Score One for PWAs

Posted by , September 22, 2009 at 9:28pm

Score One for PWAs

Rivera, GMHC client and member of its board of directors

What do Project Runway host Tim Gunn and Gay Men’s Health Crisis client Manuel Rivera have in common? As of this week, they are both members of the GMHC board of directors.

Rivera is the first HIV-positive client to sit on GMHC’s board. His new position comes on the heels of a New York City Ryan White Planning Council resolution mandating that some AIDS Service Organizations that receive Ryan White funding include HIV-positive clients on their boards of directors.

The resolution passed 20-2 in June. GMHC is the first organization to voluntarily follow the planning council’s new regulation, although some AIDS service organizations already have consumers on their boards of directors.

“It shows strength in GMHC that they’re embracing all parts of the GMHC community,” Rivera said. “Hopefully GMHC’s action will be an example to other organizations. “I think this shows that people with HIV can affect change and are not the victims people sometimes think we are.”

Rivera was elected by his peers on the client community advisory board to represent all GMHC clients on the board of directors. He received a letter Tuesday from board chair Matthew Moore welcoming him to the board. Members of the GMHC consumer advisory committee have been pushing for a seat on the board of directors for two years.

GMHC won’t comment until their board of directors meeting tomorrow.

Joseph Sellman, another HIV-positive GMHC client, was thrilled by the decision. “I’m elated,” he said. “This is in line with the Denver Principles.” The Denver Principles, written by people with AIDS in 1983, is a manifesto calling on people with HIV/AIDS to be involved with every level of decision-making related to their health and to “be involved at every level of decision-making and specifically serve on the boards of directors of provider organizations.”

PWA Pow-wow

Most New York City organizations receiving Ryan White funding still don’t have consumers on their board of directors. And according to Oliver Martin, who is organizing the NYC Consumer Caucus Gathering on October 3, which is only open to PWAs, many organizations don’t have HIV-positive staff. “I found from doing this exercise that a few of the advocacy groups didn’t have a PWA that they could send,” Martin said.

The Gathering will address consumer representation on organizations’ board of directors and staffs but will also be broader-based. Topics will include health care, housing and reaching out to home-bound PWAs.

For more information, check out this flyer or contact Oliver Martin at

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