What’s next for HIV/AIDS services?

With drastic budget cuts looming, federally-funded HIV/AIDS treatment, prevention and education programs could be lost completely

Phyllis Guest
Taking Notes

On Dec. 15, four HIV/AIDS policy, planning and treatment groups offered a webinar entitled “Is No Deal a Good Deal? Deficit Reduction, HIV Services and What Comes Next.”

Experts from the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, AIDS United, Harvard Law School Center for Health Law & Policy Innovation and the Treatment Access Expansion Project took turns speaking about different aspects of the challenges HIV/AIDS service providers face in light of political realities in DC. They divided their presentation into four parts and used 50 illustrative slides.

Part 1 was the overview: Deficit Reduction and the Budget Control Act of 2011.

So why does the U.S. have a deficit when, as George W. Bush took over the White House in January 2001, the federal government had a surplus of more than $237 billion? The answer is a trifecta: Bush-era tax cuts (“It’s your money!”), war in Afghanistan (“Gotta get al-Qaida!”) and war in Iraq (“Weapons of mass destruction!”). Thus, in a single decade, we went from the largest surplus in U.S. history to the largest deficit.

The fiscal woods thicken here, so let’s just note that Congress has passed and the president has signed the Budget Control Act of 2011. The act pledges the federal government to sharply reduce the deficit over the next 10 years.

What will such deficit reduction mean for HIV/AIDS programs? According to the webinar presenters, if there is no agreement on revenue increases and the deficit reduction comes solely through spending cuts, it will severely impact three programs of interest to many of us: Ryan White, prevention funding and two so-called entitlements, Medicaid and Medicare.

­THEN AND NOW  |  When George W. Bush took over the White House in January 2001, the federal government had a budget surplus of more than $237 billion. In 2011, the deficit stands at $1.3 trillion.

­THEN AND NOW | When George W. Bush took over the White House in January 2001, the federal government had a budget surplus of more than $237 billion. In 2011, the deficit stands at $1.3 trillion.

A spending-cuts-only approach would affect the HIV/AIDS community in several ways. First, cutting prevention efforts would mean higher rates of infection, worse health outcomes and higher long-term health care costs.

Since Medicare and Medicaid help millions living with HIV/AIDS, cutting the former would likely cause more physicians to drop Medicare patients, and cutting federal funds for the latter would shift the cost to treat very low-income persons to the states. (Good luck with that, Texans.)

Cuts to general health care reform efforts would virtually assure higher costs going forward.

Still with me? Good.

So when the Congress and President Obama could not come to any fiscal agreement, they punted to the Super Committee. The Super Committee was tasked with recommending huge changes to taxes, entitlement programs (including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid) and discretionary spending (including Ryan White).

The SC came up with nothing. Nada. Zilch.

That means there will be no immediate spending cuts to entitlement programs. But automatic spending cuts  — sequestration — will kick in January 2013 for both defense and non-defense programs.

According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, without new revenues, domestic spending will drop from about 4.4 percent of Gross Domestic Product this year to about 2.7 percent in 2021. It will then be much lower than it has been since the end of WWII.

Looking at appropriations for the year we’re entering now, suffice it to say that the differences between what the HIV/AIDS research and health care community is seeking and what the Congress is proposing are huge.

Also, the community “vehemently” opposes two policy riders added by Republican members of Congress. The first bans the use of federal funds for syringe exchange programs. The second funds abstinence-only programs.

The webinar ended with a plea for advocacy. Here are the talking points the experts hope we will use:

• The Super Committee actually succeeded in one area: It prevented major cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and other essential programs.

• The president and Congress must stick to their promise to cut defense and non-defense spending equally; no caving to deep-pocketed militarists.

• New revenue is essential; without it, HIV/AIDS outreach, prevention, education and treatment programs are lost.

• Preventing new HIV/AIDS cases, providing early treatment for those who do get infected, and funding support services such as housing are not just humane; they are cost-effective.

HIV/AIDS is still running rampant, and no magic cure is in sight. Call, fax, email and snail mail every member of Congress as well as the president.

Work with other activists. Think of other things to do, and do them all. Jan. 2 is not too soon to begin.

Phyllis Guest is a longtime activist on political and LGBT issues and is a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. Send comments to editor@dallasvoice.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 23, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

RCD opens new dental suite

United Way provided funding for construction, staffing of new suite being named in honor of Bret Camp

Camp,Bret7

Bret Camp

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

Resource Center Dallas was set to dedicate a complete new suite in its dental clinic on Friday, Dec. 16, and RCD Executive Director and CEO Cece Cox said the new suite is being named in honor of Bret Camp, former RCD associate director in charge of the agency’s health services.

“We wanted to honor Bret’s 16 years with this agency, and his knowledge and service to our community,” Cox said. “We felt naming this dental suite after him was an appropriate way to do that.”

Camp left Resource Center Dallas last summer due to health issues.
The dental clinic is housed within the Nelson-Tebedo Clinic, located on Cedar Springs Road near the intersection with Throckmorton Street.

Cox also noted that the costs of construction for the new dental suite and the cost of staffing it for one year came to $125,000, and was fully funded by United Way of Dallas. Those funds were part of the $225,000 total RCD received from United Way.

