The LIAAC Blog

News and thoughts from the Long Island Association for AIDS Care

June 26, 2013
by Liaacinc
Comments Off on June is LGBT Pride Month

June is LGBT Pride Month

by: Dr. Gail Barouh

LGBT History Month originated in the United States and was first celebrated in 1994. It was founded by Missouri high-school history teacher Rodney Wilson. Among early supporters and members of the first coordinating committee were Kevin Jennings of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN); Kevin Boyer of Gerber/Hart Gay and Lesbian Library and Archives in Chicago; Paul Varnell, writer for the Windy City Times; Torey Wilson, Chicago area teacher; Johnda Boyce, women’s studies major at Columbus State University and Jessea Greenman of UC-Berkeley. Many gay and lesbian organizations supported the concept early on. In 1995, the National Education Association indicated support of LGBT History Month as well as other history months by resolution at its General Assembly.

October was chosen by Wilson as the month for the celebration because National Coming Out Day already was established as a widely known event, on October 11, and October commemorated the first March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation by LGBT people in 1979. LGBT History Month is intended to encourage honesty and openness about being LGBT.

While it was first known as Lesbian and Gay History Month, the coordinating committee soon added “bisexual” to the title. It has subsequently become known as LGBT History Month. The event has received criticism from, for example, the Concerned Women for America and others who believe it to be a form of indoctrination.

On June 2, 2000, President Bill Clinton declared June 2000 “Gay & Lesbian Pride Month”. President Barack Obama declared June 2009 Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Pride Month 2009 on June 1, 2009.

Equality Forum, a national and international LGBT civil rights organization with an educational focus, undertook responsibility for LGBT Month in 2006. Each day in October, an Icon is featured with a video, biography, bibliography, downloadable images and other educational resources at

In 2011, Equality Forum introduced an internal search engine for all Icons from inception in 2006 to present. By clicking on “Icon Search” and choosing one of hundreds of categories such as African-American, Athlete, California, Germany, HIV/AIDS, Military, Religion, Transgender, Youth; visitors to the site will be provided with links to all Icons in that category.

In 2012, for the first time, two American school districts celebrated LGBT History Month; the Broward County school district in Florida signed a resolution in September in support of LGBT Americans, and later that year the Los Angeles school district, America’s second-largest, also signed on.

The anniversary is celebrated with parades, events, parties and other happy events.  But in the midst of this celebration, we must keep in mind that it has also been over 30 years since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.  Many great advances have been made against the disease but men who have sex with men (MSM) (which includes men who identify as gay, straight or bisexual) need to continue to be mindful of these sobering facts from the CDC:

  • In 2010, 61% of HIV infections diagnosed among adults and adolescents were attributed to male-to-male sexual contact
  • In 2010, the estimated number of new HIV infections among MSM was 29,800, a significant 12% increase from the 26,700 new infections among MSM in 2008.
  • In 2010, the greatest number of new HIV infections (4,800) among MSM occurred in young black/African American MSM aged 13–24. Young black MSM accounted for 45% of new HIV infections among black MSM and 55% of new HIV infections among young MSM overall.
  • Since the epidemic began, an estimated 302,148 MSM with an AIDS diagnosis have died, including an estimated 5,909 in 2010.

Men who have sex with men of all ages and races have been more severely impacted by HIV/AIDS than any other group in the U.S.  Use of drugs, such as Crystal Meth, Special K, E pills or alcohol has been linked to high risk sexual decisions such as unprotected anal sex (bare backing) with casual and multiple partners.

So go out and have fun, but remember HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases have not gone away and it is just as important as ever to wear a condom and be protected.  Know your HIV status, get tested – it’s FREE.  Call LIAAC at 1-866-236-3448.

