Sunday, September 25, 2011

International AIDS funding vs. Domestic Funding; POTUS and Congress must act NOW!

When the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, was enacted in 2003 under President George W. Bush, there was an international AIDS crisis facing the world. However, people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs) in the United States were not immune from it because they were facing potential funding cuts to HIV/AIDS programs, as well as growing waiting lists under the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP).

Today the story is unchanged; in fact, the AIDS crisis in America hasn’t been as dire since the epidemic began 30 years ago. How is it that America can spend BILLIONS in U.S. taxpayer dollars on overseas initiatives under PEPFAR, but cannot find approximately $100 million to alleviate the current ADAP crisis in the United States? Have American PLWHAs have fallen by the wayside under the Obama Administration’s handling of our domestic AIDS crisis, most notably with ADAP waiting lists reaching record high levels?

The outcries from numerous organizations, PLWHAs, their friends, family and loved ones have grown into one movement...with one goal. Their purpose is to bring awareness to the AIDS crisis in America with the achievable goal of ENDING the ADAP crisis now! When will POTUS and other leaders in Washington recognize the problem and finally ACT on it in a substantial and meaningful way?!? The crisis is not going away, and neither are HIV/AIDS advocates!

So, what is PEPFAR?

Launched in 2003 by President George W. Bush with strong bipartisan support, PEPFAR is America’s commitment to fighting the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. Through shared responsibility and smart investments, PEPFAR is saving lives, building more secure families and helping to stabilize fragile nations.

No one is questioning the need for PEPFAR!

How is PEPFAR funded?

With the generous support of the American people (through taxpayer dollars), the U.S. Government has committed nearly $46 billion to bilateral HIV/AIDS programs, the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and bilateral TB programs through fiscal year (FY) 2012.

PEPFAR’s success is measured in lives improved and saved.

➢ In fiscal year 2010, PEPFAR directly supported life-saving antiretroviral treatment for more than 3.2 million men, women and children worldwide, up from less than 2.5 million in 2009.
➢ PEPFAR directly supported antiretroviral prophylaxis to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission for more than 600,000 HIV-positive pregnant women in fiscal year 2010, allowing more than 114,000 infants to be born HIV-free.
➢ Through its partnerships with more than 30 countries, PEPFAR directly supported 11 million people with care and support, including nearly 3.8 million orphans and vulnerable children, in fiscal year 2010 alone.

PEPFAR is making smart investments to improve lives, build more secure families and help stabilize fragile nations. With continued support from the U.S. Congress, PEPFAR will be able continuing working towards the goals of treating more than 4 million people, preventing more than 12 million new HIV infections, and caring for more than 12 million people, including 5 million orphans and vulnerable children.

➢ For FY 2011, President Obama has requested nearly $7.0 billion, including nearly $5.74 billion for bilateral HIV/AIDS programs, $1 billion for the Global Fund, and $251 million for bilateral TB programs.
➢ For FY 2012, the President is requesting nearly $7.2 billion, including nearly $5.6 billion for bilateral HIV/AIDS programs, $1.3 billion for the Global Fund, and $254 million for bilateral TB programs.

While international efforts are laudable, and the ROI is huge, domestic funding for HIV/AIDS services and supports are severely underfunded. If POTUS does not act, then many PLWHAs fear a flashback to the 80’s...people dying. This time not because there are no medicines to treat the disease, but because we have insufficient funding to put these medicines in the hands of the people who need them. This is unconscionable, and begs the this American?

And no one is questioning the need for America to fund PEPFAR!

CLICK HERE to read "THE INTERNATIONAL vs. NATIONAL DEBATE: Is the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) international commitment to combating HIV/AIDS succeeding at the expense of those people living with the disease in the United States?"

Is PEPFAR is an unfit parent who feeds her neighbors as her own family goes hungry?

Through FY2012 under PEPFAR, U.S. taxpayers will have spent 46 billion to support this initiative. Is it wrong to think that the U.S. could have funneled some of that money over the past 9 years into domestic HIV/AIDS initiatives, such as treatment, prevention, research, and other services for PLWHA under the Ryan White Program? Increasingly, many PLWHAs are asking this very question!

Federal appropriations for the Ryan White Program FY2012 equate to $1.3 billion, and AIDS advocates are asking for an increase of $106 million just to maintain ADAP; though this would not be enough to end the ADAP wait-lists. An increase of $360 million is needed to maintain ADAP programs and fill the structural deficits that have built up over the last several years. Is 7.2 billion in taxpayer money appropriated under PEPFAR and $1.3 billion under the Ryan White program fair? Why would U.S. taxpayers, and especially American PLWHA not be outraged?

Further egregious, last week in an effort led by New York's junior Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, 18 U.S. Senators sought to immunize the Global AIDS funding from cuts threatened by the impending showdown over the national budget and deficit committee. The letter is signed by Kirsten Gillibrand, Richard Durbin (D-NY), Barbara Milkulski (D-MD), Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Ron Wyden D-OR), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tom Udall (D-NM), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Christopher Coons (D-DE).

Do they know that this is the 30th year of the AIDS epidemic in America? Are they aware of the domestic AIDS crisis? Are they aware that the impending funding cuts could put the lives of PLWHAs in America at risk? Are they aware of the rich history of AIDS in America and the advocates who marched...who protested...who fought for future generations; all the while watching dozens upon dozens of friends die, and they themselves on the brink of death?  So again, is it wrong for Americans living with HIV/AIDS to look in their own ‘backyards’ before looking overseas?

Inaction and silence WILL = death of countless PLWHA in America. Mr. President, 1.2 million Americans living with HIV/AIDS, their friends, family, and countless advocates; with one resounding voice they ask you to intervene in this crisis, the time to ACT is NOW!

Please sign the petition on requesting that the POTUS and Congress work together to divert 15-20 percent of PEPFAR funds to domestic HIV/AIDS programs:


Sunday, September 18, 2011

A teacher reflects on his HIV positive status

by: Michael Sebastian

I write this piece knowing that I am joined by many colleagues who are currently teaching around the US, and the world, as an HIV poz individual each with their own story and perspective as to how this disease has changed them personally and professionally. My story is not out of the ordinary or extraordinary but I wanted to share some of my experiences with a wider audience.

My story is that of a 55 year old middle school teacher with over 30 years experience teaching and working with children at the middle and high school level in the inner city. It was difficult to balance teaching full-time while trying to come to terms with seroconverting close to 8 years ago; my teaching suffered, as I had become depressed and unable to focus. Definitely the students I taught during the first two years of becoming poz did not receive the quality of teaching that I was capable of and they deserved. As the years progressed my outlook on my health and life changed, moving in a more positive, optimistic way. I took the attitude that I would use the time that I had good health to experiment more with my teaching style. Becoming open to try more new ideas for class instruction, differentiation anybody and the energy level in my classes upped a notch to borrow a phrase from Emeril.

As my attitude shifted and my classes became more focused, effective and fun there was a noticeable change in student response to my lessons and to me as their teacher. The kids would tell me classes were more meaningful, relevant and enjoyable. 8th grade English can be rather dry depending on the topic and grammar can be the silent class killer. I found myself, and still do, surfing for new ways to interest students into my lessons through video clips, music, and relevant texts for their age and situation. I had, and have, upped ‘my game’ as a teacher. I meet each day with a high-energy level and I do my best to teach each day as if my time in the classroom was winding down and I am heading to retirement. To me, some humor woven into class along a solid lesson that keeps the students engaged and challenged works for me. I give my students the best I can; they get all of me for that day, week and year. I teach like my hair is on fire. It is a philosophy that keeps me going; keeps me moving and drives me.

Of course, there is the down-side to the virus when there are days  physically I am fatigued or have an issue that can pull me down; don’t get me wrong, it is not easy as a poz facing and teaching the children everyday. As the years have progressed with the virus I have encountered some physical issues that have altered the way that I teach. First, over the past two years I have developed uncontrollable muscle ticks in my upper right arm to the point that it was noticeable to the students. An avid chalkboard and whiteboard guy that enjoyed writing and modeling on the both boards I took the avenue of switching to technology and preparing PowerPoint presentations. In taking this avenue I am able to move the presentation along through remote control while circulating the classroom. I have taken to placing my right hand in my pocket to contain the muscular tics when they occur during class time; my attempt to minimize a visual distracter and avoid having the students inquire.

