Community Call

ONAP opens the lines for community input on HIV/AIDS

Following its initial round of 14 community meetings — including one in D.C. Sept. 21 — across the continental U.S., as well as in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and online input, the White House Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) is presenting a follow-up meeting in the District on Friday, May 14.

An ONAP release announcing the meeting describes the Friday event as one where ONAP “will provide a brief overview of key priorities and identify issues where additional feedback would be helpful.” ONAP is looking particularly at three areas: the involvement of “non-traditional stakeholders” in fighting HIV/AIDS, expanding the involvement of those already engaged, and ensuring successful implementation of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS).

David Phillips, a local activist who recently marked “10,000 days with HIV,” was at that Sept. 21 meeting, and had planned to attend May 14 — before ONAP announced it had reached capacity.

“Of course, one can still criticize from outside the walls,” he noted, via e-mail. Among Phillips primary concerns is the language used in reaching out to communities.

“Stop talking about ‘MSM’ (men who have sex with men),” he says. “That’s a CDC term to make invisible gay and bisexual men. How can we affect any part of the health bureaucracy if they cannot provide honest and affirming health information?”

Phillips also says he’d like to see more gay men who are not infected with HIV at such community meetings.

And while the meeting has reached capacity, Cornelius Baker, another longtime HIV activist in D.C., former head of the Whitman-Walker Clinic, and a recent appointee on the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, invites community members to join the post-meeting conference call. In Atlanta on HIV-prevention work, that’s how he’ll be participating.

“If they have an interest, they should join the conference call,” he says. “Go to the website and make comments. We really look at this as an opportunity for our country to move together.”

To participate in the ONAP community conference call, Friday, May 14, 1 to 2 p.m., call 800-288-8961. To leave comments online or to learn more about ONAP, visit whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/onap.

Follow Will O'Bryan on Twitter @wobryan.

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