May 30, 2013
by Liaacinc
Comments Off on 1969 Stonewall Riots Start of the Gay Rights Movement

1969 Stonewall Riots Start of the Gay Rights Movement

by: Dr. Gail Barouh

Most people point to the Stonewall riots of 1969 as the modern start date for the gay rights movement. Many people in the gay/lesbian community believe that the death of icon Judy Garland the week before the riots at the Stonewall Inn was the breaking point that pushed gays in Greenwich Village to basically say, “We’re tired of being harassed by cops and we’re not going to take it anymore.” However, gay rights gained little momentum in the decade that followed, especially when compared to the strides made by the women’s movement. While there were pockets in America where gay men and women could live openly, such as San Francisco, most gays spent the 1970s in, or at least close to, the closet.

That all began to change in 1980 when gay men were first diagnosed with AIDS. Suddenly their private lives could no longer be kept secret. Their employers, friends, neighbors, and families were told that their son, father, brother, uncle, grandson or friend was ill and would most likely die within nine months. The slogan “AIDS = Death” in many cases was also interpreted as “AIDS = Gay”.

In those dark, early years of the AIDS epidemic, so many people were afraid of contracting the disease that they refused to be near someone with AIDS. Realizing that it had no choice but to take care of its own, the LGBT community was born. Men and women came together as their partners and friends became sick. Prior to this time, gay men and lesbians were not united as a minority group with a single voice on a political or in many instances a social level. AIDS quickly unified them into a solid, core care group. As the epidemic progressed, they became the pioneers and heroes who advocated for their loved ones.

By the mid-1980s, these early AIDS advocates brought about some significant changes. AIDS designated units were started in hospitals across New York State and new not-for-profit AIDS organizations were established that quickly became part of mainstream America’s charities. Mainstream America also learned more about gay life as communities planned funeral services celebrating the lives, hopes and dreams of those who passed from AIDS. Suddenly funeral homes across the country had pictures, music and rituals that forever changed how we bury our loved ones. Out of the AIDS epidemic, spousal rights and domestic partnerships took hold, as same sex couples needed laws to provide for medical and financial benefits for their partners.

As the years progressed, people began to realize that the LGBT community was composed of real people who had the same hopes, dreams, and plans for their futures as everyone else. The walls of fear and stereotypes broke down as more people recognized that LGBT individuals were their neighbors, friends, doctors, civil service workers, mechanics, teachers, and the everyday business people with whom they interacted. More gay characters began to appear on television and in film, and movies like “Philadelphia” or plays like “Rent” and “Angels in America” put a human face, and heart, to AIDS.

History judges a society by how it responds to a crisis. AIDS forced gays and lesbians out of the shadows of our society and into the mainstream of everyday life. It planted the seed that grew into the gradual acceptance of gays by most Americans, followed by an acceptance of the fact all men — and women — are created equal and deserve the same rights, including the right to marry or serve openly in the military.

Whether they were unwitting soldiers in the fight for equal rights or frontline vocal advocates, the hundreds of thousands of gay men who died of AIDS did not die in vain. Their deaths opened the doors to the positive changes being enjoyed by all those who survived. As we celebrate the continuing legal recognition of same-sex marriage, Gay Pride and National HIV Testing day, it is fitting that we remember the sacrifices of those who came before.

April 30, 2013
by Liaacinc
Comments Off on The Black Church and HIV – Sitting on the Sidelines

The Black Church and HIV – Sitting on the Sidelines

by:  Dr. Gail Barouh

For the 31 years that the US has been involved in the AIDS struggle, government has been fully engaged and involved (although slow to come to the table,) the medical community has been fully engaged and involved, social services has been engaged and involved and the church has been sitting on the sidelines or worse, sticking it’s head in the sand. This is not an indictment of the church, but an encouragement. Since HIV health disparities are greatest in the minority communities, it’s time the Black Churches take up this cause as a social injustice, just as they fought against racism in the ‘60’s.

