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ALL THE NEWS FOR YOUR LIFE. AND YOUR STYLE.
JANUARY 21, 2000
Mayor stumbles on HIV follow through
Nearly two months after announcing an ambitious plan to fight rising
HIV infections among blacks, Mayor Lee Brown's initiative lacks
funding, public attention
by MATTHEW A. HENNIE
Nearly two months after Mayor Lee Brown declared a
state of emergency over a startling rise in HIV infections in
I louston's black community, his ambitious plan to attack the
problem is floundering.
City health officials are scrambling to pay for the nearly 5-
year, $3 million prevention and education effort by tightening other programs, shifting staff and soliciting donations,
which means it will hike works, up to a few months, before
even the initial aspects of Brown's plan are in place, officials
said this week.
A summit of black community leaders to enlist support for
addressing the problem, which Brown said would be held
this month, remains in the planning stages.
And Brown, who pledged to use the mayor's office as a
bully pulpit by speaking out on HIV prevention during his
public appearances, has failed to do so in two major speeches he delivered this month.
"There has been no action except lip service. There has certainly been nothing concrete," said Gary Van Ooteghem,
chairman of the Ryan White Planning Council. "We are not
getting any indication that (Brown] or his team are doing
anything. It is a shame."
The planning council, which will allocate $17.6 million in
federal funds this year for services to people affected by
AIDS, criticized Brown in November for failing to act on new
statistics that showed 61 percent of new HIV infections in the
Houston area in 1999 were among African-Americans,
While the planning council received a 14 percent increase
in its federal funding—including a nearly sixfold increase,
from $177,000 to $937,955, aimed at African-Americans—its
money is restricted to helping county residents already
infected through services like food banks, drug reimbursements, dental services, counseling and hospice care.
The increase in overall federal funding for the planning
council this year, up from $15.5 million to $17.6 million, is
due in part to the area's increasing HIV infections and the
spike in infections in the area's black community, said Patrick
Richoux, an HIV services project coordinator for Harris
State of emergency
HIV prevention and education is left to the city's health
department and its $5-million-a-year HIV Prevention
Program, which led the planning council to call on Brown
and County Judge Robert Eckels in November to develop a
coordinated response to the new statistics.
Eckels, who oversees the Ryan White Planning Council,
responded by supporting its call to declare a medical emergency, which allows the planning council to reallocate funds
to earmark treatment programs for African-Americans.
Besides the additional federal funds the planning council
will receive when its fiscal year starts in March, an estimated
$250,000 will also be shifted to programs targeting the city's
black community. Van Ooteghem said.
Brown took action weeks later by announcing his initiative
during a press conference with local elected officials, AIDS
activists and service providers on World AIDS Day.
The mayor's plan targets three groups for intensive HIV
prevention efforts: African-American women; gay, bisexual
and non-gay identifying black men who have sex with men;
Mayor Lee Brown delivered a 45-mmute state of the city address
Tuesday, but didn't mention his recent plan to combat HIV infections, an issue he pledged to include in his public appearances.
and blacks in jail or prison.
The plan proposes community-based education and prevention programs, a media campaign and one-on-one services to change behaviors that put blacks at higher risk for HIV.
The first step calls for spending $170,000 through June on
a public information campaign with billboards, newspaper
and radio advertisements targeting African-Americans, said
Mary desVignes-Kendrick, the city's health department
> Continued on Page 11
Rice approves DP benefits for gay employees
Trustees quietly approved the measure last month, adding to an
already tolerant atmosphere for gay students, employees on campus
A consensus on Rice
for domestic partner
benefits helped lead
trustees to approve
the measure, said
Terry Shepard, vice
president for public
by GIP PLASTER
For two years, domestic partners of employees at Rice
University have been able to get school identification
cards, check out books from the school's library and use
its gymnasiums, just like married spouses can.
Now, Rice's board of trustees has finished what it started.
Trustees recently approved a measure that will allow
employees to include their established domestic partners
on university insurance coverage beginning in July.
The move makes Rice the first university in Texas to
offer domestic partner benefits and leaves the University
of Notre Dame as the only top 20 school in the nation
without the benefits, according to Human Rights
Campaign, the nation's largest gay rights group.
Rice also joins 102 other universities in offering the
benefits, according to HRC.
"I think it is a natural progression because the
much already in place," said Boyd Beckwith, the openly
gay director of the university's student center.
Beckwith served on an informal committee that pushed
>■ Continued on Page 10