February 25, 2013:
SASI (Southern HIV/AIDS Strategy Initiative) was well-represented at AIDS Watch 2013! We had delegates from all of the Deep South states except Mississippi. Our advocacy is important in light of the fact that the South has 46% of new HIV diagnosis while representing only 37% of the US population. We held a SASI meeting to talk about how the AIDS Watch policy agenda affects our regions—the refusal of some Southern states to expand Medicaid, the continuing need for Ryan White funding and for all the funding streams identified by AIDS United. And we added to our legislative agenda the need to change the HOPWA funding formula so that cumulative AIDS cases are no longer in the mix.
SASI representatives also met with Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the White House Office of National HIV/AIDS Policy and with Dr. Ron Valdiserri, Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy, to first thank them for the new CDC CAPUS grants focused on the South and to urge the creation of a convening to bring together federal, state, local and community experts to discuss interventions for the HIV crisis in the South.
AIDS Watch is always a powerful experience for me. Watching the energy that builds as we get our training, meet with our state colleagues to formulate our visit strategy, and then actually making the visits is impressive. I also love watching first time attendees realize the advocacy power they can have by just telling their stories. Thanks to TAEP and AIDS United for a well-run AIDS Watch and for bringing us together once again to hold our elected representatives accountable!