HIV meds program on state’s chopping block

Ending assistance could cost communities millions in added ER care and hospitalization, advocates say

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Some of the more extreme budget cutters would like to eliminate the program that helps people without insurance receive life-sustaining medications, as the Texas Legislature struggles to pass a balanced budget.

“That would be called legalized murder,” said Don Maison, president and CEO of AIDS Services Dallas.

Among the more likely proposals being floated in Austin is to add only 400 to 500 people to the Texas HIV Medication Program (THMP) over the next two budget cycles, which runs four years.

Bret Camp

Local HIV healthcare providers said the proposed number is low compared to the number who will need the program.

Texas is a direct purchase state, according to Bret Camp, associate executive director of health and medical services for the Nelson-Tebedo Clinic at Resource Center Dallas. Camp explained that the state buys HIV medications and distributes them through a network of about 400 pharmacies throughout the state.

To qualify for THMP, a client must be diagnosed HIV-positive, be a Texas resident, be uninsured or under-insured for drug coverage, have income below 200 percent of the poverty level, and not receive Medicare.

Medicare recipients get their medication through the State Pharmacy Assistance Program.

In 1996, 5,100 people in Texas received their medication through THMP. Last year, the estimated number was 14,000.

Camp said he is concerned that increasing the number of eligible people over the next four years by just 400 would leave too many without the medications they need.

Camp said he expects the number of people needing assistance to increase significantly.

“The state is being responsible and promoting HIV testing,” he said. “The more testing, the more cases we’re likely to see.”

Just how much the state is spending on providing drugs for about 14,000 Texans with HIV is not known. Camp said that the state negotiates a price with the drug companies but does not publish the negotiated price.

“Nobody really knows what the price is,” Camp said.

Randall Ellis is the senior director of government relations for Legacy Community Health Services in Houston, formerly known as Montrose Clinic. He said that Texas probably pays in the range of $6,000 per year for someone in the program.

Individuals who have to purchase the drugs themselves or have insurance cover part of the price would pay closer to $24,000 or more.

Camp said that eliminating the program would save little when compared to the overall budget shortfall. But he said that the cost of caring for people who would have to make multiple emergency room visits and have extended hospital stays would be much higher than keeping them healthy in the first place.

Ellis said another problem is that the oversight committee, made up of stakeholders from around the state, sunsetted last fall. To reinstate the committee, the commissioner of Health and Human Services would simply have to repost the rules.

The committee made recommendations to the health department such as what drugs should be included in the program and what the eligibility requirements should be.

The commissioner, Ellis said, usually followed the committee’s recommendations. But the commissioner didn’t always want that input, he said.

“They want our input when it looks good to have community input,” Ellis said. “But when we ask tough questions, they’d rather not have us.”

Ellis does not expect all funding for THMP to be cut. He said that the state receives some funding through the federal AIDS Drug Assistance Program.

Camp said other states have thousands of people on waiting lists for ADAP programs.

“Florida is sorry right now,” he said. “They have dis-enrolled people.”

Florida has more than 3,000 waiting for medication. Unless those people find another way to get their medication, most will become sick, Ellis said, adding that if they are left untreated, those people will die.

Camp said that after recent hearings in the Senate Finance Committee, senators “seemed to leave with questions” that were on a level he hadn’t heard since early in the AIDS crisis.

On Tuesday, Feb. 15, the Texas HIV-AIDS Coalition is sponsoring Advocacy Day at the Capitol in Austin. A Dallas contingency will join groups from Houston, San Antonio and other cities as far as El Paso to talk to legislators about the need to fund the program.

For more information or to register for Advocacy Day, go TexasHIV.org.

—  John Wright

Deaths 01.14.11

Gary L. Allen, who was known as “The Uscan Man” at Kroger on Cedar Springs Road, died on Jan. 9, two days before his 61st birthday. He had worked at Kroger for 35 years and was one of two people who had worked at the store on Cedar Springs since it opened in 1998.

Throughout the years, he participated in many charity events. He won several honors for his volunteerism.

Allen is survived by his beloved dog Bo, who has been given a new home by some of his friends; and by friends Elaine and Mike Casey, John “Spanke” Studer, Mark Sharp and Rod Wait, Shannon Percell and Ronye Mitchell-Percell, Mariann Slocum and Cyndi Richards, and Don Maison.

In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory may be made to AIDS Services Dallas, P.O. Box 4338, Dallas, Texas 75208. A celebration of his life will be held at a private home on Jan. 22 at 4 p.m. Address and additional information is available at Kroger.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 14, 2011.

