AID At­lanta

Lead­ers ad­dress or­ga­ni­za­tion's fu­ture

GA Voice - - Front Page - By PA­TRICK SAUN­DERS psaun­ders@the­gavoice.com For an ex­tended ver­sion of this story, go to www.the­gavoice.com.

AID At­lanta has be­come one of the largest HIV/AIDS ser­vice or­ga­ni­za­tions in the coun­try in its nearly 35 years in ex­is­tence, but it’s the last three to four years that have drawn closer at­ten­tion its way, and not al­ways in a pos­i­tive man­ner.

Since June 2012, the or­ga­ni­za­tion has had five ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tors, un­der­gone an ag­gres­sive ex­pan­sion to of­fer pri­mary care ser­vices that led to fall­ing nearly $1 mil­lion in debt, and last year be­came an af­fil­i­ate of a con­tro­ver­sial in­ter­na­tional HIV/AIDS ser­vice or­ga­ni­za­tion that has put out ads in op­po­si­tion to PrEP.

AID At­lanta’s lead­er­ship is now com­ing for­ward to ad­dress th­ese and other is­sues, and start­ing to en­gage more with the me­dia and let the com­mu­nity know where the or­ga­ni­za­tion stands—and more im­por­tantly where it’s headed.

The path to debt

Ni­cole Roebuck has been on staff at AID At­lanta for nearly 16 years, so she’s seen more at the or­ga­ni­za­tion than nearly any­one else. Last Oc­to­ber, she took over as in­terim ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor fol­low­ing the res­ig­na­tion of in­terim ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor James Hughey.

Of the five ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tors in less than four years, Roebuck points out that three of those were al­ways in­tended to be in­terim re­place­ments. This in­cludes her, al­though she says she has thrown her hat into the ring for the per­ma­nent po­si­tion, which she says the or­ga­ni­za­tion will an­nounce in the next cou­ple of months. And one of those per­ma­nent ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tors, Jose Diaz, re­signed for health rea­sons.

But AID At­lanta’s lead­ers say it’s the de­ci­sion to ex­pand be­yond serv­ing just those liv­ing with and at risk of con­tract­ing HIV/ AIDS that led the agency down a dif­fi­cult path. They opened up a $700,000 com­pre- hen­sive health cen­ter in Oct. 2014, the cul­mi­na­tion of a plan that had been in the works since that Jan­uary. By the end of the year, they were nearly $1 mil­lion in debt and look­ing for ways out of it by reach­ing out to other HIV/ AIDS agen­cies around the coun­try.

“It went too big, it went too large, too fast,” Roebuck now says. “I think that’s what kind of caused some of the fi­nan­cial is­sues.” She says the or­ga­ni­za­tion has now nar­rowed its fo­cus back to serv­ing those liv­ing with and at risk of con­tract­ing HIV/AIDS.

AIDS Health­care Foun­da­tion stance on PrEP

In June 2015, AID At­lanta found some­one to ab­sorb its debt, and the an­nounce­ment raised eye­brows. It was AIDS Health­care Foun­da­tion (AHF), whose pres­i­dent Michael We­in­stein drew crit­i­cism in 2014 for call­ing PrEP a “party drug.” Sub­se­quent ad cam­paigns by AHF (some of which have ap­peared in the Ge­or­gia Voice) have been viewed by many HIV/AIDS ac­tivists as anti-PrEP. The group claims that they’ve al­ways had the same stance: they re­main op­posed to the wide­spread de­ploy­ment of PrEP as a com­mu­nity-wide pub­lic health in­ter­ven­tion, and that it should only be pre­scribed on a case-by-case ba­sis for high-risk in­di­vid­u­als, such as those who are un­able or un­will­ing to use con­doms.

But does AIDS Health­care Foun­da­tion’s stance on PrEP af­fect whether and how of­ten AID At­lanta of­fers PrEP to those at-risk pop­u­la­tions in the metro At­lanta area?

“Ab­so­lutely not,” Roebuck says. “We have PrEP pa­tients on a sched­ule as we speak.” Roebuck says the ma­jor­ity of AID At­lanta’s clients are HIV-pos­i­tive and there­fore would have no use for PrEP, and that their cur­rent CDC funds are for HIV test­ing and preven­tion but can­not be used for PrEP.

How­ever, they re­ceived a $79,000 grant from Gilead—man­u­fac­turer of Tru­vada, the FDA-ap­proved drug for PrEP— last year and they cur­rently have 20 pa­tients on the reg­i­men.

New board of di­rec­tors

Amended ar­ti­cles of in­cor­po­ra­tion filed with the Sec­re­tary of State’s of­fice last June show that AID At­lanta In­cor­po­rated’s sole mem­ber is now AIDS Health­care Foun­da­tion, and a 2014 au­di­tor’s re­port dated July 30, 2015 shows the size of the board of di­rec­tors was re­duced from 22 down to three, and that those mem­bers are to be solely se­lected by AIDS Health­care Foun­da­tion.

A re­cent up­date to AID At­lanta’s web­site shows that the new board of di­rec­tors in­cludes six peo­ple, none of whom are from Ge­or­gia (and one of whom is We­in­stein). How­ever there is an AID At­lanta ad­vi­sory board con­sist­ing of seven peo­ple—the board chair is the same as the for­mer chair of AID At­lanta’s board of di­rec­tors, Chip New­ton.

New­ton says there is not much dif­fer­ence be­tween when he and the oth­ers were part of the board of di­rec­tors in­stead of this newly formed ad­vi­sory board, which meets quar­terly. “Nor­mally the board [of di­rec­tors] would vote, and right now in­stead of vot­ing, we pro­vide rec­om­men­da­tions on be­half of the ad­vi­sory board and the lo­cal pulse of the com­mu­nity,” he says, adding, “Frankly, they want us to run our own agency. They’re not in­ter­ested in run­ning the day-to-day op­er­a­tions.” How­ever, Roebuck says she re­ports di­rectly to Michael Ka­hane, AIDS Health­care Foun­da­tion’s bureau chief in the south­ern re­gion.

The ad­vi­sory board will have in­put on who be­comes AID At­lanta’s per­ma­nent ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, but ac­cord­ing to Roebuck the fi­nal de­ci­sion is up to the board of di­rec­tors. She adds, “I think that’s [the board’s] in­tent is to con­sider things lo­cally—the land­scape, the re­la­tion­ships, that all needs to be put into con­sid­er­a­tion.”

“It went too big, it went too large, too fast. I think that’s what kind of caused some of the fi­nan­cial is­sues.”

—AID At­lanta in­terim ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Ni­cole Roebuck on how the 2014 ex­pan­sion to pri­mary care ser­vices led the agency to end up nearly $1 mil­lion in debt

Ni­cole Roebuck, in­terim ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of AID At­lanta, says AIDS Health­care Foun­da­tion’s stance on PrEP does not af­fect AID At­lanta. (Photo by Pa­trick Saun­ders)

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.