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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Monday, August 20, 2001

Island Voices
Redirect resources to fight AIDS here

By Andrew J. Tabar

I take exception to the contention that the state has been aggressive in providing services and reaching out to those in Hawai'i who are living with HIV and AIDS.

Although it may save money, the state practice of subcontracting to private-service providers does not allow for reform nor does it facilitate new providers in deficient service areas.

An example: Persons living with HIV/AIDS who are minimally insured or who lack insurance have not received state-licensed mental health counseling choices for more than eight years.

The Waikiki Health Center is implementing a program that could help. Generally, applicants are denied mental-health services if those at risk have not successfully undergone substance abuse treatment. In fact, subcontractors for all HIV service programs are negotiated with the DOH. In the largest private AIDS service agency, case managers do not have active updated service plans for clients, there are no in-house substance abuse specialists and not all clients receive knowledgeable benefits counseling.

The Life Foundation has contracted HIV/AIDS case management with the state for many years. When attempts were made to ascertain accountability, activists were told by state officials the contracts are "unenforceable." The high turnover of Life Foundation client service directors indicates inconsistent and uneven delivery of services over the years.

Within the past year, the Centers for Disease Control announced its ambitious goal to reduce the rate of HIV infection in the U.S. by 50 percent in the next five years. Where are local specific detailed plans and actions for this kind of reduction to occur in Hawai'i? When local O'ahu residents were startled to learn this year's AIDS WALK in Honolulu was cancelled, where was our branch leadership?

The schools can teach and guide our young people and targeted at-risk populations on personal health and safety issues as part of their overall community responsibilities to educating our residents.

I urge members of the state Legislature and the governor to redirect the Department of Health to step aside and support the Department of Education to implement effective STD/AIDS education and HIV prevention programs.

Andrew J.Tabar is president of PWAC Hawai'i, an independent advocacy group since 1989 working on behalf of persons living with HIV and AIDS.