25 ways to fight AIDS

Today, December 1, is World AIDS Day.

Wait! Before you click the ‘next’ button or scroll down your news feed hear me out: The LGBT community has been living with AIDS for three decades now. For people of my generation the message to get tested and use condoms has been stated and restated so many times that it has faded into the background with the result that, all too often, people do not take the steps they need to to protect themselves. Harris County is responsible for 30% of the new HIV/AIDS diagnosis in Texas and men who have sex with men account for 64% of newly diagnosed men statewide. The threat is not over, the fight is not over, AIDS still endanger the LGBT community.

But I don’t want to just talk about just condoms and testing (as important as they are). Fighting HIV/AIDS is easier than you might think. I present to you 25 ways, in no particular order, to fight AIDS in Houston.

25. If you’re over a certain age talk to a young LGBT person about how your life has been affected by HIV/AIDS. You might be surprised how eager we are to hear your stories.

24. If you’re under a certain age listen to an older LGBT person tell you how HIV/AIDS has affected their lives. I know you aren’t eager to hear their stories, but listen anyway. You may find that learning the history of your community is more empowering than you’d expect.

23. If you are a sexually active gay man or transgender woman participate in the Baylor College of Medicine’s HIV Vaccine Study.

22. Ask your local public or school library to put books about HIV/AIDS on the shelf, not just in the back room where they have to be requested. Access to accurate information is crucial in fighting the spread of the disease.

21. Post HIV/AIDS stories to facebook.

20. Ask your clergy person what your community of faith is doing to fight the pandemic.

19. Sign up for action alerts from the Texas HIV/AIDS Coalition at texashiv.org

18. Actually follow through when the action alerts from the Texas HIV/AIDS Coalition arrive in your in-box.

17. Volunteer for organizations that deal with communities at high risk for infection: high school dropouts, victims of sexual assault, the poor, the homeless and sex workers. Fighting AIDS means fighting the injustice in our society that all too often contributes to new infections.

16. Say AIDS out loud.

15. Ask political candidates what they will do to continue funding to fight HIV/AIDS.

14. Once they’re elected, ask those candidates why they aren’t doing more to continue funding to fight HIV/AIDS.

13. Remind yourself that it’s OK to be tired of hearing about HIV/AIDS.

12. Thank a person who volunteers their time to the fight.

11. Take a moment to remember the people we’ve lost.

10. Take a moment to think of the people we may loose if this pandemic isn’t stopped.

9. Take a HIV/AIDS healthcare worker to dinner.

8. Wear a red ribbon.

7. Recognize that wearing a red ribbon isn’t enough.

6. Work with communities other than your own. HIV/AIDS effects us all.

5. Get angry.

4. Get over your anger.

3. Donate to an HIV/AIDS Charity.

2. When you pass a mobile HIV testing center, thank the workers.

1. Don’t pretend the fight is over, and don’t let other people pretend it’s over either.

—  admin

‘The Normal Heart’ at Stages Repertory Theatre

The Normal HeartLarry Kramer is so well-known for his tireless AIDS activism (and for being a general son-of-a-b*tch) that people forget that he is, in fact, a writer. Kramer’s magnum opus, The Normal Heart, is more than just the semi-autobiographical tale of a firebrand activist struggling during the early days of what what would become the AIDS crisis. It’s a masterpiece of language – an exploration of what pulls people out of their everyday lives and into advocacy.

Stages Repertory Theatre presents a staged reading of The Normal Heart Monday, November 28, from 7:30-9:30 pm. Tickets are $25 with proceeds benefiting the University of Houston LGBT Resource Center.

The Normal Heart centers on the relationship between Ned Weeks, a thinly-veiled stand-in for Kramer, and his brother Ben. It’s the early eighties and a mysterious illness, spoken of only in hushed tones as the “gay plague,” is ravaging the gay men of New York. Ned is desperate to fund an organization to care for the sick and fight for support from the city, but when he turns to his brother for financial help the unspoken homophobia that has long strained their relationship springs to the surface.