—  John Wright

Nowlin throws hat in ring to replace Hunt in District 14

James Nowlin

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

If Angela Hunt decides to run for mayor, the gayest council district in Dallas will be open, and at least one gay man has already announced he is throwing his hat into the District 14 ring.

James Nowlin, 30, has lived in Dallas since 2006. He is a graduate of University of Virginia and Duke University School of Law.

In 2007, he and a business partner he started Excel Global Partners, a corporate financial consulting and professional services staffing company. He said he maintains his law license.

If elected, Nowlin would become the youngest person ever elected to Dallas City Council. Hunt now holds that title; she was first elected at age 33.

Hunt appointed Nowlin to the Dallas Citizens Police Review Board, from which he recently resigned after deciding to run for office.

He has also serves on the board of AIDS Services Dallas and attends of Cathedral of Hope and Unity Church of Christianity.

Nowlin has already put up a campaign website and named Bill Prather as his treasurer.

While this is the first time he’s running for office, it is not Nowlin’s first campaign. In 2010, he served on the steering committee for Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson’s campaign.

“I’ve been talking to Angela for more than a year about succeeding her,” Nowlin said Thursday, Jan. 13.

If she decides to run for re-election rather than for mayor, he said, “We’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.”

Among the issues Nowlin said his campaign would address are the budget, public safety, economic development, infrastructure and other issues of importance to the LGBT community and the community at large.

District 14 includes parts of East Dallas and Oak Lawn. If elected, Nowlin would be the first gay representative from the district since Craig McDaniel was elected to that seat in 1993 as the city’s first openly gay council member.

For more information, visit JamesNowlin.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 14, 2011.

—  John Wright

WATCH: Dallas Bears Chili Cook-off

The Dallas Bears hosted their first Chili Cook-Off at the Hidden Door on Saturday afternoon. Seventeen LGBT organizations and individual competitors vied for tickets while raising money for charities.

“This year our beneficiaries are Youth First, AIDS Services of Dallas and AIDS Interfaith Network,” said Bears President Wayne Davis.

For $5 local tasters received six spoons, a bowl and a ticket to vote on the best chili.

“Our focus is raising money for AIDS-related charities throughout our community,” said Bears Treasurer Devon DeVasqez.

Despite cool weather, the crowd quickly swelled to more than 150 tasters coming and going.

“We all need to give back to the community in whatever form or fashion we can,” said Larry Finch, former DB president. “Whether it’s our time, our money or just our support to the organizations.”

From “sweet with a kick” to “hot and spicy,” competitors enticed tasters with various prepared chili creations. As the crowd began to fill up and wind down, an auction was held while tickets and scores were tallied.

There were seven winners:

• Best Tasting Chili: The SLUTS

• Best Theme Presentation: The United Court of the Lone Star Empire

• Best Individual Entry: Doctor Dang

• Best Group Entry: TGRA

• Hottest Chili: Discipline Core 2 of 2

• Community Favorite, which received the most tickets: United Court of the Lone Star Empire

But the grand title, Best Overall, went to Butch Compton.

“It’s all out of good fun,” Compton said upon receiving his trophy and certificate. “I enjoy the happiness on people’s faces when they eat something that’s tasty.”

—  admin

A year’s worth of giving

LEATHER KNIGHTS DONATE | Leather Knights President Jason Kloss, front left, and Charitable Events Chair Derrick Dawson present a check to Steven Pace and Larry Finch of AIDS Interfaith Network for $1,001 raised during the Dragon Lady of the Realm pageant in February. AIN was one of four organizations who received donations from the Leather Knights during a reception at Youth First Texas on Monday, Dec. 13. Youth First Texas received $1,404 raised during the Buy Daddy’s Box auction in November. The dental clinic at the Nelson-Tebedo Health Center received $1,200 raised during Military Manuevers in November. And AIDS Services of Dallas received $2,000 raised during AWOL 2 in May.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 17, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

AIDS Services of Dallas announces date, honorary co-chairs for annual ‘No Tie’ dinner

On the heels of distribution of funds from Black Tie Dinner, AIDS Services of Dallas has announced details for its big fundraiser, the less fancy No Tie Dinner.

The event — a series of about 50 dinner parties held at private homes, culminating in a big dessert party and auction at the Frontiers of Flight Museum — will take place on March 26. The 2011 honorary chairs are D’Andrea Simmons, Bernard and Michelle Nussbaumer and Paige andClint Fletcher.

Anyone interested in hosting a party is asked to submit a request to Don Neubauer, DNeubauer@sncompanies.com. Learn more at NoTieDinner.org.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Leather Knights begin another year of fundraising with a New Year’s party, and you’re invited

Jason Kloss

On Monday night, Leather Knights distributed checks from several events held during the year to AIDS Services of Dallas, Resource Center Dallas, Youth First Texas and AIDS Interfaith Network.

