The following is an excerpt from an article that originally appeared on Frontier Media.
Three former AIDS Healthcare Foundation managers filed a civil lawsuit last Friday, April 3, alleging that the billion-dollar HIV/AIDS agency defrauded federal healthcare programs of at least $20 million each year since 2010. Critics of AHF President Michael Weinstein are rubbing their hands in excited anticipation as if this might be the final straw that brings Weinstein down -- while others are questioning the motives and cultural competence of the whistleblowers.
But Weinstein pushed back in an extensive interview, which turns the tables on the complaint's concept of "linkage to care." The men who filed the complaint apparently see the effort as a criminal means to boost AHF's bottom line. AHF sees linkage to care as part of their mission to better treat people who are HIV positive. AHF's practice is backed up and practiced by Jeffrey King, Executive Director of In The Meantime Men, one of the many smaller, grassroots minority HIV health and wellness organizations that AHF has helped support.
"To start with, this [lawsuit] was rejected by both the federal government and the state government," says Weinstein. "Now these three former employees are pursuing it privately."
Weinstein would not venture a motive for the men's actions, since both governments presumably had the same evidence as those filing the lawsuit. "Obviously, the federal government has a budget stake in pursuing these types of claims," Weinstein says. "They've successfully pursued these types of claims against entities large and small. The first we knew anything about this was when we read it in the press so we were not contacted by any investigators in the federal government."
Weinstein noted that the former managers said "that giving incentives up to the level of $50 per patient in order to make sure that they come in for their first two appointments -- including help with transportation and that sort of thing -- was somehow an improper thing."
Not only is linking HIV-positive people to care not improper, Weinstein says, it's part of AHF's mission:
I mean 40 percent of people with HIV in the United States are in routine care. The reality is that's our job, as we see it. Our mission, as we see it, is to find the people who are positive, test the people who are positive and when we find out that they are positive ... the reality is that a lot of people who test positive are not linked to care. A very high percentage of them never get linked to regular care.
More than 40 percent of all people living with HIV are not getting regular care, are not seeing a doctor or medical provider.
This excerpt was cross-posted with the permission of Frontiers Media. Read the full article.