Meanwhile Ned’s organization has ousted him as a leader in favor of a less controversial (but closeted) candidate after Ned’s confrontational style alienates members of the mayor’s staff. Ned’s friend, a wheel-chair-bound doctor who knows more about the illness than anyone else, also finds herself thrust into the role of activist when the scope of the impending pandemic becomes clear.

Brimming with questions of how to balance confronting power with gaining power, the role of friendship and love in creating change, and the ever tenuous relationships between LGBT people and their families, The Normal Heart is just as relevant today as when it premiered in 1985.

For reservations to the staged reading call 713-522-2204.

—  admin

What’s Shakin’ – Stone Soup at F Bar, Washtonians support marriage equality

Stone Soup1. For people living with AIDS proper nutrition is more than just healthy living, it’s a vital part of the regimen that keeps them alive. Unfortunately the struggling economy and cuts to government HIV/AIDS nutrition programs mean that, for some, eating right, or just eating, is a challenge.  That’s where the AIDS Foundation Houston Stone Soup Food Assistance Program steps in.  Kelly McCann, CEO of of AFH, says that the program has recently seen a 40% increase in request for assistance and needs an additional $25,000 a month to meet demand. F Bar (202 Tuam) is doing its part to help out tonight, collecting monetary and food donations from the community. Donors will receive a VIP invitation to an appreaciation party on Nov 22, and be entered in a raffle to win fabulous prizes.
2. Washington may soon become the seventh state to have full marriage equality, if a recent poll by the University of Washington, Institute for the Study of Ethnicity, Race & Sexualityis accurate.  The poll asked 938 registered voters in the evergreen state if they would support a same-sex marriage law were it to appear on the 2012 ballot: 47% responded that yes, they would strongly support it, only 32% said they would strongly oppose.
3. Voter turnout in Harris County is slowly catching up with the last municipal election cycle in 2009, but continues to lag.  So far 28,679 people have cast their ballots, 81% of the 34,485 who had voted at this point in the process the last go around.  Early voting continues through November 3.  Election day is Nov 8. A list of all early voting locations and sample ballots  are available at harrisvotes.org.

—  admin

Dallas gets $1.28M HUD grant for HIV/AIDS

Officials with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development have announced the allocation of nearly $9 million in grants to projects in seven states that provide permanent and transitional housing and support services to people with HIV/AIDS.

Of that total, $1,287,500 will be allocated to the city of Dallas’ Housing and Community Services Department, the only city or agency in Texas to receive one of the seven HUD grants. The money will be used to provide transitional housing support to 60 ex-offenders over the next three years. According to the HUD press release, the Housing and Community Services Department will be working with the city’s Project Reconnect and the Department of Justice’s Second Chance Act in providing the housing and services.

And the city has committed to “creating an Integrated HIV/AIDS Housing Plan through a comprehensive community planning effort that involves 20 local partners operating in the eight county Dallas Metropolitan Statistical Area,” according to HUD. No word yet on whether those partners will include AIDS Services of Dallas, which is located in Oak Cliff and provides housing for as many as 225 men, women and children impacted by HIV/AIDS through 125 units in four complexes.

The largest of the grants, $1,375,000, is going to the Los Angeles County Commission on HIV. The city of Portland, Ore., gets the second-largest total with $1,365,900. River Region Human Services Inc. in Jacksonville, Fla., is getting $1,353,743, and the Corporation for AIDS Research Education and Services Inc. in Albany and Rochester, N.Y., gets $1,344,375.

Dallas is next on the list, followed by Justice Resource Institute Inc. in Boston, which gets $1,223,377. Rounding out the recipient list is the Frannie Peabody Center, a statewide organization in Maine, that is receiving $930,909.

The seven recipients were chosen “through a national HOPWA competition to identify special projects of national significance that will help advance understanding and improve the delivery of housing and care for persons with HIV,” according to HUD.

—  admin

Pride 2011 • Tavern Guild names 5 parade beneficiaries

Organizations provide a variety of services for those in the LGBT and HIV/AIDS communities

Draconis von Trapp  |  Intern


In recent years, increasing costs have forced the Dallas Tavern Guild to cut back on the number of organizations chosen as beneficiaries of the annual Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade, choosing only one each year.

