The city’s HIV/AIDS unit recently joined a national nonprofit public-health association.
The AIDS Activities Coordinating Office (AACO), a division of Philadelphia Department of Public Health, was among seven jurisdictions recently admitted as members of the National Alliance of State & Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD). NASTAD represents public-health officials while aiming to end HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and other conditions.
The development will pave the way for collaboration among health departments across the country, said Murray Penner, executive director of NASTAD, in a statement.
“This is a huge step forward,” Penner said. “The end of the HIV and hepatitis epidemics is for the first time within our reach, and it’s hard to overstate the value of welcoming large urban jurisdictions into our membership. States and cities have learned a lot of lessons over the years about how to combat the HIV and hepatitis epidemics. By coming together, we will exponentially increase our effectiveness.”
NASTAD’s Board of Directors changed bylaws to extend membership to the seven Centers for Disease Control-funded jurisdictions during its March meeting. NASTAD members are expected to ratify the change at the onset of the annual meeting this month.
AACO Director Coleman Terrell told PGN that NASTAD provides “a high-quality product with a lot of helpful information,” noting the organization highlights practices and programs in different jurisdictions. Additionally, he said, it is useful to have a network to coordinate efforts.
“Getting to know the people who are working in other jurisdictions is very helpful,” Terrell said. “You can get on the phone, call someone and say, ‘How are you handling this issue? Do you have any ideas on how we can do something better?’”
“States can’t do it alone,” Terrell added. “Cities can’t do it alone. We need resources and the supportive estate. It strengthens us all in terms of doing our work.”
Terrell said AACO has received resources from NASTAD in the past and is looking forward to a continued partnership.
“They’ve been very open in sharing resources with us for a long period of time so it’s nice to be an official member,” Terrell said, noting NASTAD will provide representation for AACO on policy issues. “I think it’s important to have a strong voice from urban communities where the epidemic is concentrated.”
Other NASTAD partnership jurisdictions include Baltimore, Chicago, Los Angeles County, Houston, New York City and San Francisco.