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ACTIVISTS HIT NYC HEALTH DEPARTMENT MEETING: “WHERE’S THE PREVENTION PLAN?”

Posted by Tim Murphy , October 16, 2013

ACTIVISTS HIT NYC HEALTH DEPARTMENT MEETING: “WHERE’S THE PREVENTION PLAN?”

ACT UPer Jim Eigo: “Two months later, we’ve heard from nothing from DOH.”

We’ve been keeping you posted that HIV prevention activists, powered by a seemingly rejuvenated ACT UP NY, have been pressuring the NYC health department (DOH) to work with the LGBT and HIV/AIDS communities in NYC to release a comprehensive, fully-funded plan—one that would include full access to, and public info about, PEP and PrEP—to dramatically lower HIV infections in NYC. This pressure began in July, when the DOH said in vague terms that it would be releasing some kind of program in the near future.

Three months later, DOH has not released anything. Yesterday, activists went to the open comments session of the DOH’s HIV Prevention Planning Group (HPG), a board of community members that advise DOH, to make their case again and ask DOH what was taking so long. It’s hard to tell how much power the HPG actually has to influence DOH, but activists hope the message gets back to them. ACT UP’s Reed Vreeland wrote us up this report:

“On October 15, more than a dozen AIDS activists attended the quarterly HIV Prevention Planning Group (HPG) meeting to demand more transparency and community involvement in the group and a more aggressive citywide HIV prevention strategy from the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH).

Activists used the phrase “HIV prevention emergency” to described the steep rise in new HIV infections among young gay and bisexual men and transgender women. “The present incarnation of the HIV Prevention Planning Group seems inadequate—so long as we remain in a prevention crisis, community experts must be convened often and play a substantial role in new initiatives and public health campaigns proposed by the Department,” said Jeremiah Johnson, HIV Prevention Research and Policy Coordinator for the Treatment Action Group (TAG).

Johnson said that the “empowerment of community experts should not be viewed as antagonistic,” and that “much of the success we have seen [decreasing new HIV infections] in Massachusetts, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. has come from a combination of political will, community ownership, and public health and provider alignment.”

Said ACT UP member Jim Eigo: “The current ‘Jurisdictional HIV Prevention Plan’ from the NYC Department of Health is inadequate to the epidemic of HIV infection in New York City neighborhoods. The Plan needs to be retooled for the realities of 2013 and beyond. In August the Department promised ACT UP that it would initiate information campaigns on the HIV prevention treatments PEP & PrEP. ACT UP welcomed the news, but asked for specific details about the scope of these campaigns—which media, for example. And we wanted a timeline, a budget and the name of a contact person for each. Two months later, we’ve heard nothing further. We have told the Department that these campaigns will only be effective if community members help shape them.”

The HPG is a group of about 30 government and community experts selected by the NYC DOHMH to give recommendations on how to implement its Jurisdictional HIV Prevention Plan. Presentations at the October 15 meeting discussed “Social Determinants of Health,” and Prevention for High Risk negatives work group. The next meeting of the HPG will be convened in December.

ACT UP activists are looking to join forces with other HIV groups to put combined pressure on the DOHMH, if the health department continues to be unresponsive to community demands.

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