It has been almost a year since the NAACP released ”The Black Church and HIV: The Social Justice Imperative,” a manual that reframes HIV/AIDS as a social justice issue for church leaders. The manual was the organization’s response to the disproportionate impact that HIV/AIDS is having on the Black community and it outlines the role the Black Church can play. It was a call to action for the church to help right the wrongs and social injustice of health disparity in HIV. (

Much of the church’s resistance comes for the fact that you can’t talk about HIV without talking about sex, a topic that church leaders have stayed away from long before the advent of AIDS. But many churches mis-frame this issue since a lot of people think it’s about “sin,” but it seems to be more about welcoming everyone in the church. The handbook can help pastors, ministers and congregations though the issues that they may find difficult.

Many LI Black Churches have answered the call, holding health fairs, calling on local community health organizations like LIAAC to do testing, outreach and counseling. Many have reached out to their congregations, being open and accepting in the hopes that they can overcome these obstacles and disparities that threaten their communities, but many more still have not responded. If you are a pastor, minister or priest, I encourage you to click on the link and download the manual. If you are a congregant of one of these churches, encourage your leaders to open their hearts and minds. LIAAC is here to be the community based health organization that the NAACP encourages black church leaders to reach out to. For more information call our hotline at 1-877-865-4222.

April 11, 2013
by Liaacinc
Comments Off on National Minority Health Month- Health Disparity and Discrimination Still Persists.

National Minority Health Month- Health Disparity and Discrimination Still Persists.

By Dr. Gail Barouh

April is National Minority Health Month. You would think that with the Supreme Court considering the possible overturn of affirmative action, minorities would not need their own health month. But despite what is going on in the Supreme Court, discrimination against minorities still exists, and statistics bare it out. Discrimination can be easily inferred by poverty rates, income levels, education, unemployment rates, incarceration rates and health status. Although the average age of the data is about 5 years old, this blog does an excellent job of summarizing all of these statistics, showing that discrimination is alive and well. If health status is one of the gauges to be used in determining discrimination, consider that between 1999–2000 and 2009–2010, the percentage of adults aged 45–64 with two or more chronic conditions increased 20% for non-Hispanic black, 35% for non-Hispanic white, and 31% for Hispanic adults. Whites account for two and a half times less than blacks. The statistics for Black African Americans and HIV are equally as grim. Blacks accounted for an estimated 44% of all new HIV infections among adults and adolescents (aged 13 years or older,) in 2010, despite representing only 12% to14% of the US population. So these people experience dual discrimination as minorities and people with HIV.  Yes, although we are over 30 years into the HIV epidemic, discrimination against people living with HIV still persists. At the core of this discrimination is ignorance, misinformation and prejudice which remains a justification for exclusion from both private and public sector employment opportunities, basic health care needs, isolation, segregation and humiliation. The American Civil Liberties Union continues to document and fight against this discrimination. Just recently a Kansas bill was proposed repealing the state’s 1988 ban on quarantining individuals with HIV and AIDS, harkening back to the earliest, darkest days of the AIDS epidemic.

In support of Minority Health month and to fight against HIV/AIDS discrimination, LIAAC provides education outreach and HIV testing in an effort to end the ignorance and misinformation. We are having an on-site Health Fair Wednesday, April 24, 2013 from 3pm-7pm where there will be education, reentry assistance, case management, rapid STI, HIV and HCV testing, community resources and nutrition information. For more information on our Health Fair and our other education and testing events go to our Facebook page at: or call 1-877-865-4222.


March 6, 2013
by Liaacinc
Comments Off on Day Recognizes Special Risks HIV/AIDS Poses for Women and Girls

Day Recognizes Special Risks HIV/AIDS Poses for Women and Girls

By Dr. Gail Barouh

March 10 is National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.  This day was created to recognize the special risks HIV/AIDS pose for women and girls and to raise awareness of how the disease impacts them. Women of all ages can get HIV/AIDS, and they account for approximately 24 percent of all HIV diagnoses. Today, women represent a larger share of new HIV infections than they did earlier in the epidemic, with nearly 280,000 women living with HIV/AIDS in the United States. Women of color are particularly affected, as they accounted for two-thirds (64%) of new AIDS diagnoses among women in 2010. (www.womens

As grim as those statistics may sound, there are things you can do to stay healthy.

