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Thursday, March 29, 2012

O'Connor seeking to launch HIV/AIDS initiative

Posted By on Thu, Mar 29, 2012 at 2:55 PM

City councilman Corey O'Connor plans to introduce legislation next week to create the Pittsburgh HIV/AIDS Commission.

The 30-member volunteer commission would have representatives from the county and city, nonprofits, HIV/AIDS service providers, the state Department of Health, educational institutions, neighborhood groups and the business sector.

O'Connor, who represents District 5, says the panel's goal will be to create awareness and collaboration around the disease and help link people to resources.

"The attention really needs to be brought back to our neighborhoods, but also the business districts and city and county as a whole," O'Connor tells City Paper. The commission will offer a resource "so elected officials, organizations and businesses can learn more about HIV/AIDS and how to prevent it ... It's going to give people a place to go."

According to the legislation, the commission will:

  • Increase communication between service providers serving both consumers at high risk for HIV/AIDS and consumers living with HIV/AIDS.
  • Establish a collaborative of diverse community, business, academic and governmental agencies to assess needs, goals and objectives for effective HIV and STD prevention, education and treatment programs to better protect and serve the citizens of the Pittsburgh region.
  • Provide policy guidance, recommendations and consultation to the city's leadership and health community to remove barriers and promote achievement of goals and objectives set forth by the Commission.

O'Connor plans a formal press conference on the matter tomorrow. But he says he's already met with the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force, Shepherd Wellness Center, Persad, UPMC's Pittsburgh AIDS Center for Treatment Clinic, West Penn Allegheny Health System's Positive Health Clinic and the Southwestern PA AIDS Planning Coalition, who requested some sort of panel be formed and helped develop the idea. If city council approves its creation, O'Connor envisions launching the commission in the fall.

"It'll unify everyone under one voice and see where there are differences in organizations' [service]. It's a great conduit to reach out into the community and work with a broad group," O'Connor says. "The possibilities are endless."

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