This year, however, the Tavern Guild has been able to expand its list of beneficiaries once again. In addition to Youth First Texas, the sole beneficiary for the last several years, beneficiaries this year also include AIDS Arms Inc., AIDS Interfaith Network, AIDS Services of Dallas and Legacy Counseling Center.
Each of the agencies is profiled below:



Raeline Nobles

AIDS Arms Inc.
AIDS Arms is the largest nonprofit HIV/AIDS organization in North Texas, serving more than 7,000 individuals every year. The agency’s executive director is Raeline Nobles, and John Loza is chairman of the board of directors.

The AIDS Arms offices are located at 351 West Jefferson Blvd., Suite 300. The phone number is 214-521-5191, and the website is AIDSArms.org.

AIDS Arms’s case management programs offer numerous services to assist individuals in learning to live longer and healthier lives with HIV by providing access to medical care and support services specific to them. The agency’s goals are to create and maintain long-term access and adherence to medical care and stabilization so clients can successfully manage the side effects of HIV and AIDS.

Professional case managers are trained to respond to clients’ unique needs by providing a comprehensive assessment of needs and barriers to accessing medical care and support, as well as assessing clients for eligibility for programs such as HIV medication and health insurance assistance, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security and other benefit programs that may help with the financial issues of HIV treatment. Case managers also develop a long-term care plan with the client.

The Case Management Resource Directory helps clients locate services such as food, housing, counseling, support groups, job training and more.

AIDS Arms offers multiple minority-specific programs for women, youth, substance abusers and those with mental health needs. The agency offers linguistic services with case managers versed in more than 10 foreign languages and dialects, and with a variety of diverse cultural and educational backgrounds and experiences.

The intake program helps newly diagnosed clients navigate the services available to them in Dallas.

AIDS Arms’ Peabody Health Center is an outpatient medical clinic that offers comprehensive medical care in coordination with other services needed to increase access to care and maintain adherence to treatment. The clinic employs physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses and others professionals who are experts in the medical field and specify in HIV treatment.

AIDS Arms is currently in the process of opening a second clinic.

One specific support group, WILLOW (Women Involved in Life Learning from Other Women), is a program that brings together HIV-positive women to learn from each other and develop new skills. Activities and group discussion lend to the positive environment where women learn how to live healthier lives and form good relationships.


Steven Pace

AIDS Interfaith Network
AIDS Interfaith Network was founded in 1986. Steven Pace is executive director. The agency’s offices are located on 501 N. Stemmons, Suite 200,
and the phone number is 214-941-7696. The AIN website is AIDSInterfaithNetwork.org.

Among its programs, AIN offers Outreach, a program to guide individuals and gives them access to prevention and care services, make referrals and ensure that those affected by HIV/AIDS have access to proper care. The program specifically targets African-Americans (African American Health Coalition) and Latinos (Manos Unidas).

AIN offers a variety of programs, including linguistic services with interpretation and translation of written materials for Spanish-speaking clients, caregivers and other service providers.

Educational services, including prevention education and risk reduction sessions, are available for at-risk individuals, groups and communities, as well as collaborative HIV testing and prevention programs.

Another program offers HIV education for minority women at high risk of infections. The program specifically targets African-American and Hispanic women, but it is open to all.

AIN’s client advocacy program receives referred clients and enrolls them into the appropriate programs. It also provides direct assistance by making referrals, providing follow up and collaborating with case management. This program collects client data, creates and updates files and provides documentation.

Transportation services are offered to clients living in both metropolitan and rural areas through van rides, bus passes for the DART and train system and taxi rides to ensure access to treatment facilities and support services throughout the prevention system.

AIN also operates the Daire Center, an adult daycare center that provides stabilization services and respite care to relieve caregivers. The center also includes monitoring, individualized support, activities, socialization and nutrition assistance. The meals program provides prepared breakfast and lunch daily in the Daire Center for clients who need assistance to meet or enhance their nutritional needs.

For those interested in taking part in helping affected clients, AIN’s volunteer program recruits, trains and manages volunteers, offering different curricula of buddy and companion services for those affected. The program also provides on-site assignments at AIN to give program, administrative and project support and to participate in fundraising events.

