Lobby Day

By Cassandra Bent

Crowded with over 300 people, Project ABLE’s annual Lobby Day was held January 28, 2010 at the State House on the Grand Staircase. 

Project ABLE stands for Aids Budget Legislative Effort. Project ABLE, “protects the availability of services” for those living with HIV/AIDS, increases their network of allies to advocate for the needs of their community, and “secures and improves the community-based service network caring for 15,000 people living with HIV in Massachusetts for over 15 years.”

 The annual Lobby Day is a chance for those living with HIV/AIDS and the people who provide services to “advocate for state funding to sustain HIV/AIDS treatment and social services.” The event was described as, “The best Lobby Day EVER,” in an article on Project ABLE’s website.

Along with about 50 BLC members, The Boston Living Center’s Development Coordinator, Julia Renalds, attended this event.

With tours, State House employees, and other visitors walking past, “You really felt that you had an impact,” said Julia.

This years lobby day was BLC member Kevin’s first time and he said it was a good experience and that he plans to attend again next year. “It’s important that we need more funding,” said Kevin.

His favorite portion of Lobby Day was when Representative Gloria Fox gave her speech. She encouraged people to talk to their legislators and make their opinions heard. Kevin described her as “very enthusiastic.” Rep. Fox’s speech was also one of Julia’s favorite parts of the day. She said Representative Fox’s voice was “booming” and that the speech was very “powerful.”

Another notable speech was the one given by Senate President Therese Murray, because it is not often that the Senate President speaks at Lobby Day.  

As the number of people with HIV/AIDS is increasing, the funding is steadily declining, and Lobby Day addressed the budget issue for HIV/AIDS services in Massachusetts.

Between 1999 and 2008 the number of people living with HIV/AIDS increased by 42%, according to the Massachusetts government website. However, there was 2.1 million dollars in lost funding over the Fiscal Year 09-10, according to State Representative Carl Sciortino’s website.  Sciortino was also a speaker at Lobby Day.

More prevention education and outreach programs are in danger of being cut, according to a Boston Globe article

According to this article, Project ABLE is urging the state to provide more funding for multiple reasons. One reason is that Project ABLE is looking to make sure that all county houses of correction “have the full array of HIV/AIDS services.”

Also, more funding is needed for programs that help those living with HIV/AIDS to disclose this information to their partners, and get referrals for testing.

Another one of the many reasons Project ABLE is seeking more funding is “for state-supported services, from meals to transportation.”

And it is not just those living with HIV/AIDS that want the budget to be increased. For example, a BLC marathon member attended Lobby Day and wanted to speak with her legislator afterward about increasing funding for HIV/AIDS services in Massachusetts.

Project ABLE will be testifying at a public hearing on March 5th in front of The House and Senate Ways and Means Committee. Before this occurs, there are ways you can help.

Contact your state representative and ask to “support maintenance of the HIV/AIDS funding at 35.4 million.”  For more information visit the Project ABLE website.

Housing Hope

By Ariel Jastromb

At the BLC 40% of our members are homeless or precariously housed. It is crucial then to connect BLC members with housing resources. The BLC will help members apply for specialized HIV public housing. We will also work with a member to maintain housing, with rental start-up, accessing furniture, utility assistance and homeless prevention support. These services are integral to the BLC’s holistic approach to helping members live healthier lives.

Home is where the health is for homeless people living with HIV/AIDS. HIV in the United States is increasingly becoming a disease of the poor, especially in urban communities where homelessness is more present. Individuals from all socioeconomic backgrounds are being faced with homelessness—especially in a dwindling economy.

“Homeless” does not only describe those living on the street. While street people are indeed homeless, there are plenty of full-time workers and seemingly “together” people that have no place to call their own. For someone living with HIV/AIDS, being homeless can complicate managing medications, nutrition and mental health.

People who are homeless are less likely to have information about HIV and how to prevent and treat the disease. This stems from several factors, including poor and infrequent medical care and prejudiced healthcare providers. Many  people who suffer from homelessness do not often learn of their HIV status until the disease is extremely advanced, if at all. When the status is revealed, it can be difficult to pursue a course of effective treatment without a permanent address.

Medication affordability and adherence is an issue that all HIV/AIDS patients face. However, for the homeless individual, a glass of water or a meal with which to take certain medications cannot always be guaranteed. HIV medications come with many side effects that can be made somewhat easier by incorporating dietary changes or having access to cool towels to relieve a headache, saltines to relieve nausea, or restrooms in the case of medication-related diarrhea. Without regular access to these resources, adherence to a medication regimen is less likely to happen. A healthcare provider could suggest different medications for the person if, say, three meals a day could not be had but the lack of healthcare affords the homeless none of the information and constant monitoring that any HIV/AIDS patient needs.

Another factor that complicates the treatment of HIV/AIDS in the homeless individual is the lack of attention paid to why the individual is homeless. Treatment issues like substance abuse, domestic violence and shelter conditions keep people on the street and out of the “know.”

Acquisition of proper housing is perhaps the most crucial step when it comes to those living with HIV/AIDS. Treating the disease requires much effort and commitment from the individual. Without a place to store, track and take pills, or to administer the self-care involved, along with finding a healthcare provider and dealing with the issues encountered by the homeless, living with HIV/AIDS becomes increasingly difficult. For a long and healthy life it is important to secure housing for all people living with HIV/AIDS—a life can depend on it.

2010 National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

2010 National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day: February 7th – Get Tested, Get Treated, Get Educated, Get Involved

By: Ariel Jastromb, BLC Volunteer

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is a national HIV testing and treatment initiative aimed at black individuals and communities in the United States. Founded in 1999 by five national organizations, it is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On February 7th of every year, National HIV/AIDS Awareness Day strives to arm members of the black community with education about, testing for and the treatment of HIV/AIDS, as well as to engage the black community to get involved. National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day also hopes to serve as an annual or bi-annual reminder to get tested, because, as the old adage says, “knowledge is power.”

More than any other racial/ethnic group in the United States, blacks account for more HIV infections, AIDS cases, people estimated to be living with HIV and HIV-related deaths. Blacks comprise 13% of the US population and account for 49% of all cases and for 51% of all new infections. That is why it is so important to reach out into black communities across the nation to discuss issues that they face. Poverty, lack of housing, lack of awareness of HIV/AIDS status and the stigma of carrying the disease has kept many people of color from fighting back against the disease, which leads to more HIV/AIDS infections and fatalities.

Here are some scary facts:  the HIV/AIDS diagnosis in black men are 10 times higher than in white men and the infection rate for females is 22 times greater than it is for white women Also, the number one cause of all new infections is heterosexual sex, not just male-to-male sex anymore.

In Massachusetts alone, while only 6% of the population is black, they represent 28% of all cases. Black youth under age 25 account for 8% of the youth population. Of the entire youth population, 44% of newly infected individuals were black.

Because of this extreme health crisis in populations of color, specifically in the black population, the CDC has renewed or doubled its efforts in order to reach those of color with a focus on testing and involving the black community in awareness efforts. Support yours, your community’s and your country’s health by supporting National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. The more we know, the faster we can treat the disease.

Across the country there will be events happening in conjunction with National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Learn more about events in your area and more about the issues by visiting http://www.blackaidsday.org/inside_index.html