Agency to create an exemption for the Certificate of Need process for expansions of outpatient primary care, substance abuse and mental health services at certain HIV/AIDS treatment providers. The intent is to treat the whole person not just the virus.

Christine Campbell, Vice President of National Advocacy and Organizing for Housing Works in Northwest, is happy to hear the news. She stated "This is a great initial step. I am cautiously optimistic as this is the first time our administration has talked about ending the epidemic in Washington DC rather than managing it. There also seems to be appreciation that in addressing HIV/AIDS in DC we will need to do more than treatment - we will need to look at the social drivers that fuel the epidemic in our community."

Kudos and Questions

Kudos to the mayor for having a plan on how he will address the issue in DC. He didn't seem to have such lofty ideas this past summer when he was interviewed about a comprehensive plan for fighting HIV in DC. He is being advised well. His commission plans to use the National HIV/AIDS Strategy as a guidepost. He also deserves kudos for talking about ending the epidemic as opposed to only managing it. Mayor Gray and his committee also built in some accountability by setting a three month and one year goal. Indeed there will be plenty of groups watching his moves on this timeline.

This Examiner questions a few things. First, where does Councilmember David Catania fit into this equation? As the Health Committee chair, shouldn't he have a leadership position in this committee? Second, why so many commission members? A number like 27 can be difficult to manage and can lead to more in fighting. Third, out of all the faith, medical, and business community people on this panel, how many will actually be HIV positive? Will they represent the identities of the people who are living with this disease in the District? AIDS in DC is quite diverse and every person who is infected or affected by the disease deserves proper representation on this commission. And fourth, will there be a representative from the education or youth community on this committee? The one weak area of the National HIV/AIDS strategy is education. If the goal is to end the epidemic then somewhere along the way, the youth of DC must be added into the equation.

What are your thoughts about the new commission on AIDS? Feel free to add a comment at the bottom of this page.

Recommended Reading

AIDS Vote 2010: Vincent Gray part 1

AIDS Vote 2010: Vincent Gray part 2

Vince Gray answers lingering questions from debate

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See Also
More HIV Treatment Policy News on Mid-Atlantic U.S. States

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D.C. HIV/AIDS Examiner

Candace Y.A. Montague

Candace Y.A. Montague

Candace Y.A. Montague has been learning about HIV since 1988 (and she has the certificates from the American Red Cross to prove it). Health is a high priority to Candace because she believes that nothing can come of your life if you're not healthy enough to enjoy it. One of her two master's degrees is in Community Health Promotion and Education. Candace was inspired to act against HIV after seeing a documentary in 2008 about African-American women and HIV. She knew that writing was the best way for her to make a difference and help inform others. Candace is a native Washingtonian and covers HIV news all around D.C. She has covered fundraisers, motorcycle rides, town hall meetings, house balls, Capitol Hill press conferences, election campaigns and protests for The DC and emPower News Magazine.

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