For clients requiring spiritual support, AIN offers pastoral services for care, counseling, education and support. The program refers clients and accepts referrals, collaborates with Outreach, offers prevention education and recruits volunteers.


Don Maison

AIDS Services of Dallas

AIDS Services of Dallas was founded in 1985. Don Maison is president and CEO. ASD offices and apartment buildings are located in North Oak Cliff, near Methodist Medical Center. The phone number is 214-941-0523 and the website is AIDSDallas.org.

ASD’s housing program provides furnished, service-enriched housing and assisted living in private apartments for people with HIV/AIDS. ASD never turns away clients due to an inability to pay rent and it is the largest licensed provider of medically supportive housing for infected individuals in Texas, with four facilities: Ewing Center, Revlon Apartments, Hillcrest House and Spencer Gardens.

Ewing Center consists of 22 units — five one-bedroom apartments, 15 efficiencies and two special need beds/rooms. Revlon Apartments are designed to accommodate individuals and families, with 20 one-bedroom and seven two-bedroom apartments.
Hillcrest House, which provides service to individuals who are formerly homeless and living with HIV/AIDS, has 64 single-unit efficiencies. And Spencer Gardens, named in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales, provides housing for 12 low-income families.

ASD provides morning and lunchtime meals five days a week and coordinates dinner meals through the Supper Club volunteer program. For immobile clients, the program also provides carryout meal services.

For transportation services, ASD provides a 15-person van to provide regularly scheduled trips to a local food pantry, supermarket and second-hand clothing stores. It also carries residents to and from medical appointments and social service appointments and is used to transport residents to recreational activities planned and implemented by the Resident Councils.

ASD’s case management program provides professional social work staff to determine the psychosocial services needed for each individual resident and assist them in accessing community-based service providers. In addition, the social workers provide on-site case management, substance abuse counseling, individual and group counseling and grief support as needed.

The Social Work Department provides recreational activities for the children of ASD and helps their adjustment to the community and public schooling. With funding from the ExxonMobil Community Summer Jobs Program, ASD has hired a children’s activity coordinator to provide recreation during the summer months for the children residing at ASD.

ASD provides 24-hour care and support for its residents. Nurses provide both care and support to residents as well as implement the health maintenance programs. Personal care aides monitor every individual’s needs and habits and provide full-time assistance with routine tasks of daily living for HIV-positive residents.


Melissa Grove

Legacy Counseling Center and Legacy Founders Cottage
Established more than 20 years ago, Legacy Counseling Center provides mental healthcare, substance abuse treatment and housing services for individuals affected by HIV and AIDS. Melissa Grove is executive director. Legacy’s offices are located at 4054 McKinney Ave., Suite 102. The phone number is 214-520-6308 and the website is LegacyCounseling.org.

Legacy Counseling Center provides both individual and group therapy. In individual therapy, individuals receive one-on-one private therapy sessions with licensed professional counselors specially trained in mental health issues of persons affected by HIV and AIDS.

They assist with coping, anxiety, depression and survivor guilt as well as medication compliance.

Group therapy is offered both during the day and the evening and helps HIV-infected individuals contend with many unique issues, and include female-only groups, Spanish-speaking groups and other targeted groups.

Legacy’s Substance Abuse Program provides intensive outpatient substance abuse treatments along with ongoing relapse prevention services for HIV-positive individuals. The program also educates clients about drug abuse and how it ties in with HIV and AIDS in both group and individual therapy. The outpatient therapy schedule can be tailored to the individual’s needs.

To take part in these programs, the individual must be HIV-positive with a letter of diagnosis, at least 18 years old and must remain alcohol and drug-free during the program.

Legacy also operates the Legacy Founders Cottage, a licensed, seven-room special-care facility for people living with AIDS in critical stages of their illness who require 24-hour supervised care.