Use a condom.
Using a latex condom every time you have oral, anal, or vaginal sex reduces your risk of HIV. Other forms of birth control don’t protect you from getting HIV. Male and female condoms are the only effective form of birth control that also helps reduce the risk of transmission for HIV and most other STDs. A recent CDC report  shows Chlamydia rates in women have doubled in the last decade, even though condoms can reduce the risk of getting or giving chlamydia. If you do have sex, use a latex condom every time. Don’t have sex when you are taking drugs or drinking alcohol because being high or intoxicated can make you more likely to make unsafe sexual decisions.

If you take drugs intravenously, don’t share needles, syringes and related works or anything else that might bring you into contact with someone else’s blood or bodily fluids.

Being sexually active with only one person who has agreed to be sexually active only with you is one of the best ways to protect yourself from HIV. Your chances of getting HIV will also be lower if both of you have recently tested negative for HIV.

Also, talk to your partner about sex and HIV. Learn as much as you can about their past behavior (sex and drug use) and consider the risks to your health before you have sex. If you think you may have been exposed to another STD such as gonorrhea, syphilis, or chlamydia, get tested. Being infected with other STDs makes you two to five times more likely to get HIV as a person who doesn’t have any STDs. So get tested (and treated, if necessary) for STDs. LIAAC provides free HIV and STD testing. To find out where you can get tested, check out the events section of our Facebook page, or call our hotline at 1-877-865-4222.

February 21, 2013
by Liaacinc
Comments Off on Storm Doesn’t Dampen Fun at Chef’s Secrets 8

Storm Doesn’t Dampen Fun at Chef’s Secrets 8

Despite the fact that Superstorm Sandy forced us to change the date, “foodies” and wine aficionados from all over Long Island were not deterred. Chef’s Secrets 8 went on without a hitch at the de Seversky Mansion in Old Westbury on January 27, 2013 where guests experienced the tastes of a lifetime. Everyone who attended enjoyed a feast of the most superb food, desserts, pastries and wine. More excitement rounded out the evening with raffles and silent auctions which gave guests the opportunity to try their luck and win top quality prizes while in turn giving back to their community.

The Hempstead Select Choral, under the direction of Ms. Rachel A. Blackburn, sang throughout the evening. They have received national recognition and have performed at Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall and Lincoln Center and have won international competitions.  Their ethereal music echoed through the halls of the mansion, delighting guests.

A VIP Cocktail Party for the event sponsors started at 5pm. This years honorees were Mr. Humberto Cruz, Director of the AIDS Institute and Robert P. McBride, Vice President at Park Strategies.

Fifteen specially-selected Master Chefs from Long Island donated their time and talent by graciously preparing and serving their mouth-watering signature dishes and desserts to over 250 guests in attendance. Reputable wine, liquor, brewery and coffee vendors provided tastings of their products which added a celebratory flair to the event. Local and nationwide companies made in-kind product/service donations that were used to create silent auction and Chinese auction baskets.

Our emcee for the evening was the charismatic Stone Grissom, anchorman for News 12 Long Island. Mr. Grissom engaged our audience throughout the event and during the live auction he was joined by Robert P. McBride, who auctioned off a day of fishing on his 52’ yacht and the lively Chef Robert Ehrlich, offering the winner his culinary services.

To see pictures, go to our gallery on the Chef’s Secrets website at, or visit our Facebook page at .

Held annually, Chef’s Secrets is produced by the Long Island Network of Community Services, Inc. (LINCS) to benefit the Long Island Association for AIDS Care, Inc. (LIAAC) and BiasHELP, Inc. Chef’s Secrets 8 raised over $150,000 to help support programs and much needed services to individuals and families living on Long Island who are affected by HIV/ AIDS and other infectious diseases, bias related crimes, poverty and hunger. This event would not be possible without the support and participation of the Chefs, Vendors, Sponsors, Donors, Guests, Volunteers and Staff. Please visit our website to view more pictures from this event and make sure to save the date for Chef’s Secrets 9 on Sunday, November 3, 2013.

