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Pressing the Mississippi DOH

Pressing the Mississippi DOH

DOH oversight final straw for Mississippi AIDS advocates

With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention visiting Jackson, Mississippi this week, AIDS advocates took the opportunity to slam the Mississippi Department of Health (DOH) for inadequately addressing the AIDS epidemic in Mississippi. Most recently, the DOH, led by AIDS Director Craig Thompson, failed to apply for essential CDC prevention funding for men who have sex with men.

AIDS Action in Mississippi (AAIM), the Mississippi ACLU, My Brother’s Keeper and concerned people with HIV/AIDS held a press conference yesterday to decry the actions of the Mississippi Department of Health, and will hold a demonstration today, marching from My Brother’s Keeper’s headquarters to the Health Department offices.

As the Update reported, State AIDS Director Craig Thompson failed to apply for a grant for HIV prevention for MSM, despite the fact that according to the CDC’s 2007 report, 29 percent of new infections in Mississippi are among MSM. This number is just an estimate because Mississippi doesn’t specifically track infections among MSM. Thompson didn’t even inform the Prevention Planning Group about this grant because, he said, the grant, “wasn’t applicable to us.” Hear Thompson’s entire explanation to the PPG. The $4 million grant, Funding Opportunities Announcement number (FOA) 04012, could have given Mississippi $80,000 in much-needed prevention dollars.

“While this action is outrageous, it unfortunately wasn’t surprising,” AAIM Field Organizer Valencia Robinson told the Update. “This represents a pattern of neglect by Craig Thompson and the Health Department not best addressing the epidemic.” Robinson called on the Health Department to directly address the needs of MSMs in Mississippi including identifying providers that can provide appropriate services, applying for funding to provide these services, and open community meetings that allow for maximum community input.

“The decision to ignore an opportunity to apply for funds specifically earmarked for an admittedly at-risk community due to fear or public disapproval is intolerable,” said Nsombi Lambright, executive director of the ACLU of Mississippi. The press conference was covered in The Clarion-Ledger, and all Jackson radio stations.

After finding out that the DOH didn’t apply for critical funding, My Brother’s Keeper President and CEO Mark Colomb sent a Freedom of Information Act request for the CDC’s HIV/AIDS investigation in Mississippi in the Spring 2008. The DOH responded that the CDC requested that it not release it until it is published later this year.

The Mississippi Health Department did not reply the Update‘s request for comment.

Posted on November 7, 2008 at 12:21 am