“Dental care is one of the highest priority needs” for people with HIV/AIDS who access health care assistance in Dallas County, Cox said, adding that facilities to meet the growing need were lacking.

“With this new dental suite, we can serve more clients and we can get them in for care faster,” Cox said. With the new suite in place, she said, RCD’s dental clinic will be serving about 1,000 clients a year.

As federal funding priorities shift and funding for HIV/AIDS-related services decline, Cox said last month that RCD is among those agencies looking for ways to expand its clinical services beyond just the HIV/AIDS community. But, she added this week, doing so will be a long and complex process.

“When you have a program funded with federal money, you have to keep that segregated, completely separate from your other services,” Cox said. “You can just lump it all together.”

Cox also said that RCD officials are considering whether some services now housed at the Nelson-Tebedo Clinic on Cedar Springs Road will remain at that location after the center moves into planned new facilities at Cedar Springs and Inwood Road. Construction on the new facility, designed by architect James Langford who was trained by I.M. Pei, is set to begin in 2014.

Cox said that a lot of the work of the Nelson-Tebedo Clinic revolves around HIV/AIDS testing and prevention efforts, and that the clinic’s current location in the center of the area traditionally considered Dallas’ LGBT neighborhood is most advantageous to that work.

“Right now, the clinic is located right in the heart of the neighborhood. It is a good location for those services, and that is a historically important site,” Cox said. “We do see some big advantages to continuing to maintain a presence there even after our new facilities are built.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 16, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

A Sister’s Gift honors volunteers

Brunch recognizes the efforts of women volunteering in HIV/AIDS community

Edwards.Cheryl

Cheryl Edwards

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Sheri Crandall serves dinner at Ewing House once a month, and has been for six years. She is one of 11 women who have volunteered their time to help those living with HIV/AIDS who will be honored at brunch this weekend sponsored by A Sister’s Gift Women’s Center.

A Sister’s Gift provides resources and support for women living with HIV/AIDS. Cheryl Edwards founded the organization in memory of her brother, Ronald Lewis, who died of AIDS in 1995.

A Sister’s Gift will recognize Crandall as “Volunteer — feeding with faith.”

Crandall said she was embarrassed to be honored for simply doing the right thing. When she joined Church of the Incarnation, an Episcopal church on McKinney Avenue in Uptown, people were already involved with the AIDS Services of

Dallas supper club. She’s taken the program to heart and over the years has become friendly with some of the residents.

“Some have been there the entire time,” she said. “Others transition in and out, and others pass away.”

Crandall said that some residents have special dietary needs and the group tries to keep that in mind in preparing a meal that is as healthy as possible. But, she said, if groups didn’t continue serving meals at the facility, some people wouldn’t eat.

Rosemarie Odom will be recognized as a community advocate.

Odom co-founded C.U.R.E., a Collin County-based group that uses panels of the AIDS Memorial Quilt in HIV education efforts. This week, C.U.R.E. members hung 18 panels at the Anatole Hotel for the Out & Equal conference.

Odom said that she and Roseann Rosetti started C.U.R.E. because the number of HIV cases were increasing and fewer people seemed to know about it.

“People forgot about what happened in the early ’80s or didn’t know about it,” she said, adding that many people who come to see the quilt panels have never seen the quilt before.

The group has had success displaying panels in Plano and Frisco public schools and starting a discussion about HIV, Odom said, noting that, “Everyone wants to take a picture with it and touch it.”

For World AIDS Day, Odom said C.U.R.E. is planning an event in downtown Dallas with AIDS Interfaith Network. They will display panels from the quilt at the brunch.

Gretchen Kelly will be recognized at the brunch as an HIV fundraiser and volunteer patient advocate. For more than 20 years, Kelly has helped raise funds for a variety of agencies including DIFFA, AIDS Services of North Texas, Legal Hospice of

Texas, AIDS Services Dallas and AIDS Interfaith Network.

But rather than talking about herself, Kelly said Edwards should be getting the award.

“She made a promise to her brother,” she said. “She’s worked really hard to make it work. She’s dedicated her life to it.”

Edwards founded A Sister’s Gift after her brother died of AIDS to provide resources and support for women living with HIV/AIDS.

Edwards said the idea for the brunch came several years ago when she was given an award and noticed that she was the only woman being recognized.

She remembered a woman who took care of her brother when her parents were out of town and she said she knew there had to be a lot of other women whose devotion to people with HIV were not being recognized.

“Women’s needs are different from men’s,” she said.

Edwards called one of the primary services provided by A sister’s Gift “navigational counseling.”

“After many women are diagnosed with HIV, most are clueless about where to go and what to do,” she said.
Edwards said the goal is to make sure women with HIV get medical care and stay on their regimen. They provide bus passes to make sure clients can get to doctors appointments.

More than 95 percent of A Sister’s Gift’s clients live below the poverty line. So when possible, they provide grocery assistance and utility assistance.

TOP Event Center, 1508 Cadiz St. Oct. 29 at 11:30 a.m.
$20 online at ASistersGift.org.
$25 at the door.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 28, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas