Back in 1986 a group of individuals came together in Columbus during the height of the HIV epidemic and formed the Ohio AIDS Coalition. Over the past 30 years, OAC has evolved its advocacy, education, and leadership development strategies while keeping in mind our guiding principles of hope, healing, and empowerment. As we look ahead, we will continue to make strides to serve the needs of people infected and affected by HIV in Ohio in 2016. Here are our resolutions.
Enhanced Consumer Involvement
It is these voices, of those infected and affected by the HIV epidemic, that are most crucial to hear and incorporate when affectively developing projects, programs and initiatives. Who knows the needs of the positive community more than those living positively with HIV? We will strive to elevate those very voices in every aspect of our work. With the calendars turning to 2016, we will be revamp our social media presence to highlight the influence and many great successes of positive individuals.
We will unveil new opportunities for consumers to be seen and to be heard; extinguishing the stigma that often leaves them marginalized and isolated in their families, work places, neighborhoods, and communities. We will continue to engage positive Ohioans to build their leadership skills, help develop their advocacy capabilities, to not only speak for themselves, but to speak for the greater positive community. A way we’ll help individuals demonstrate their growth is assisting in the establishment of consumer-led caucuses across the state.
Ongoing Monitoring of Policy Priorities
OAC will also work tirelessly to elevate consumer voices in the political sphere by providing both opportunities to dialogue with elected representatives, especially at AIDSWatch Ohio 2016, and ongoing leadership and advocacy training. In late 2015 we began this process with our Project HEAL program and commit to continuing these type of programs in 2016. Consumers’ voices, stories, and experiences have power and must be the fuel to our advocacy fire. We will continue our longstanding tradition of advocating, in both public and private sectors, on behalf of all persons affected and infected by HIV & AIDS in Ohio. We will not rest until stigma, discrimination, and disenfranchisement are things of the past.
Commitment to Provider Engagement
During 2016, OAC will continue its commitment to ensuring that Ryan White program care providers maintain and enhance their technical and cultural knowledge when it comes to service delivery for HIV+ consumers, including how providers approach and comprehend the relationship that their specific care has within the HIV care continuum. OAC also commits to examine the level of quality, affordability, and cultural competence of the care that these professionals provide. There is no one “face” when it comes to HIV/AIDS, and as such, it is highly crucial that those that provide care are aware of the diversity and uniqueness present in the individuals that are impacted by their care. Lastly, but certainly not least, OAC recognizes the importance of the provider-client relationship. We will try to break down communication barriers that may exist between consumers and providers, and building new strategies to strengthen and cultivate the clarity and transparency that these relationships require.
2016 and Beyond
This year marks OAC’s 30th anniversary and the HIV epidemic’s 35th year in existence. These milestone years have called on us to reflect upon and evaluate the past and look towards the future. We now have the knowledge and tools to effectively end the HIV epidemic. This cannot be done without collaboration, sound policy, significant investment, removing barriers, and strong leadership. With this in mind, we have developed and released our plan to end HIV in Ohio.
OAC has grown tremendously over the years; the impact that OAC has had on lives has reached thousands throughout Ohio. As OAC evolves, our efforts to elevate HIV positive voices, our attention to policy and direction of advocacy, and building new bridges between providers and their consumers, will continue to remain the forefront as we make strides to serve the needs of people living with and affected by HIV in Ohio.
Throughout this year, OAC will continue to identify gaps in our own services and programs and strive to fill those unmet needs. We must continue to build on our successes and maintain our longstanding traditions while assessing and addressing our disappointments. 2016 will be a year of reflection, renewal, action, and consumer involvement. And, most importantly, we hope that 2016 will be the beginning of the end of the HIV epidemic in Ohio.