Youth First Texas

Sam Wilkes

Youth First Texas is staffed by Director of Development and Administration Sam Wilkes. The YFT offices are located at 3918 Harry Hines Blvd. The phone number is 214-879-0400 or, toll-free, 866-547-5972. The center is open Tuesday and Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Thursday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.; and the second and fourth Saturday of the month from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

YFT offers free counseling to LGBTQ youth ages 22 and younger through volunteer counselors. All counselors are licensed professionals or student interns working under the supervision of a licensed counselor. All legal and ethical guidelines are followed including confidentiality and keeping files. Youth under the age of 18 must have written consent from a parent or guardian before receiving individual counseling services.

Counselors address issues such as coming out, family and school issues, bullying, self-mutilation, depression, isolation, relationships and dating, gender identity and expression, and drug and alcohol abuse.

YFT offers three main groups, but these may be supplemented with other support groups as the need arises. The three support groups are Survivors, Gender Identity and Coming Out.

Survivors’ Group is a peer support group for youth who have suffered isolation, abuse or other trauma, offering them the opportunity to discuss things that are troubling them and receive feedback from peers in a safe space. This group is held on the first and third Thursdays of the month from 7:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m.

Gender Identity Group is specific to youth dealing with issues related to gender identity and expression. The group is also open to youth who are curious about their gender-variant peers and gender issues in general. It is held on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month from 7:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m.

Coming Out Group deals with thoughts and feelings about sexuality. YFT periodically offers a four-week support group, providing an opportunity to share with a small group of peers about sexuality and coming out.

YFT also offers multiple educational programs throughout the year. Among these are book club, café cinema, GED tutoring, “Our Roots Are Showing,” Youth Defenders and GSA Network. The center also offers many recreational activities, such as Dallas PUMP!, Friday Night Kula Feast, Movie Camp, Open Mic Night, and the YFT Dance Group.

Throughout the year YFT participates in softball through the Pegasus SlowPitch Softball Association, volleyball through Dallas Independent Volleyball Association, concerts by the

Turtle Creek Chorale, theater performances by Uptown Players and other functions. YFT participants are also kept privy to queer-related opportunities such as performing at their annual fashion show Give E’m Heel and the Gayla Prom by Resource Center Dallas.

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


—  Kevin Thomas

LOCAL BRIEFS: AIN poker tourney at the Brick; Bates set for Dallas Black Pride

AIN poker tourney set at the Brick

A charity poker tournament is set for Saturday, Aug. 27, at the Brick, 2525 Wycliff, to benefit AIDS Interfaith Network.

The Dallas Bears and the LGBT poker league Pocket Rockets will co-host the event with the Brick. Miller Lite is the sponsor and play begins at 3 p.m.

It’s free to play but AIN will benefit in a number of ways. The agency will receive a portion of the drink specials sold. Players may buy additional chips, and the Bears will hold a 50/50 raffle.

A cash prize pool of $500 will be awarded and all levels of players are welcome.

Bates set for Dallas Black Pride

Christopher H. Bates will speak at the Dallas Black LGBT Community Summit on Friday, Sept. 30 at the Dallas Marriott City Center Hotel. He is the director of Health and Human Service’s Office of HIV/AIDS Policy.

Bates will discuss the federal government’s response to the high infection rate among young gay African-American men. He has 20 years experience in public health policy and has been with OHAP for more than a decade.

Bates administers funds for the Minority AIDS Initiative and advises the Undersecretary of Health on education, prevention, testing, research, care and treatment strategies. Information is available at DFWPrideMovement.org.

Martin offers program for couples

Randy Martin, LPC, will facilitate an eight-session program for couples, Wednesdays from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. throughout September and October.

The program is based on the theory and practice of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT). The first session focuses on the new science of love and what it teaches us. The next seven sessions focus on helping couples shape and use the seven conversations laid out in the book Hold Me Tight by Sue Johnson, the developer of EFT.

Couples interested in participating should contact Martin at 214-520-7575. The cost of the program is $500 per couple and includes a copy of the book Hold Me Tight and other necessary materials.

NGPA seeks donations

The National Gay Pilots Association recently awarded $22,000 in scholarships and is seeking donations for future awards to aspiring LGBT aviators.

Since its founding in 1998, the NGPA Education Fund has given 46 awards totaling $139,000. Donations can be made on the group’s website, NGPA.org.

