First-term Pittsburgh City Councilman Corey O'Connor has announced a bill that will set up a new Pittsburgh HIV/AIDS commission. The overall goal is to bring together various entities and address gaps that he says exist in the current system. One in four of those living with HIV/AIDS in the city are not being treated.
"They know they have HIV or AIDS symptoms and are not getting treatment," said Councilman O'Connor, "that's what this commission is here for. We're going to bring people together, bring people to the table to talk about those services and how we can bring our resources together to help those individuals out there."
The make up of the 30-member-maximum commission will, by ordinance, be diverse. The bill calls for specific numbers of members from AIDS service organizations, community groups, individuals with HIV/AIDS, leaders of the business community, representatives of the educational community, lawmakers and others.
O'Connor said the idea came about after a series of meetings with six service provider groups. The councilman said it became clear that the best way to go about achieving goals of coordinated communication and services was to form a commission.
City Councilman Bill Peduto agreed that such a group was needed in Pittsburgh. While public health issues are typically tackled on the county level, he said the city has a huge stake in HIV/AIDS awareness and treatment because it continues to be a growing problem.
"Within the city of Pittsburgh in our African American community, it's rising. Within college-age students, and we talk about the city being a beacon for college students, it's rising. And if we're going to cut it and curb it, we're going to need collective action, action that would involve city, the county, and the agencies," Peduto added.
O'Connor will introduce the bill that would create the commission at City Council's April 3 meeting. He said the timeline for passage is about three weeks. If it goes as smoothly as expected, O'Connor said work will get underway to start building the commission soon after, with its first meeting likely taking place in late fall or early next year.