Furthermore, I have introduced a comfortable secretarial chair that will allow me to move around the room easier working and checking on students as my feet of recent have become sensitive to my constant standing and moving around all day. Last, I do experience more ‘senior moments’ than I did in the earlier years of being poz; is it age? HIV? Stress? Whichever one or combination thereof I have had to become better organized and write down personal notes of things-to-do and reminders for myself. It is a tad annoying to me as I am aware that occasionally I will forget a task or meeting or be redundant in a question with a student or colleague (an entirely separate topic-homophobia within the teaching ranks). In the grander scheme of things these small challenges are just another obstacle to overcome.

After a very long career of teaching young people the joy of literature and writing I have made the personal decision to retire within the next two years. In speaking with a friend of mine I shared that I intend to make this next two years as dynamic, meaningful and enjoyable for both the kids and I; this is my choice, to leave the profession giving everything I got and leaving with the self-satisfaction of a job well done. Finally taking the time to explore and enjoy my life.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I was a footnote in 9/11 history

Like you, I will never forget where I was on 9/11.  I was a flight attendant, and was in the air when the first tower was struck. I had recently gone through an extensive 6 week training program in Pittsburg at US Airways training center.  I woke up on that fateful morning at 3:30am for a 5:45am departure from Boston’s Logan Airport.  I was living in a hotel on Winthrop beach, across from the airport. 
When you first begin flying you’re placed on reserve, and could be called at any time. I was called at 9p the day before this trip. I hadn’t worked in 2 weeks and had spent every day on the rocky beach in Winthrop watching the planes fly out of the airport.
While on the plane that morning the dawn of day was breaking. The sun was filtering through the cabin, and I knew it was going to be a beautiful day.  The passengers were cozied in on the 3 hours flight, most were sleeping.  The snack service went smoothly, with no turbulence.  We were well into the flight when the captain rang the cabin.  The news he would deliver would send a chill down my spine, and still does to this day.  “There has been a terror attack on the WTC using a plane, look out for suspicious people on the flight, and report back to me”  
Who were I and the flight crew to look for?  What did suspicious look like? I remember me and two other Flight attendants walking up and down the aisle numerous times, just looking at people, mainly down at their feet.  We had only 63 passengers on board. A majority of the passengers were woman; I was most concerned about the men on board. Though, no one stuck out as suspicious. Then the three bells sounded, signifying we were landing at our destination, Orlando.
I remember sitting in my jump seat upon decent into Orlando, and how terrified I was inside about the possibility that someone might sabotage the plane, all the while remaining calm, so as not to frighten the passengers.  When the wheels touched the tarmac a sense of relief swept over me, we made it!  I made the arrival announcement.  It was 73 degrees and 9:10am.  
I remember hurrying the passengers off the flight that day. When they were all off, we were told by the captain that both towers had been hit, and that the country was under attack. When all passengers had deplaned I and another flight attendant walked down the jet way stairs following ground crew into one of their break rooms.  This was definitely against the rules, but I needed to see what was going on.
On the TV in the break room they kept replaying the images of the two planes hitting the towers.  I remember seeing the people jumping from the windows. We were all letting out gasps and saying “OMG, OMG, OMG”.
 Just as it was in New York City in Orlando it too was that 9/11 blue sky we’d all come to remember.  After about 10 minutes I was summoned back to the plane.  We were to begin boarding passengers for or next leg up to Philadelphia.  What?! Really?!? I couldn’t believe that we were boarding passengers and that we were set for an on-time departure. 
By the time we had boarded all the passengers the pilot came on to say that we were under a national emergency and that every airport in the country was shut down.  As passengers were deplaning they were feeling the gamut of emotions; from a crying woman, who was flying to Philadelphia for her Dad’s funeral, to a man who couldn’t stop cussing; most were just so distraught and besides themselves; confused with the look of fear and dismay on their face.  Everyone was trying to call their loved ones but with spotty cell coverage it was hard to reach people.
I could only imagine what my whole family was going through.  Original reports talked of a US Airways plane that was involved.  I tried calling my parents in Upstate, NY, but for an hour received the message “all circuits are busy”.   After the passengers deplaned the flight crew and I quickly made our way to ground transportation, and the captain was miraculously able to secure rooms for the entire flight crew.
We made our way to the hotel right next to Disney World, the name of the hotel escapes my mind.  I was finally able to reach my family to tell them I was safe.  The next day was my 23rd birthday,  it was not worth celebrating, but the captain and crew insisted, and took me out to the restaurant across the street and treated me to a nice meal a couple cocktails.
Three days later when the airspace opened I worked my last flight from Orlando to Philadelphia and dead-headed from PHL to BOS.  That would be my last flight on the clock for US Airways.  A week later the crippling financial effects of 9/11 were rippling throughout the entire airline industry, and I was laid off.  I was the last training class to graduate from US Airways flight attendant training program, and the first to be let go. 
I was devastated to say the least.  I was beginning what I thought could be a great career.  I stayed on in Boston, and was luckily able to find a job working for STA travel in Harvard Square.  I wound up moving to Central Square in Cambridge and walked to work every day.
For 6 months after the layoff I had unlimited free flight benefits.  At the time those benefits were running out a new CEO took over US Airways, and extended flight benefits for all laid off workers for 5 years.  Five years happened to be the amount of time I was on the furlough list, meaning I could be called back when they started re-hiring. Nearing the end of the 5 years I was in-fact recalled, but by this time I had moved to Fort Lauderdale where I took a higher paying job with American Express working in corporate travel and thus began my career with American Express.
As I take this day to write into history what has been in my mind for 10 years I keep in mind the 25 flight attendants who lost their lives on this day and the nearly 3,000 individuals who perished in the attacks on the WTC Towers, at the Pentagon, and in the field of Shanksville, PA.  Further I remember our brave men and woman in uniform who have been fighting in two wars for 10 years.  I reflect on the 4,477 Americans who lost their life in Iraq, and the 1,762 who have died in Afghanistan.  
As I drift back to that 9/11 blue sky I wonder how different America and I would be today had those terrorists not succeeded in their mission.  Where were you when the World stopped spinning on that September day?  
Proud to be an American living with HIV!
Kevin Maloney