—  John Wright

Funding restored for HIV meals programs

Micki Garrison and Steven Pace

Cuts that alarmed agencies turn out to be paperwork error

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer

Two Dallas agencies that provide hot meals for low-income people with HIV — Resource Center Dallas and AIDS Interfaith Network — received notice last week that funding for those programs would be eliminated as of Sept. 1.

But the notice was a mistake. Dallas County Health and Human Services spokeswoman Blanca Cantu said Thursday, Aug. 18, that the mistake should be corrected — and funding restored to the agencies — before the beginning of the state’s new fiscal year.

“DCHHS is not defunding the meals programs,” Cantu said.

She said that the error was due to a paperwork snafu.

“Funds that should have been split between the food bank and the meals program were inadvertently combined and reflected as one total allocation to food bank,” she said. “Recent notifications of funding awards that were sent to service providers reflected the omission of funding for meals.”

AIDS services grants funded by the government go through a complicated process.

What programs will be funded is decided by the regional Ryan White Planning Council. The Dallas council covers Collin, Dallas, Denton, Ellis, Henderson, Hunt, Kaufman and Rockwall counties. Tarrant County is in a different region.

Once the regional Ryan White council decides what will be funded, the Dallas County Administrative agency decides who will get money for the which programs and puts out the contracts.

The money comes from more than one funding stream. Part A money is from the federal government and Part B is from the state. Since the contracts were for a Sept. 1 start, which matches the state fiscal year, agencies assumed the funding cut was as a result of budget slashing in the Texas Legislature.

However, Chris Van Deusen, a spokesman for the Texas Department of State Health Services, said, “No changes were made at the state level.”

And federal cuts would not have been made mid-year. The Ryan White budget year begins April 1.

Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Zachary Thompson was surprised to hear about the cuts. After checking with the Ryan White representative and the administrative agency, he confirmed that no cuts will be made to the meals programs.

“A revised allocation spreadsheet that reflects funding for both services is being processed immediately for submission to our contracts management division,” Cantu confirmed. “Revised awards are expected to be processed in time so that services are not impacted.”

The cuts would have had a greater impact on AIDS Interfaith than Resource Center. The $50,000 that AIN receives annually represents about a third of the agency’s budget for its meals program. RCD receives about $30,000, representing a much smaller portion of its meal program budget.

RCD serves lunch during the week. AIN serves breakfast and lunch weekdays and sometimes provides dinner on Saturday evening.

About half of the 200 people that access AIN’s program are among the most vulnerable and most compromised of those with HIV in Dallas. Many are homeless.

Without the meals program, they wouldn’t be able to take their medications.

Despite receiving the email that notified them of the funding cuts just three weeks before they were to take effect, both agencies were committed to continuing their meals programs.

“For the short run, we plan to sustain the program,” AIN Executive Director Steven Pace said before the county discovered the error.

Earlier this month, AIN received a $25,000 grant from the MAC Cosmetics AIDS Fund that would have helped continue the program temporarily.

“$50,000 is a small investment for a big return,” Pace said, adding that one emergency room visit to Parkland Hospital by someone sick from malnutrition could have cost the county more than an annual outlay to feed hundreds of people.

Micki Garrison, nutrition center supervisor for RCD, agreed. She said that without food, people with HIV cannot take their pills.

Several years ago, RCD lost much of its meals program funding from the government and made arrangements with the North Texas Food Bank to buy low-cost pans of food that form the basis of the daily lunches served. RCD supplements that with vegetables, side dishes and desserts.

Garrison worried that NTFB would face cuts in its budget, much of which comes from federal grants.

“If that’s threatened, there’s a big piece we cannot replace,” Garrison said.

Carrie Clark of the NTFB said that at the present time, her agency is not worried about any loss of funding and looked forward to continue working with RCD.

—  John Wright

AIDS Arms taps Voskuhl as new medical director

Dr. Gene Voskuhl

HIV specialist says he is leaving private practice to follow his passion

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer

Dr. Gene Voskuhl will become the new medical director of AIDS Arms effective Aug. 22, a job change Voskuhl said this week is “one heck of an opportunity.”

