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HIV and AIDS Commission Holds Productive First Meeting

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Mayor Vincent C. Gray swore in members of the Mayor’s Commission on HIV/AIDS and convened their first meeting March 8, hearing reports on the high HIV infection rates in parts of the District and discussing how to address the Commission’s goal of improving the city’s response to the disease.

Mayor Gray created the Commission to help end the HIV epidemic in the District of Columbia. The panel will focus on treatment, the needs of people living with HIV/AIDS, and preventing new infections.

“I created this Commission to ensure that the District of Columbia government addresses HIV/AIDS in an informed, strategic, comprehensive manner and addresses the needs of all District residents living with HIV/AIDS,” Mayor Gray said.

The Commission’s first 21 members were sworn in at the meeting. The commission’s next meeting is scheduled for April 12–one of at least four other meetings the panel will hold this year.

In addition, subcommittees will meet to work on several Commission initiatives in between meetings of the full panel.

The Mayor charged the Commission with three core responsibilities, aimed at providing the D.C. Department of Health’s HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD and TB Administration (HAHSTA) with guidance towards the development of a strategic plan:

  1. Develop evidence-based HIV/AIDS policy recommendations to help reduce HIV infection rates; increase HIV testing utilization; improve access to quality medical, substance abuse, mental health treatment, and housing for all persons with HIV/AIDS; and to determine the best way to achieve “treatment on demand” in the District.
  2.  In concert with the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, develop recommendations regarding coordination of the District's HIV/AIDS Strategy which will include: a) providing recommendations for public-private partnerships to address the continuum and capacity of health care delivery, programs, and related services; and b) providing recommendations regarding coordination and collaboration across jurisdictional and international boundaries
  3. Develop recommendations to control the epidemic, while simultaneously creating training and employment opportunities within the District.

“In order for us to improve on the progress already made in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and really make a difference by decreasing the rate of new infections and improving the care for our residents living with HIV/AIDS, we must engage the entire community,” said Dr. Mohammad Akhter, Director of the Department of Health. “This Commission brings together our established partners with new organizations to increase the scope, influence, and impact of our work, so that we can increase our success in this critical area.”

DC Appleseed Sixth Report Card on HIV/AIDS

At the meeting, Mayor Gray invited DC Appleseed to present its latest report card on the District’s response to the HIV/AIDS crisis. The city got improved marks in some areas and was downgraded in others.

One of the biggest problems the report found was transmission of the virus through intravenous drug use. Mayor Gray called on the Commission to urge Congress not to prevent the District from spending its own money on needle-exchange programs, which have been proven to reduce the rate of HIV/AIDS infection across the country.

Mayor Gray’s administration has, in its first two months, already overseen implementation of two of the DC Appleseed report’s recommendations. The recommendation to make HIV/AIDS a top administration priority was addressed in the Mayor’s inaugural speech, while the recommendation to engage the entire city in the fight against HIV/AIDS was addressed when the formation of the Commission was announced in February. Mayor Gray believes that successful strategies, initiatives, and programs are based on sound data and research, and DC Appleseed's report will be one tool used to help guide the work of the Commission.

Mayor’s Commission on HIV/AIDS Members:

Vincent C. Gray, Mayor, Chair
Allen Lew, City Administrator
Beatriz “BB” Otero, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services
Dr. Mohammad Akhter, Director, DOH, Co-Chair
Councilmember David Catania, At-Large
Councilmember Jim Graham, Ward 1
Dr. Gregory Pappas, Senior Deputy Director for HAHSTA, Secretariat
Steve Baron, Director, Department of Mental Health (DMH)
Deborah Carroll, Interim Director, Department of Human Services (DHS)
Kaya Henderson, Interim Chancellor, DC Public Schools (DCPS)
Thomas Hoey, Interim Director, Department of Corrections (DOC)
Marco Aguilar, Vice President and Chief of Staff, DC Chamber of Commerce
Jeffrey Akman, Interim Vice Provost for Health Affairs, George Washington University
Cornelius Baker, National Black Gay Men’s Advocacy Coalition
Sharon Baskerville, DC Primary Care Association
Don Blanchon, CEO, Whitman Walker
Dr. Frederick Finelli, President, Medical Society of the District of Columbia
Isaac Fulwood, Chairman, US Parole Commission
Dr. Lisa Fitzpatrick, Associate Professor of Medicine, Howard University
Janelle Goetcheus, UNITY Healthcare
Dr. Bruce Rashbaum, Private Practice, Internal Medicine

Additional members will be named to the Commission at a future date once the appointment process is completed.