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AIDS Action Asks Mass. Public Health Council to Forge a State AIDS Plan to Help Stop HIV/AIDS Here
Date:2/13/2008

Commissioner Auerbach offered future, fuller discussion to pursue; request was part of report to the Council about new survey findings from AIDS service clients

BOSTON, Feb. 13 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- AIDS Action Committee's Executive Director Rebecca Haag today asked the Massachusetts Public Health Council, the body that sets policy for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, to create a state AIDS plan, noting that 900 new infections annually in Massachusetts after more than 25 years of AIDS is unacceptable when we know how to prevent new infections. Haag presented to the Council findings from a new survey of people living with HIV/AIDS who seek services.

"You were appointed by a Governor who said, 'Together we can.' But together, we're not," said Haag. "The state plan, like the National AIDS Strategy many of us are requesting of the next President, should include measurable outcomes, have a timeline, engage the business community, government and non-profits, assign accountability and include adequate funding." Calling out disparities for marginalized communities and the struggle for comprehensive sex education, Haag also said the plan must be culturally competent to re-engage the broad public. "HIV/AIDS should not be passed to the next generation to solve; we must use our leadership to end HIV/AIDS now," Haag said.

The findings of the survey, preceded by 10 focus groups in six cities, showed that people living with HIV/AIDS experience a unique cornucopia of health concerns, unmet complex service needs and economic insecurity at earlier ages than people who are not living with HIV/AIDS, partially because medications extend lives while people's immune systems must continue to fight HIV infection.

"We're asking the Public Health Council to join us because the same programs, services and messages are insufficient to stop the spread of this infectious disease and to address the increasingly more complex needs of those living with HIV/AIDS," Haag said. "We need a renewed energy and a commitment to new approaches and solutions if we hope to improve health outcomes and reduce new infections."

Survey respondents from participating collaborators, including AIDS Action, drove the key findings. People living with HIV/AIDS seeking services:

-- Experience significant economic insecurity and identify housing as the most pressing need, with other leading barriers such as access to adequate nutrition, prior incarceration and mental health and substance abuse needs.

-- Have complex needs that require integrated as well as disease-specific services.

-- Experience significant housing insecurity and need prompt access to affordable housing. Housing IS healthcare.

-- Have significant levels of prior and recent incarceration that indicate the need for multi-level supports.

-- Have significant mental health and substance use needs that both drive their need for services and may be a reflection of their path to infection.

-- Are aging. The implications for the over-burdened elder care system in light of the burgeoning number of residents becoming elders is significant, especially given the acute and multi-level of services that HIV+ elders may need.

"Those people living with HIV/AIDS who are seeking care have complex health needs and a high incidence of hospitalizations," Haag said. "Our experience and the survey's results both show that in order to ensure adherence to difficult treatment regimes, people need stable housing, nutritional support, transportation and mental health services."

"The care system must be more integrated and easily accessible to those we serve," said Haag. "It must also be culturally competent and responsive to the needs of a diverse population." Sixty percent of AIDS Action's clients are people of color, as are 60 percent of the statewide survey's respondents.

"Health care disparities are no more apparent than in HIV/AIDS," she said. "Our ability to address disparities in HIV/AIDS will help lead the way in treating other diseases and meeting health care needs."

AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts, Inc., (AAC), New England's first and largest AIDS organization, is dedicated to stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS by preventing new infections and optimizing the health of those already infected. AAC provides free confidential services to men and women already living with HIV/AIDS, as well as conducts extensive educational and prevention outreach to those at risk of infection. AAC runs the only statewide AIDS Hotline (1.800.235.2331), Hepatitis Hotline (1.888.443.4372) and Pharmacy Access Hotline (1.800.988.5209). All Hotlines offer support in Spanish and in English. Free and confidential rapid HIV testing and counseling is available at AAC's downtown Boston location and at its MALE Center in Boston's South End neighborhood. AAC also advocates for effective science-based prevention programs. More information is available at http://www.aac.org and at AAC's blog at blog.aac.org.

Contact: Diego Sanchez, dsanchez@aac.org

617-450-1524, 617-835-1455 or

Paul Twitchell, 617-450-1215

ptwitchell@aac.org


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SOURCE AIDS Action Committee
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