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AIDS: AIDS Foundation of Chicago, looking at 2012 and beyond
by Joe Franco
2012-02-29

This article shared 3286 times since Wed Feb 29, 2012
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David Munar took over as president and CEO of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago ( AFC ) in early 2011. While the overall mission of AFC has changed little since the organization's inception, the implementation of that mission is modern, fresh and ready for the new age of AIDS and HIV.

According to Munar, AFC aims to "improve the lives of those living with HIV and AIDS through the promotion of public advocacy, the promotion of fundraising efforts like Team to End AIDS and Dance for Life, the coordination of all stakeholders in the general welfare of those living with HIV/AIDS, to provide housing to prevent HIV and reduce the public's risk and to increase the visibility of those living with AIDS and increase the visibility of those fighting against HIV and AIDS."

This year and the next two years promise to be the most challenging for AFC since the organization's founding.

"The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ( PPACA ) goes into full effect in 2014. AFC is strategizing as we speak to determine what this new law will bring to the table for those living with HIV and AIDS. Currently, more than half of those with HIV and AIDS have no access to quality healthcare," said Munar.

"I should distinguish PPACA from the Ryan White Care Act," he said. "The Ryan White Act provided over $2 billion in national funding last year to AIDS-related agencies. But the future of that continuing funding is in doubt."

With the current climate in Congress, it is very possible that the Ryan White Care Act could be completely phased out, its budget slashed sharply or even kept at current funding levels. But with PPACA, many more individuals who would not normally qualify for benefits under Medicare and Medicaid would, according to the Act's mandates, qualify for care. As Munar put it, "It's a landscape of change. Our duty at AFC is to rethink how to improve our position in light of that landscape."

Munar foresees a closer partnership with community centers to better understand the changing needs of those with HIV and AIDS as well as those with an increased risk of exposure.

"PPACA will actually strengthen the focus on community health centers," he said. "Good clinical care and treatment can dramatically improve the health of those with AIDS and HIV. The community health centers are a key way that we can curb infections."

Munar pointed to AFC's new program with partners including the stateDepartment of Human Services and Gilead Sciences, Inc. in the creation of The Bridge Project. Additionally, three South Side nonprofits are contracted for the project: M.A.D.E., Beyond Care, Inc., and Brothers Health Collective. Now in its eleventh month of operation, the bridge project focuses on men of color from the South Side who have already been diagnosed or who are at extreme risk for infection of HIV and AIDS. "This is a great example of AFC working with a community-based organization for testing and prevention as well as care. We would love to see the project expand. It's making a definitive impact," said Munar.

Currently Munar and the AFC are working to finalize the organization's three-year strategic plan.

"We've spent the past year gathering data, hosting focus groups and speaking with those populations who are disproportionately affected by HIV and AIDS. We've also spoken to the 'stakeholders.' That's not only those living with HIV but lawmakers as well who have a stake in the state of public health," said Munar.

The AFC has already made huge gains politically lobbying for efforts to get HIV and AIDS care recognized. "The AFC lobbied for three years to get a National AIDS Plan and in 2010, we got just that. The State of Illinois also has adopted a statewide plan and Chicago, as part of its 'Healthy Chicago' initiative also has a plan in place for HIV and AIDS prevention, education and care. It is AFC's collective efforts that keep the public focused on results," said Munar.

The upcoming year will also keep AFC busy investigating and working more closely with "those populations disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS." AFC plans to concentrate its resources where new HIV infection is most pronounced.

Munar's own questions regarding these populations are, "Are we reaching those affected effectively?" and "How can we better target those populations who are affected by HIV/AIDS?"

Munar admitted that these populations represented a noticeable shift in the direction of the thought process of AFC as a whole.

AFC also has numerous visibility and fundraising efforts planned for 2012.

"On March 27, Pulitzer Prize-winner Tony Kushner will be on hand to celebrate the opening of Angels in America at the Court Theatre in Hyde Park. AFC is the beneficiary for tickets sold on April 14. We have, as always, the Team 2 Ends AIDS and their various events throughout the year. Dance for Life will be returning to another sensational year at the Auditorium Theatre. This year we're also very excited about the AIDS Run and Walk on Sept. 29, which begins in Soldier Field. Toward the end the year we plan on commemorating World AIDS Day on Nov. 29 with a chocolatier exhibition for charity."

Munar certainly has a full plate of work ahead of him. Still, he remains focused on the mission of AFC—to improve the lives of those living with HIV/AIDS. "That is what we are constantly working towards," he said.

See aidschicago.org .

This story is part of the Local Reporting Initiative, supported in part by The Chicago Community Trust.


This article shared 3286 times since Wed Feb 29, 2012
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