Friday, August 17, 2007

Update: Puerto Rico AIDS czar denies there is a waiting list for HIV meds

Housing Works, the powerful NYC HIV/AIDS service and advocacy organization, has been following up on the Puerto Rican HIV/AIDS services crisis that has unfolded over the last few months (as have organizations such as the Latino Commission on AIDS and the National Minority AIDS Council and the grassroots organization UNID@S Dandole Cara al SIDA).

Today, in a report posted on their AIDS Issues Update site, they describe a series of developments that have taken place since we last wrote about the crisis including the appointment of Jorge Delgado Rivas as a new assistant to Puerto Rico's Secretary of Health.

Upon his appointment by Puerto Rican Governor Anibal Acevedo Vila "Rivas became the first Puerto Rican government official expressly charged with overseeing the territory's response to its appalling AIDS epidemic," says Housing Works, which would make Rivas a mini-AIDS czar, I guess.

Activists have generally applauded some of the recent steps taken to address the crisis, including the hiring of Rivas, but the honeymoon might be over.

After a month on the job, Housing Works says that Rivas has joined the Puerto Rican government in denying that there is a waiting list for newly infected HIV patients seeking medications - as has been charged by community advocates such as
Jose F. Colon.

The truth, it appears, might be murkier: For the full article please go to "
Wating Game."

In the uncredited article, Housing Works also raises questions about Riva's qualifications for the post and challenge an Associated Press report that Rivas is a physician. Apparently Rivas only holds a PhD in administration from a non-accredited school once based in New Hampshire but now based in St. Kitts and, Housing Works ads, "his only AIDS-related experience has been volunteering at a handful of AIDS service groups" and that Rivas is HIV positive.

Colon for one, is willing to give Rivas a chance and that is saying something, coming from one of the lead critics of HIV services in the island as an advocate living with AIDS.

Colon told Housing Works: "We can't expect Delgado to be an angel. He still has to deal with the bureaucracy here, but he listens. And I wholeheartedly give applause to a person living with AIDS who is trying to understand what the whole process is."


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