Friday, September 9, 2011

Action Alert: AIDS Drugs Assistance Program Tweet Up on Sept 15th, 2011

For Immediate Release

The ADAP Advocacy Association (aaa+) is taking a page out of the playbook from the "Arab Spring" protesters in order to launch its "ADAP Fall" social media campaign starting with a “Obama-ADAP Twitter Day.” The purpose of the campaign is to raise awareness about the growing ADAP waiting lists by leveraging one of the leading social media outlets. Twitter users are asked to direct their hashtag #ObamaADAP Tweets at President Obama using handle @whitehouse

Twitter users are asked to do the following on Thursday, September 15th starting anytime after 7:00am:
  • Send Tweets hourly;
  •  Use Twitter hashtag #ObamaADAP in the same Tweet
  • Direct Tweets at President Obama with handle @whitehouse; and Encourage friends and colleagues to Tweet, too!
 To view the aaa+ profile on Twitter, go to
On this the 30th year of the AIDS epidemic our country is at a perlious time in the fight against HIV/AIDS. ADAP and other HIV/AIDS programs across the country are being reduced, threatened to be eliminated, and states and US territories are looking at changing elegibility to qualify for these programs.

PLWHA (people living with HIV/AIDS) are being put on wait-lists to receive life saving medications, and others have been cut off from their medications. We are facing the largest public health crisis since the epidemic began 30 years ago.

9.298 is the latest count of people waiting to receive life saving HIV/AIDS medications. Though, as elgibility criteria changes in states, people are cut off waiting lists, disenrolled and forgotton by states.  
ADAPs with Waiting Lists
(9,298 individuals in 11 states*, as of September 1, 2011)
Alabama: 211 people
Florida: 4,022 people
Georgia: 1,715 people
Idaho: 31 people
Louisana: 1,056 people**
Montana: 28 people
North Carolina: 340 people
Ohio: 59 people
South Carolina: 836 people
Utah: 50 people***
Virginia: 950 people

RiseUpToHIV Daily News Digest