LINCS, LIAAC and BiasHELP would like to personally thank the following supporters for making this event such a huge success.


Stone Grissom, News 12 Long Island


Mr. Humberto Cruz, Director of the AIDS Institute and Robert P. McBride, Vice President at Park Strategies


Jordon & Leslie Mayer, Chembio Diagnostic Systems, Inc., Walgreens Pharmacies, Bethpage Federal Credit Union, Long Island Banana Corporation, OraSure Technologies, Stagg, Terenzi, Confusione & Wabnik Attorneys at Law, On Target Impressions, My Benefit Advisor, Clean All Maintenance Co., Conover Consulting, B&C Office Furniture, McGladrey Consulting Services, Dahna Bender, Veolia Transportation, Flushing Bank, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage.


Mario Pecoraro (Arlotta Food Studio) Christina Costanzo (The Melting Pot), Anthony Castelli (La Parma II), de Seversky Culinary Team, Leisa Dent (LL Dent), Robert Ehrlich and George Schneider (Star Career Academy), Renzo Pedrazzi (La Marmite), Rosario Naimo (Bella Dolce), Christopher Taylor (Chris and Tell Cakes), Julio Velasquez (Sage Bistro), Jarid Futerman (Corinne’s Concepts in Catering LTD), Roberto Portillo (Apertif Bistro), Kayisha Thompson (Pink Princess Pastry, LLC), Mona Sokhi (Cakes by Mona).


Boening Bros, Inc, Bridge Brand Sales, Brooklyn Brewery, Coffee Distributing Corp., Fedway Imports Co., Inc., Ice Sculpture Pro, National Refrescos, Redemption Rye & Bourbon, Riverboat Rye and Orange V.

A special thanks to all businesses that generously donated goods and services to help make Chef’s Secrets 8 a huge success. Full list at


February 12, 2013
by Liaacinc
Comments Off on National Condom Awareness Day Helps Re-focus Spotlight on Safer Sex

National Condom Awareness Day Helps Re-focus Spotlight on Safer Sex

By Dr. Gail Barouh

Among recent advances in HIV treatment, one of the most noteworthy has been the reduction of transmission risk in patients receiving successful anti-retroviral treatments. Unfortunately, many media outlets have misinterpreted this and insinuated in their reports that condom use can now be made obsolete.

However, it is important to note that HAART (Highly Active Anti-retroviral Therapy) medications are expensive and not available to everyone. In addition, desired effects are heavily reliant on medication adherence which can prove to be a barrier for some. Not to mention, this doesn’t even cover those that are unaware of their HIV status.  Clearly, the risk is still great and condom use is as relevant as ever. Condom use protects not only against HIV/AIDS, but other sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) and unwanted pregnancy. When used correctly and consistently, condoms are highly effective in preventing transmission of bodily fluids.

If you are sexually active, latex condoms provide the best protection. Polyurethane or polyisoprene condoms may also be used and are good options for people with latex allergies. Natural membrane (such as lambskin) condoms are porous, meaning that fluids can seep through them, and therefore do not offer the same level of protection against HIV and other STIs.

Male latex condoms, placed over the penis, offer greater protection from HIV than female condoms. However, using a female condom is better than not using any form of protection at all. Condoms should be used consistently—EVERY time you have sex. Be sure not to tear the condom when opening the wrapper. Open the wrapper carefully with your hands—never use your teeth. Always use a NEW condom with every act of vaginal, anal, or oral sex.

Getting your partner to accept condom use is not always easy and LIAAC offers a program called Video Opportunities for Innovative Condom Education and Safe Sex, or VOICES (VOCES en Español.) It is a 45-minute, video-based HIV/STD prevention intervention designed to promote condom use and strengthen condom negotiation skills. As with many of our other education programs, LIAAC distributes condoms and information on how best to use them. The objectives of VOICES/VOCES are to increase participants’ motivation and intentions to use condoms consistently, improve participants’ negotiation skills regarding condom use and safer sex practices with partners, increase participants’ knowledge about STI/HIV transmission, and improve clients’ assessment of their risk for HIV and STIs and how they can ultimately reduce that risk.