Jason Kloss, president of Leather Knights, said he’s having a New Year’s party and asked us to help him invite the community.

“All I am asking of my guests is to consider bringing a donation to benefit either the Food Pantry or AIDS Services Dallas-Hillcrest House,” he said. “They prefer daily hygiene products (toothpaste, soap, toilet paper, razors, deodorant) or non-perishable food items (canned goods, pasta, condiments).”

Kloss said the party will feature an open bar and any tips to the volunteer bartenders will benefit AIN. Any other donations will also go to the beneficiaries.

The party starts at 9 p.m. on Dec. 31. E-mail Jason for directions.

—  David Taffet

Panels from AIDS quilt on display in Plano

Lavonne Barrows points to a quilt panel she made in 2004

Panels from the Names Project’s AIDS Memorial Quilt will hang at Event1013 in Plano through Wednesday, Dec. 1, World AIDS Day.

Among the 13 panels are those from AIDS Services of Dallas and the Round-Up Saloon.

Lavonne Barrows is a quilt monitor. Her son has been HIV-positive for 20 years. Along with C.U.R.E. President Rosemary Odom, she made several of the panels hanging in Plano. The panels she made honor children from the Bless Gerard’s Children’s Home in Mandeni kwaZulu/Natal, South Africa. The panels were sewn in 2004 and presented to the Names Project on World AIDS Day that year.

Odom explained that they had gotten permission to honor the orphanage’s children who died of AIDS. About a year later, the couple who ran the home was ambushed and murdered.

The display is presented by Community Unity Respect Education, or C.U.R.E., a Plano-based group that educates about AIDS through displays of the Quilt.

Event1013, 1013 E. 15th St., Plano. Nov. 29-30 until 4:30 p.m. Dec. 1 from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. followed by a reception from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Free parking is available in a lot across the street that is accessible from 14th Street.

—  David Taffet

Heavenbent for leather

Leather Knights bring back Angel Tree to benefit AIDS Services of Dallas

ANGELS IN AMERICA  |  David Henry  is making his list and checking it twice. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

Santa Claus isn’t always a fat old man in a fur suit. Sometimes he’s a hot leather daddy in a harness.

That’s the way the Leather Knights see it, at least. Once again, the group is sponsoring its Angel Tree for the holidays.

The idea is simple: Go to the Dallas Eagle and check out the tree, decorated with paper ornaments on which are written requests for some holiday cheer for clients of AIDS Services of Dallas and Hillcrest House. Some are middle-aged men in need of warm clothes. Some are children wanting their first iPod. All are deserving.

Take down the ornament, buy the gift, wrap it (with a tag) and return it to the Eagle no later than Dec. 18. The Knights and Eagle staff do the rest, delivering the gift to the person requesting it and making an angel out of you. And let’s face it: Most of the year, you’re more of a devil, so this is a perfect time to get into the holiday spirit.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

Visit the Angel Tree and return the gift between Nov. 27 and Dec. 18 at the Dallas Eagle, 2515 Inwood Road, suite 107. LeatherKnights.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 26, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Best bets • 11.12.10

Friday 11.12

Rivas makes ‘Faces’ picture perfect
You might have seen the gigantic portraits of community figures during this year’s Pride parade. They were shot by photographer Jorge Rivas who has been busy with sessions for people wanting their photos taken for his Faces of Life exhibit. The opening reception with Rivas benefits AIDS Arms, Inc. and features some pretty amazing portraits.

DEETS: ilume Gallerie, 4123 Cedar Springs Road.  7 p.m. Through Dec. 15. ilumeGallerie.com.

Saturday 11.13

Dance the night away – three nights
The gay run Beckles Dancing Company participates in the South Dallas Dance Festival 10. The South Dallas Cultural Center hosts three days of dance and education with both a master class and performance on Saturday. Beckles is one of 17 companies included in the festivities.

DEETS: SDCC, 3400 S. Fitzhugh Ave. 8 p.m. Nov. 12–14. BecklesDancingCompany.org.

Thursday 11.18

Be the envy of your neighbors
You won’t get the boys with it, but you can bid on evergreen fabulosity at DIFFA’s Holiday Wreath Collection Event. Vie for that wreath your neighbors will all be jealous of. Unless they’re bidding with you. Which is good, because the auction benefits North Texas AIDS services organizations.

DEETS: Ritz-Carlton Dallas, 2555 N. Pearl St.  6 p.m. $50. DiffaDallas.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 12, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens