Spring 2017

OPTIMIST

Our quarterly roundup of news, information, events, and more

In the Spotlight

This Year Is Different

It’s June. Historically, that means many major cities around the country, including Los Angeles, are gearing up for Pride celebrations that commemorate the LGBTQ community’s hard-won gains and celebrate how far we’ve come.

This year is different.

While the Trump presidency has ushered in an era where the only constant is that there is no telling what’s going to happen next, the Administration’s newly released 2018 budget tells us exactly what they intend: massive cuts to Medicaid and other health care programs; huge reductions in funding for HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, and STD prevention; devastating cuts to other social safety net programs including Meals on Wheels, Social Security Disability Insurance, low-income home-heating energy assistance, subsidized housing, family planning centers worldwide, and more.

That is exactly why APLA Health is taking part in the Resist March on the morning of Sunday, June 11, as the centerpiece of LA Pride the weekend of June 9-11. The Resist March will coincide with the Equality March for Unity and Pride in Washington, D.C., as well as marches, rallies, and demonstrations taking place in more than 50 other cities across the country. It promises to be a historic day. We need to be there, and so do you.

The Trump budget released May 23 proposes a major restructuring of the Medicaid program, capping federal spending in the program for the first time ever to achieve a savings over $610 billion over the next decade. Combined with congressional efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the budget would strip health coverage from more than 24 million people nationwide. In California alone, some 6 million would lose access to coverage and care.

The budget slashes $59 million from the Ryan White Program and more than $1 billion from U.S. global AIDS funding. These reductions will end the progress we have made in reducing new HIV infections and providing care and treatment worldwide and will deny some 19 million people living with HIV access to life-saving medications. The New York Times has reported that as many as 1 million people in sub-Saharan Africa could die as a result of the cuts to global AIDS funding.

These cuts would erase the hard-fought gains we’ve made over the last seven years to improve the health and lives of thousands. APLA Health and many other organizations like us cannot simply raise funds to cover the money we’d lose if that happens. We would be forced to turn the people who need us most away.

We are literally fighting for our lives.

Does that sound familiar? It should. For those of us who have been on the front lines of the fight against HIV and AIDS for the last 36 years, we know what happens when our elected officials turn their backs on fragile populations that most need help.

When we first opened our doors, we were helping people with AIDS die with dignity. Today, we have continued the fight against HIV by providing free and low-cost health care services to the entire LGBTQ community and HIV support services that help us thrive. Healthier people mean healthier communities and a healthier country. It means an end to AIDS. It means battling successfully against poverty, stigma, and discrimination.

Some individuals have suggested that the Resist March is a protest. We see it as an affirmation of our unity and a declaration that we will not go back to a time when we literally left people to die. The organizers of the March have themselves stated the following about the event: “We resist forces that would divide us. We resist those who would take our liberty. We resist homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, sexism, and racism.”

We are marching on June 11 to say that our future should include health care for everyone and an end to HIV/AIDS. We are marching to make our voices heard, loud and clear, alongside our friends, families, and allies. We are marching because health care is a human right.

We look forward to seeing you there.

In solidarity,

Craig E. Thompson
Chief Executive Officer

For more on the Resist March, see resistmarch.org. For information about LA Pride, please visit lapride.org.

News & Noteworthy

Getting to know:

Terry Smith and APLA Health’s Prevention Team

What does “prevention” mean? For many, it is still one thing: stopping the spread of HIV. In recent years, however, that has changed.

As APLA Health’s Director of HIV Prevention Services Terry L. Smith notes, while that remains a critical part of any prevention program, the word has also come to encompass the navigation of many factors that play into an individual’s overall health and well-being. These can include employment status, sexual orientation, gender identity, drug or alcohol use, discrimination and stigma, education, and more.

It’s a shift in thinking from an era in which fear was the primary motivation behind most prevention services and the only issue dealt with was trying to ensure that no one became HIV-positive. “Our job in prevention is really to connect the dots for people about how they feel about themselves and how that affects their behavior,” Smith says. “We like to get people together and talk over some food, for example, and take them from a place where they may feel isolated and build community and talk about sexual health and wellness in a way that is uplifting and supportive.”

For Smith, who has worked at APLA Health since 2002 and has a diverse background in prevention services, the shift reflect changes in the fight against HIV and how biomedical advances (such as pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis—or PrEP and PEP—and better, less toxic HIV medications) have brought renewed hope in the fight to end AIDS.

Today, Smith oversees a staff of 15 who help run an L.A. County-designated PrEP Center of Excellence as well as five different programs funded by a variety of local, state, and federal grants:

  • Red Circle Project – an HIV education and community initiative for Native American and Alaska Natives
  • Party Wise – a crystal meth harm-reduction program
  • DICE Lives – a group for young Black and Latino men of all orientations, ages 18-24
  • Many Men, Many Voices – a program for Black gay men of varying ages that invites them to take part in building a community and reduce rates of HIV and other STDs and promote wellness in their communities
  • R3VNG (“Revenge”) – a program that promotes HIV testing, education, and social support for young Black and Latino men who have sex with men

In addition, Smith is overseeing a brand-new program called Trans Connections that helps transgender individuals and their partners get access to HIV testing, health services, and legal assistance. The program is being run out of our health centers in Baldwin Hills and Long Beach.

While prevention is indeed still about education and ending the spread of HIV, now it is an effort supported by additional services under the APLA Health umbrella. “Prevention programs should be a bridge to health care services and getting people into care if they are not currently,” Smith says. “And hopefully those in care will also refer others to our prevention programs. It’s really about personal contact with people and staying in touch with them to ensure they stay in care and take care of themselves. That’s why we’re here.”

Partner Profile

Delta Air Lines

As one of APLA Health’s most engaged partners for the last seven years and counting, Delta Air Lines has provided critical support to us as we’ve expanded our mission to offer comprehensive medical, dental, and behavioral health care to low-income LGBTQ individuals in addition to our HIV support services.

Among the many ways Delta supports our work is as a major sponsor of AIDS Walk Los Angeles, as well as contributing numerous items for APLA Health’s fundraisers and silent auctions. In addition, Delta employees have raised more than $50,000 for APLA Health thanks to their participation in AIDS Walk.

During this same seven-year period, Delta has grown faster than any other airline at LAX—and this May, the airline orchestrated the largest terminal move in an operating airport in the history of commercial aviation when it relocated to Terminals 2 and 3 at LAX May 13-17. The move is a major step in the airline’s $1.9 billion plan to build the Delta Sky Way at LAX, a multi-year project and second-largest private infrastructure investment in the L.A. basin that will modernize, upgrade, and connect Terminals 2 and 3, as well as join them to the north side of Tom Bradley International Terminal. Over the next several years, both terminals will get extensive upgrades as Delta builds a world-class terminal for LAX. “It is really a commitment that shows how L.A. is a critical part of our business,” Delta Vice President of Sales – West Ranjan Goswami (pictured) says.

It’s also indicative of the airline’s culture of commitment to the communities in which it operates. Goswami notes that the airline now donates 1% of its pretax profits—or $40 million last year alone—to its community partners around the world. “We focus on issues such as health and wellness, diversity, education, arts and culture, and our armed services,” he says. “There is a strong belief that the communities we work in we should give back to, as well. There’s a lot of interest in trying to do our best and then do a little bit more.”

The “culture of giving back” is not corporate lip service. Delta’s employees embrace it wholeheartedly by getting involved with a number of nonprofit organizations. “We don’t pay people to do it; they do it because they want to do it, and that’s what’s exciting,” says Goswami, who sits on the board of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and has been a board member of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles, Junior Achievement of Southern California, and the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.

In Los Angeles specifically, Delta employees are longtime volunteers and supporters of both APLA Health and AIDS Walk Los Angeles, as well as LA Pride. “Delta has a vibrant LGBTQ community among our employees,” says Goswami, who is himself an LGBTQ Delta employee and AIDS Walk Star Walker. “So we have a great opportunity to align our employees and things they are interested in personally with our commitment as a company.

“There is such a need for people with HIV and AIDS to live a good and healthy life, and APLA Health is making that happen by providing health care, food, counseling services, dental care, a community, and so much more,” he adds. “Indeed, our missions line up perfectly. We have many people who are committed to this issue, and we’ll absolutely be there for AIDS Walk this fall.”

Delta also supports AIDS research, services, and advocacy through its partnerships with amfAR and the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. To learn more about Delta’s big move at LAX, visit www.delta.com/skywayatLAX.

Picture It

Browse some of the fantastic photos from our recent community events and fundraisers and be sure to join us at another one soon!

S.T.A.G.E.’s Curtain Call

On May 13, the world’s longest running HIV/AIDS fundraiser, the Southland Theatre Artists Goodwill Event, took its final bow at the Saban Thatre in Beverly Hills. We thank director David Galligan, the S.T.A.G.E. committee, and the more than 300 artists and performers whose talents have helped those we serve for more than 30 years. Bravo! Thank you, too, to photographers Chris Kane and Garrett Wedel for capturing wonderful moments from throughout the evening.

Photos from the 33rd Annual S.T.A.G.E.

STAGE

Save the Dates

AIDS Walk Los Angeles

10.15.17

Join us downtown on the steps of L.A.’s City Hall this October for the kickoff of AIDS Walk. Registration is now open!

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