LIAAC also spreads the word about safer sex practices through our social media venues, on our Facebook page, through Pinterest postings and tweets on Twitter. Using humor and pictures of cats to get people’s attention, we promote the safer sex message in our public service memes called “Condom Cats.” It’s more likely that a safer sex message attached to a cute picture with a funny joke or clever saying will be passed around on social media sites increasing the odds that it will be seen by more people.

So join us in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Treat every day like it’s Condom Awareness Day and spread the word about safer sex practices. For more information visit our website, or call LIAAC at 1-877-865-4222.

February 1, 2013
by Liaacinc
Comments Off on LIAAC Fighting Stigma and Marginalization on Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

LIAAC Fighting Stigma and Marginalization on Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

By Dr. Gail Barouh

Black HIV/AIDS awareness day is a national HIV education, testing, leadership and treatment community mobilization initiative that targets Black communities. But it’s also an opportunity to talk about fighting marginalization and stigma. In our society you can be marginalized because you are black, you can be marginalized because you are a woman, you can be marginalized because you are part of the LGBT community and you can be marginalized because of the stigma of AIDS. Dealing with any one of these can be difficult. Now imagine dealing with more than one of them. If we truly desire to create an AIDS-free generation, it is essential that the unique needs of all people who struggle with marginalization be addressed to reduce new HIV infections and improve access to life-saving care.

The good news is that a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that the number of new HIV infections among black women has dropped for the first time.

While there was a 21 percent decrease in the number of black women contracting the disease between 2008 and 2010, black women account for two-thirds of new infections in American women. HIV is still a serious issue, with an estimated 47,500 new infections in the United States in 2010.

Among all gay and bisexual men, blacks/African Americans bear the greatest disproportionate burden of HIV. From 2006 to 2009, HIV infections among young black /African American gay and bisexual men increased 48%. 

The CDC is using a new approach to lowering the number of new HIV infections and, hopefully, achieving an HIV-free generation. The five areas of the new approach are: Supporting prevention programs, tracking the epidemic, supporting HIV prevention, raising awareness, and supporting structural interventions.

Despite ongoing marginalization, people can show tremendous resiliency and courage in advocating for their own rights. They aren’t complaining about what’s not happening in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Instead, they’re developing better ways to bring us closer to the day when HIV is no more.

This is how we will truly end AIDS — one person at a time, one community at a time, always with a collective goal in sight. When we support organizations that fight stigma and marginalization, and when we address the holistic needs of those who are marginalized, we tear down the barriers to education, social capital, and high-quality, comprehensive medical treatment and care.

At LIAAC we are working to fight these barriers through project REACH where we offer risk reduction education and assessment, as well as referrals to primary health care treatment and community based services, not only in HIV, but Hepatitis C and other sexually transmitted diseases as well. In order to reach the black community on this national health day, we are ramping up our outreach efforts and have schedule many testing events for the week. For more information, call our hotline at 1-877-865-4222, or to find out where we will be offering testing, visit the events section of our Facebook page at


January 11, 2013
by Liaacinc
Comments Off on Rescheduled Chef’s Secrets coming soon!

Rescheduled Chef’s Secrets coming soon!

An interior shot of the beautiful de Seversky mansion in Old Westbury, where the Chef’s Secrets event will be held.

By Dr. Gail Barouh

The fact that we had to change the date of our 8th annual Chef’s Secrets to January 27, 2013 because of the effects of Hurricane Sandy has not put a damper on the excitement and anticipation of the upcoming event.  In just a few weeks, we will be at the beautiful de Seversky Center in Old Westbury, celebrating with food and wine. The event is produced by the Long Island Network of Community Services, Inc. (LINCS) to benefit the Long Island Association for AIDS Care, Inc. (LIAAC), and BiasHELP, Inc.

