Monday, October 1, 2012

Proven Champions & Emerging Leaders Fight to Protect ADAPs and End Waiting Lists

With the start of the U.S. Conference on AIDS (USCA) many activists, advocates, leaders and stakeholders will be ascending on Las Vegas, Nevada to map out strategies to combat HIV/AIDS in the United States.  Some of the people attending, or organizations being represented, are recipients of the ADAP Advocacy Association’s Annual ADAP Leadership Awards.  Their presence in Las Vegas will ensure that the AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs) remain a central tenant of increasing and improving access to care for people living with HIV/AIDS.

The ADAP Advocacy Association held its 2nd Annual ADAP Leadership Awards dinner was held in Washington, D.C. in late August, which coincided with the organization’s 5th Annual Conference. Robert Suttle, Assistant Director of the SERO Project delivered an emotional keynote, calling attention to the need to reverse course on the expansion of HIV criminalization laws.  Suttle found out he had HIV-infection when he was trying to enlist in the Air Force.  When a contentious relationship ended, his former partner filed charges and he served six months in a Louisiana prison as part of a plea agreement.  Robert proclaimed in his rousing speech that he is NOT a criminal and he is NOT a sex offender.  To hear more about his story, click here.

The night featured compelling stories about the 2011-2012 awardees.  The acceptance speeches stirred a gamut of emotion from the audience, ranging from laughter to tears.  The evening shaped up to be a huge success because each speech invigorated the crowd.

Group photo of HIV-positive advocates after the dinner.
This year’s awardees were as follow:

ADAP Champion of the Year: Eddie Hamilton
Eddie Hamilton has been...and continues to be...a champion in the battle to preserve robust ADAP funding.  Most recently, Hamilton is at the forefront fighting the Ohio Department of Health’s (DOH) attempts to implement medical eligibility criteria in order to qualify for care and treatment under Ohio’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program.  Eddie Hamilton has 15 years’ experience working as an AIDS advocate in various regions of the country.  Now living in Columbus, Ohio, as of 2005, he is working with HIV-positive individuals at the grassroots level with the ADAP Educational Initiative to strengthen their advocacy voice, and effectiveness educating policy-makers about sound HIV/AIDS policy.  The legal victories against the Ohio DOH have served as a model for the rest of the country, and Hamilton's leadership during the struggle earned him the ADAP Champion of the Year award.  He challenges and encourages them that “complacency is no longer an option.”  In Hamilton’s speech, he spoke of a dear friend living in Georgia who did not have access to medication, and thus lost his battle against the disease.  Hamilton stated that his death is what continues to drive his advocacy efforts today.    If you live in Ohio and would like to get more involved in advocacy efforts in the Buckeye State, please email Eddie Hamilton at

ADAP Champion Eddie Hamilton
ADAP Emerging Leader of the Year: Kevin Maloney
When Kevin Maloney took the stage to accept his award as ADAP Emerging Leader, it was his first public speech as an HIV/AIDS advocate in front of a live audience.  During his heart-felt, passionate speech he talked about his struggles, reflected on his past, and on the history of AIDS epidemic.  In a memorable line, he addressed the audience saying, “...many of you in this room tonight have lost thousands of friends, I offer you my condolences; and if I can offer you any solace, you played a part in saving my life and hundreds of thousands of others.”  Maloney's father was in attendance; he shared his personal experience about when he told his father that he had contracted HIV-infection and his father thought he was going to die.  He applauded his father for how far he had come in his understanding of HIV/AIDS, and he paid tribute to him (which his father received a standing ovation).  When Maloney's father arrived home he wrote him a letter, which has since been published online at  Maloney used every opportunity during his remarks to remind the audience, and others, that “we need more resources.”  Maloney has served as the Deputy Director at the Community Access National Network (CANN) since February 2012.

ADAP Emerging Leader Kevin Maloney (center), seen with Florida advocate
Mario Perri and ADAP Advocacy Association CEO Brandon M. Macsata
ADAP Corporate Partner of the Year: Walgreens Co.
As part of the company’s commitment to serving people living with HIV/AIDS, Walgreens launched its HIV Centers for Excellence (COE).  By November 2011, Walgreens had certified more than 500 of its pharmacies as HIV COE in communities highly impacted by HIV/AIDS, as identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  The Director of Walgreens' HIV Pharmacy Services, Glen Pietrandoni (who also serves on the aaa+ board of directors), accepted the award on behalf of Walgreens Co.  Learn more about Walgreens and what they are doing in the HIV/AIDS community by visiting

ADAP Community Organization of the Year: AIDS Alabama
The success of most HIV/AIDS advocacy campaigns has always been driven by local activists, advocates and leaders.  Probably nowhere else in the United States is that true than in Alabama under the leadership of AIDS Alabama.  The South has been disproportionately impacted by the ADAP crisis, and Alabama hasn't been immune from the dreaded ADAP waiting lists.  Throughout the struggle, AIDS Alabama has demonstrated why it was awarded the ADAP Community Organization of the Year award.  Accepting the award on behalf of AIDS Alabama was its President & CEO, Kathy Hiers, and her colleague Nic Carlisle.  Hiers is a well-respected leader nationally when it comes to issues surrounding HIV/AIDS and its impact on the South.  With eight of the ten most infected states, and nine of the ten most infected cities being in the South, and with very limited resources, AIDS Alabama’s resourcefulness and forward-thinking strategies have allowed the doors to remain open in tough economic times.  AIDS Alabama was recently featured in a Dan Rather special report about AIDS in the South that can be viewed here, and in a short film called the "DeepSouth" which can read here.  To learn more about AIDS Alabama, visit

