David Munar, president and CEO of Howard Brown Health Center, was one of the featured speakers at Test Positive Aware Network ( TPAN ) and Positively Aware's day-long summit for long-term survivors of HIV/AIDS, "The Reunion Project: Chicago," June 19 at the Center on Halsted.
Munar spoke to the approximately 100 people in attendance about public policy issues as they relate to long term survivors of HIV. He noted that long term survivors of HIV have a sense of perseverance not only physically but also emotionally and socially.
"In Chicago, right now we're facing an outbreak of meningitis and today the health department just announced a seventh case when just three weeks ago there were three cases of meningitis," said Munar. "We're expecting that we'll need about seven or eight thousand individuals to be vaccinated against the bacterial infection to stop this outbreak. The original recommendation was that gay and bisexual men who are engaged in anonymous sex, use hook-up sites like Grindr or are HIV-positive should be receiving the vaccine and, today, the health department is broadening the call to all gay and bisexual men to be vaccinated to put a stop to this epidemic."
Munar called on all the gay and bisexual men in the room to get vaccinated and noted that Meningitis is a deadly bacterial infection. He explained that of the seven that were infected one has already died and a number of the others are still in the hospital. Munar said that those with HIV are more susceptible to the infection than others due to their compromised immune systems. He noted that Howard Brown is offering the meningitis vaccination for free.
As far as funding for social services, Munar spoke about how the state budget issues could potentially impact that funding. He noted that the state legislature hasn't been able to balance the budget.
"We are between three and six billion dollars short and the Governor has called for across the board funding cuts for everything including destabilizing cuts to the AIDS Drug Assistance Program ( ADAP ) as well as all other health and social services including mental and public health services," said Munar. "The General Assembly has thankfully rejected those cuts, particularly the Democrats so there is an impasse between the Democrats in the General Assembly and the governor. What that means is if they don't come up with something in the next few days we could face a government shutdown and that might be necessary in order to bring the parties together to negotiate."
Munar encouraged everyone to contact their state representative and state senator so they know that these services are necessary for people's survival. He spoke about policy issues that are emerging including PreP and greater access to medical care. As far as long-term survivor issues, Munar asked what is being done to address the issues that come up for people including post traumatic stress disorder or the effects of trauma associated with being HIV-positive including counseling, support groups and other avenues to address those needs. He also talked about health issues surrounding long term HIV survivors including inflammation and the importance that research plays regarding these health issues. Munar noted the power that comes from speaking out about ones HIV-positive status especially to those who can make a difference in the lives of everyone living with HIV.
Dr. Rick Loftus ( associate program director of the internal medicine residency program at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, California, and an adjunct clinical assistant professor of medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California ); Dr. Frank Palella ( professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and attending physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital specializing in infectious diseases and internal medicine ); and Gregg Cassin ( HIV health counselor for The Shanti L.I.F.E. program ) were also featured speakers during the summit.
Lotus' remarks focused on "HIV & Aging" while Palella gave an update on the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study. Among other things, facilitated a community discussion about "The Power of Community."
Q&A sessions followed each speaker's remarks.
TPAN will be hosting another meeting to discuss these issues Friday, June 26, 2-4 p.m., at the TPAN offices 5050 N. Broadway, Suite 300. To RSVP, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 773-989-9400 and ask for Jeff Berry.
See www.tpan.com for more information.