AIDS Arms’ former medical director, Dr. Keith Rawlings, is moving to San Francisco to take a job in private industry. Rawlings helped develop AIDS Arms’ medical program and opened its Peabody Health Center in South Dallas in 2001.

Voskuhl will join the organization as it expands its health services with a second clinic set to open in Oak Cliff in September. He is an internist specializing in infectious diseases, and was clinical director at the University of Oklahoma’s College of Medicine in Oklahoma City where he worked with underserved populations affected by HIV.

Voskuhl said that his Oklahoma clinic was also a Ryan White-funded facility.

Currently, Voskuhl is a doctor with Uptown Physicians Group, one of the largest private practices with an HIV specialty in Dallas, and he was an infectious disease consultant at Baylor University Medical Center. Preparing for his departure, Uptown is currently placing his patients with other physicians within the practice.

In addition to seeing patients at the AIDS Arms clinic, Voskuhl is excited about the research program already underway at Peabody. Current clinical care and prevention strategies are two areas in of focus in the agency’s research work.

One upcoming study includes using pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, therapy.

“No one knows how well it will work,” Voskuhl said.

But he said it was one approach to prevention for discordant couples trying to prevent the negative partner from contracting HIV. He said that for high-risk people not practicing safe sex, it might also be useful.

Voskuhl said that AIDS Arms Executive Director Raeline Nobles is an important part of the reason he decided to take the new position, and he praised her commitment to helping people with HIV.

“It’s an important job in the community,” he said. “When the opportunity came up, I said, ‘I have to do this.’”

Voskuhl said he is glad the position will give him an opportunity to focus on HIV care, because “That’s truly my passion.”

The new Oak Cliff clinic is expected to provide medical care to 2,500 patients in addition to several thousand already served at Peabody. Dallas County Health and Human Services estimates 6,000 HIV-positive people in Dallas County do not receive any medical care.

Voskuhl said the clinic was a real safety net. Many of the clients don’t qualify for Medicare or Medicaid and have no insurance.

“The only other option is Amelia Court,” the HIV clinic at county hospital Parkland Memorial, he said.

The AIDS Arms clinic, however, will also serve patients with insurance who decide to access AIDS Arms’ variety of services and receive their medical care in one location. In addition to new, state-of-the-art facilities, a variety of social services that AIDS Arms offers and other programs will be available at the Oak Cliff clinic.

Although work on the multi-million dollar clinic is nearing completion, fundraising continues in the agency’s Call to Arms campaign.

—  John Wright

Tell Texas’ health commissioner to request funds needed to avoid HIV/AIDS ‘death panels’

NOTE: This post has been updated with a response from the Department of State Health Services. See below.

One of the victories from the 82nd Texas Legislature was the preservation of funding for the Texas HIV Medication Assistance Program. Early drafts of the state budget cut funding for the program, or eliminated it all together. Through concerted lobbying efforts the Texas HIV/AIDS coalition, in cooperation with other groups and activists around the state, convinced lawmakers to preserve funding at current levels, and to create a method by which Dr. David Lakey, commissioner of the Department of State Health Services, may request additional funds if he feels that they are necessary.

Whether or not Lakey will requests those funds is still in question. Lakey has a history of dismissing the importance of public input into how the medication assistance program is run. Earlier this year he eliminated the Texas HIV Medication Advisory Committee, a body designed to provide input from service providers and clients of the program. Lakey’s actions prompted the Texas Legislature to remove the commissioner’s ability to disband the committee by making it permanent in the state’s Health Code. Lakey also routinely doesn’t attend meetings of the Advisory Committee, one of the few open forums for the public to provide input on how the program is operated.

HIV rates in Texas are on the rise. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, there were 3,126 new cases of HIV diagnosed in Texas from January through September of 2010 alone. Januari Leo of the Texas HIV/AIDS coalition says Commissioner Lakey will need to request an additional $19.2 million in funds to keep pace with the increased infection rates over the next two years:

“By not asking for the $19.2 million that is necessary to ensure that eligibility requirements will not be altered for those coming into the program, administrators are essentially setting up death panels,” says Leo. “What constitutes sick enough to have access to life-saving medications? Commissioner Lakey has the lives of thousands of HIV positive Texans in his hands, we hope he will choose to do the right thing and ask for the money.”