This year we will be honoring Robert P. McBride, Senior Vice President Business Development, Park Strategies, LLC and Humberto Cruz, Director, New York State Department of Health AIDS Institute. Some of our Chef’s are; Anthony Castelli from LaParma II, Christina Costanzo from the Melting Pot, Robert Ehrlich and George Schneider from Star Career Academy, Mario Pecoraro from Arlotta Food Studio, Christopher Taylor from Chris and tell Cakes, Julio Velasquez from Sage Bistro and Renzo Pedrazzi from La Marmite.

Once again, Stone Grissom from News 12 will be our Master or Ceremonies. Chef Robert Ehrlich will be auctioning off his services at the event to some lucky bidder!  Our Live Auction will also give you the opportunity to bid on a trip, attend a special event, win luxury items, all for a reasonable starting bid. Generous gift baskets will be offered at our Chinese Auction, and you’ll get the opportunity to find out what’s in our thrilling and fun “Mystery Boxes.” And of course there’s our 50/50 Raffle for a chance splitting a maximized pot of $25,000!

With over 350 attendees, last year’s event raised over $150,000 to help support LIAAC and BiasHELP. With top quality Chef’s from great LI restaurants, exciting gift baskets and incredible live auction offerings, we hope to raise even more this year.

For more information, please go to or go to to follow them on Facebook.

December 21, 2012
by Liaacinc
Comments Off on Voucher Program Designed to Stop Spread of HIV

Voucher Program Designed to Stop Spread of HIV

The voucher program helps ensure that dirty needles will not be reused, but also that the needles will be dispose of properly once used.

By Gail Barouh

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, well over a quarter of a million injection drug users have actual AIDS diagnoses, many more are undiagnosed or HIV positive.
It is estimated that 9% of new HIV infections are among intravenous drug users. In addition, HIV has disproportionately impacted minorities and women directly or indirectly due to injection drug use. The cost in health care, lost productivity, accidents and crime is estimated at billions of dollars a year.

To help stop the spread of HIV in the Intravenous Drug Use (IDU) community, LIAAC is participating in a needle voucher program. The program is funded through the “Communities of Color” grant and is instituted through our “Project REACH.” The IDU community can be a difficult one to pin down and just finding clients to give vouchers to can be daunting. People are usually not willing to talk to strangers about their illegal drug use habits. Our professional outreach staff track down clients and give them vouchers that can be redeemed for new needles at participating local Walgreen Pharmacies. Outreach staff educate clients on the dangers of sharing needles, which is how HIV is spread. The vouchers give clients the opportunity to get new, clean needles, preventing transmission of HIV and other infectious diseases. The pharmacies have cross-referenced information to ensure the vouchers are being used, and being used by the clients who are supposed to be using them. Client identification is issued to present to pharmacists and law enforcement agents. This identification helps explain to law enforcement agents why clients may be in possession of a clean unused syringe and acts as a distribution double-checking mechanism between the agency and pharmacists. The voucher program helps ensure that dirty needles will not be reused, but also that the needles will be dispose of properly once used.
A voucher programs like this one can be controversial and there are certainly legitimate arguments against them. Many in the community are concerned that it may create the appearance of encouraging drug abuse. However, at LIAAC we approach this problem with two clear and common goals: reduce injection drug use and reduce the spread of HIV. Outreach staff that distribute vouchers are risk reduction professionals who provide referrals to drug treatment, medical care and other resources, and can offer a degree of counseling on site. Evidence from 20 years of research shows that programs similar to ours prevent, control and ultimately reduce prevalence of HIV and other blood-borne infections among injecting drug users. They have proven to be an effective part of a comprehensive strategy to reduce the incidence of HIV transmission
Without a doubt, reducing the spread of HIV is a national priority and LIAAC is an active partner in this mission. If you, or someone you know is interested in this program call our hotline at 1-877-865-4222.
Although this video is not for our specific program, it does a good job of giving you an idea of how our program works.