Aids Alliance dissolves, services continue
The Aids Alliance of Martha's Vineyard (AAMV) will officially dissolve next month. The organization, founded to provide support for AIDS sufferers, no longer has the support it needs to continue.
Alan Coutinho of West Tisbury, president of the AAMV said that while the details are still being arranged, the nonprofit organization would officially cease to exist by the end of October.
The dissolution of the AAMV will not leave a gap in services, however. Testing and counseling formerly provided by the AAMV will now be provided by Family Planning under a contract funded by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH).
The aids alliance was unable to continue its work, which included HIV testing and counseling, following the loss of key personnel and the inability to add new board members.
Mr. Coutinho said the treasurer resigned more than one year ago last August but he managed to keep her on for one more year. Clinical director Michael Lapolla, the clinical director resigned to take a job in New Hampshire and left in September and he is preparing to sell his home and move to western Massachusetts with his family next month.
"We do not have the community involvement necessary to continue as a viable entity," Mr. Coutinho said. He added that this would be the last week the aids alliance would be providing HIV testing and counseling. After that the focus will be on a smooth transition, including the movement of client files, supplies and final bookkeeping.
He said the details are still being discussed with DPH officials.
The origins of the AAMV began with the suicide death almost 15 years ago of a Vineyard man suffering from AIDS in a fire at his home.
In the aftermath of that tragedy, a group of caregivers and other concerned citizens met to create a system where AIDS sufferers could find the care and support they needed. The group secured backing and resources and the result was the AIDS Alliance of Martha's Vineyard.
The group's first priority was education. Resource information was gathered from federal, state, and other related agencies. HIV testing was set up. A coordinator was hired to handle case management, coordinating services for clients and their families.
HIV testing and case management have been critical aspects of AAMV's services. All testing is done anonymously; there are no names associated with the results.
On Tuesday, Valerie Al-Hachem, HIV Program Director for Infectious Disease Clinical Services (IDCS) of Cape Cod Hospital, the DPH contractor for the Cape and Islands, said there are a number of people working behind the scenes for a smooth transition with little if any disruption in services.
AAMV provided counseling and testing services to Islanders under the terms of a $15,000 annual sub-contract.
She said that as a result of the Aids Alliance decision to dissolve, her organization began looking for another entity capable of providing the contractual services provided by the Aids Alliance.
"It makes sense now to have those services under Family Planning," she said, "so we have been in conversation with Health Care of Southeastern Massachusetts (HCSM), which is the parent organization of Martha's Vineyard Family Planning."
She said details such as the schedule when people will be able to visit the Family Planning offices on State Road in Vineyard Haven are not yet set.
Ms. Al-Hachem said that people in need of services may still call the AAMV and leave a message on the answering machine.
According to Ms. Al-Hachem, the aids alliance was responsible for two key services that will continue on-Island, either directly from a DPH-contracted agency or through sub-contractual agreement.
The alliance, acting as a subcontractor for the AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod (ASGCC), a DPH client services contractor for Cape Cod and the Islands, was responsible for case management services for individuals living with HIV/AIDS, such as transportation assistance, housing advocacy, and benefits screening.
Ms. Al-Machem said ASGCC would now provide these services directly through their Hyannis office, and by this winter, from an office in Falmouth. She said all active clients of AAMV have been notified of its dissolution and arrangements are being made to obtain the clients' consent to transfer case management records to ASGCC.
The ASGCC's contact numbers are 508-778-1954, or toll-free at 866-990-2437.
Under the terms of a subcontract, the Aids Alliance also provided HIV, viral hepatitis, and sexually transmitted disease (STD) counseling, testing, and referral services. The state contract stipulates that IDCS, and its subcontractors, target high-risk groups, which includes current or past injection drug users, men who have sex with men, and immigrant groups.
According to Ms. Al-Hachem, HCSM has agreed to take over the subcontract. She said that until specific information is available, anyone with questions regarding the availability of testing services may call IDCS and speak with her or clinical specialist Heidi Kelley.
Contact numbers for IDCS are 508-862-5650 and toll-free at 888-711-0117.
Confidential testing services should be available at Family Planning by mid-October, Ms. Al-Hachem said.