Safety Shortfall

Mayor creates new HIV/AIDS entity, while groups struggle to secure condoms

Mayor Vince Gray (D) will be appointing 27 people from the medical, faith and business communities in D.C., to serve on a newly developed Commission on HIV/AIDS.

According to a Feb. 25 press release from the mayor’s office, ”The Commission will focus on treatment, the needs of people living with HIV/AIDS and the prevention to stop new infections.” Gray will serve as chair of the commission.

Gray also announced that that the D.C. Department of Health will be launching new initiatives to improve its services for D.C. residents living with HIV/AIDS.

The promise in improving the department’s services is good news for The Center, the area’s LGBT community center. The Center’s HIV Working Group has – three times in the past year – experienced a shortage of condoms used in assembling safer-sex kits. Those condoms come from the city via the Department of Health.

According to Dan O’Neill, a member of the HIV Working Group and its former chair, a recent shortage prompted his group to organize a discussion with other organizations affected by the shortage.

O’Neill says that when his group invited members of Health Department to attend that meeting, 10,000 condoms were abruptly made available, with 4,000 going to his HIV Working Group.

”A lot of suggestions that I’ve made when we’ve come to this crossroads multiple times in the past don’t seem to have been implemented, in particular having tracking numbers for all people who on a long-term basis are receiving large quantities [of condoms] from the Department of Health,” says O’Neill.

”We just want to have an open dialogue,” he adds. ”This isn’t about pointing fingers at the Department of Health. At the end of the day, these organizations don’t have condoms – and suddenly they found 10,000. … We wanted to let other people know that they have 6,000 more to help people bridge the gap in the interim.”

The Health Department was unable to respond to a request for comment by Metro Weekly deadline.

For more on The Center’s HIV Working Group, visit thedccenter.org/programs_fighthivindc.html.