The Texas HIV/AIDS coalition is asking Texans to contact Commissioner Lakey to encourage him to request the additional funds. A simple on-line form is available HERE.

UPDATE: Christine Mann, a spokesman for the Department of State Health Services, disputes several of the assertions made in this post. Below is the text of an email Mann sent us:

• “Early drafts of the state budget cut funding for the program, or eliminated it all together.”

This is not true. There was never a proposal in the budget to cut funding for the HIV Medication program, nor was the program ever in jeopardy of being eliminated. We requested $19.2 million in additional funds via an exceptional item to address increasing caseloads and medication costs, but that money would have been in addition to the program’s current budget.

• “Whether or not Lakey will requests those funds is still in question. Lakey has a history of dismissing the importance of public input into how the medication assistance program is run.”

We very much welcome public input, and we are not sure what the “history of dismissing” is based on. The HIV Medication program is expecting a shortfall some time in FY13 due to increased caseload growth and increased medication costs. We are looking at a full range of options to deal with the shortfall and are in the beginning stages of looking at when and how we can make a request for those dollars, as allowed by the budget rider.

• “Earlier this year he eliminated the Texas HIV Medication Advisory Committee, a body designed to provide input from service providers and clients of the program.”

This is not true. There was no specific action to eliminate it. The HIV Advisory Committee disbanded due to an oversight in the rules. That oversight was discovered last summer and DSHS requested the committee be reinstated. The request was approved by the Health & Human Services Commission in February 2011.

• “HIV rates on are the rise.”

New HIV infections are not on the rise in Texas. HIV infection rates have been relatively stable over the last five years.

• “Commissioner Lakey will need to request an additional $19.2 million in funds to keep pace with the increased infection rates over the next two years.”

The HIV Medication Program is expecting a shortfall of $19.2 million sometime in FY 13 due to increased caseload growth (new applicants) and the increased costs of prescription medication. As previously noted, HIV infection rates have not increased in Texas.

—  admin

AOC holds ‘Evening of Hope’

CELEBRATING | Sandy Lanier, center, co-founder of AIDS Outreach Center’s Sandy Lanier Nutrition Center, was on hand along with AOC Executive Director Allan Gould Jr., right, and AOC Director of Development Jim Downing for the agency’s second annual Evening of Hope Gala.

2nd annual gala marks Tarrant County ASO’s 25th anniversary


FORT WORTH — AIDS Outreach Center continued its 25th anniversary celebration in June with the second annual Evening of Hope Gala, held June 25 at Ridglea Country Club.

The event featured Tony Award-winning Broadway producer Michael Skipper as keynote speaker, along with NBC 5 news anchor Scott Friedman as host. Sandy Lanier, cofounder of AOC’s Sandy Lanier Nutrition Center, was honorary chair, and Michael Cinatl was event chair.

The evening began with a VIP reception, followed by an open reception and a silent auction, then dinner, a live auction and dancing.

AOC Executive Director Allan Gould Jr. said that as the country marks the 30th anniversary of HIV/AIDS, AOC is, after 25 years, celebrating its transition from its initial purpose of providing end-of-life services to those with AIDS to today’s mission of “giving those with HIV/AIDS a promising future, with hope through ongoing scientific advancements.”

“As long as we continue to find individuals who test positive for HIV, we will remain resolute in our mission,” Gould said. “AIDS Outreach Center will grow and transform itself to be at the forefront of testing, outreach, prevention and education to halt the spread of HIV. We will be steadfast in delivering the compassionate care and essential services to those already infected/affected. We are here as long as there is a need!”

AOC is the only 501(c)(3) organization in Fort Worth serving Tarrant County and seven surrounding rural counties, offering prevention, education and outreach programs and comprehensive direct HIV support services to men, women, children, and their families.

AIDS Outreach Center also advocates for a strong and sound HIV public policy.

—  John Wright