ADAP Lawmaker of the Year: The Honorable Jim McDermott, M.C., Honorable Barbara Lee, M.C. & Honorable Trent Franks, M.C.
The groundbreaking Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus was formed by Democrat Representatives Jim McDermott (WA-7) and Barbara Lee (CA-9), and Republican Representative Trent Franks (AZ-2).  Their bipartisan leadership earned them the ADAO Lawmaker of the Year award.  Accepting the award on behalf of her colleagues was the Honorable Barbara Lee in a taped acceptance speech.  She thanked the ADAP Advocacy Association's hard work to ensure that people living with HIV/AIDS have access to care and treatment through the AIDS Drug Assistance Program.  Combined they formed the bipartisan Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus, which is the first of its kind in the Congress.  One of the policy areas of interest is improving the cash-strapped ADAPs and ending ADAP waiting lists.  To learn more about the bipartisan HIV/AIDS Caucus, visit its Facebook Fan Page.

ADAP Lawmaker of the Year Representative Barbara Lee,
see with Dab the AIDS Bear
ADAP Social Media Campaign of the Year: Maria’s Journal by Maria HIV Mejia
Social media is increasingly playing a major role in the grassroots advocacy efforts to improve access to care for people living with HIV/AIDS.  Maria’s Journal, started by Maria Mejia, has leveraged social media via video blogs, blogging, public speaking and press interviews to continually raise awareness about HIV/AIDS-related issues, combat HIV/AIDS stigma, answer questions, as well as advocate for the poor and disenfranchised.  During the ongoing Florida ADAP crisis, Mejia used her online presence to spread the word to the state’s Latino community, and others, to help galvanize support for the AIDS Drug Assistance Programs.  Maria has been HIV-positive since she was 18 years old, and was a previous recipient of ADAP services.  Maria’s Journal can be viewed online at

ADAP Social Media Campaigner Maria Mejia
ADAP Grassroots Campaign of the Year: Florida ADAP Campaign by FHAAN (via the AIDS Institute)
David Brakebill, a Florida HIV/AIDS advocate and member of Florida HIV/ADS Advocacy Netwwork (FHAAN), accepted the award on behalf of everyone within the FHAAN network.  By 2011, Florida's ADAP waiting list increased to over 4,000 low-income, infected individuals unable to receive available life-saving medications due to state funding shortages and program mismanagement.  This number represented fifty percent of the approximately 8,000 waiting list patients nationwide.  Due to this crisis, FHAAN expanded its membership to 1,300 members; it educated and trained its members on issues importance, like how to advocate for increased funding for the Florida ADAP program.  By the early 2011 legislative session, hundreds of members wrote their state legislators and the Governor asking for the needed funds.  The result: an increase of $2.5 million in recurring General Revenue funding for the Florida ADAP program and a reduction to the ADAP wait list.  The importance of their achievement is underscored by the fact it was it happened by convincing a hard-line Republican dominated legislature and governor to appropriate the needed funds.  FHAAN invested heavily in staff time and unfunded resources to build FHAAN into what it is today with over 1,300 members representing every region of the state of Florida.  The network is a fully functioning general body with task specific committees and a convening group that ensures that consumer/client leadership is in place throughout the network. To date, FHAAN is still the only statewide advocacy organization in Florida with the capacity and reach into every county. FHAAN is a program of The AIDS Institute.

David Brakebill, accepting the ADAP Grassroots Campaign award,
seen with Maria Mejia
ADAP Media Story of the Year: Iowa Insurance Pool a colossal failure by Andie Dominick, Des Moines Register
Andie Dominick is an editorial reporter for the Des Moines Register. The Register submitted monthly editorial beginning in December 2011 through June 2012, promoting a change in the state statute and the state policy that barred third-party payee like the state AIDS Drug Assistance Program from paying premiums for the state high- risk pool and the state-run pre-existing insurance plan (PCIP).  The Iowa ADAP had requested a change in policy in the PCIP, and the Register supported that position in their opinion pieces.  The reporting prompted two hearings in the Iowa Senate and the drafting of legislation to allow for third-party payers in these programs. At the same time, the Register uncovered poor administration and use of funds, and a lack of transparency in the operation of the programs.  Although the Republican-led House did not pass the final version of the legislation passed by the Democrat-led Senate, the stories may still have a substantial impact on how the state sets up the health insurance exchange or approaches other issues related to care of persons with HIV/IADS.  The articles were remarkable in their scope and breadth, and in the action they prompte in the State Senate.  They required months of investigation, and led to other articles in papers like the Washington Post (Michelle Andrews 03/19/12).

ADAP Advocacy Association Board Member Michelle Anderson,
seen with Lepena Reid
To watch an archived video of the ADAP Advocacy Association's 2nd Annual ADAP Leadership Awards Dinner, or presentations from the 5th Annual Conference, please visit