If we are to end AIDS in Philadelphia, we need accountability from those charged with leading the efforts. In Philadelphia, a bulk of HIV-prevention funding is allocated by the Department of Public Health, and funding recommendations are made by the HIV Resource Allocations Advisory Committee (RAAC). RAAC is a group of individuals intended to be free from potential conflicts of interest in the outcomes of their recommendations. Half the committee members are persons living with HIV/AIDS and representative of the community and of the epidemic in and around Philadelphia.
This committee’s recommendations have been criticized for disregarding the HIV/AIDS epidemic in communities of color. Because the committee is confidential, its actions are not accountable to the individuals they are intending to serve. In the past, individuals have urged the health commissioner to increase the transparency of the funding-allocation process, but nothing has been done.
Earlier this year, I requested the minutes and membership of the RAAC committee through a Pennsylvania Right-To-Know Request. My request was denied by the city, citing the confidentiality of the members of the committee. The State Office of Open Records recognized that membership on this committee, much like any other city committee, has no legal basis for being confidential. The city is appealing that decision in court.
I urge the health commissioner to dissolve the RAAC for the following reasons: A confidential committee decreases the city’s accountability to effectively work to decrease HIV/AIDS in our community; and the city has no legal means for protecting the confidentiality of individuals on the committee, potentially “outing” their HIV status.
— Jacob Fyda Chicago, Ill.