Global ACCESS (AIDS Coalition for Civic Engagement and Smart Solutions)

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The Problem

Global ACCESS is a new formation of old work. For years, as an organizer with Health GAP, I have been training low-income people living with AIDS in advocacy and community organizing skills and bringing them into the fight against global AIDS. The AIDS crisis takes the lives of two million people each year, and most of those deaths are preventable if people had access to low-cost, lifesaving AIDS treatment. The US government has a role to play in ending AIDS, and while it has taken important steps, more work remains. It will take a dedicated group of people who are regularly calling attention to this issue, in the media, amongst friends, and in the world, advocating for an increased US response to the AIDS crisis, to finally end the AIDS epidemic.

Plan of Action

Global ACCESS (AIDS Coalition for Civic Engagement and Smart Solutions) is a leadership development institute to promote civic participation and create a comprehensive communication hub for the global AIDS movement. Global ACCESS is a project of Health Global Access Project (Health GAP). Global ACCESS provides training in: *concrete leadership skills; *comprehensive grassroots advocacy and organizing skills, such as AIDS issue based trainings, taught by leaders in the global AIDS movement; * in-depth skills trainings such as "birddogging" trainings and * an innovative communication fellowship specifically designed for new leaders who want to make their mark. In addition, Global ACCESS creates a comprehensive communications hub for the entire AIDS movement. The communications department will allow us to offer an affordable option for grassroots organizations when they need to develop campaign materials or a media strategy. Global ACCESS offers selected "fellows" concrete training and skills development in several stages: Stage 1 includes 20 day-long leadership development trainings, offering concrete advocacy and organizing skills across the United States. Stage 2 includes weekly virtual classes (using computers and conference calls) on global AIDS issues, taught by leaders and experts in the movement. Professors include Brook Baker from Northeastern University Law School who is a world renowned expert on Intellectual Property Rights and Trade policy which are frequently used as barriers to access to HIV treatment and Dr. Patricia Siplon who wrote the book AIDS and the Policy Struggle in the United States. Stage 3 includes monthly meetings with decision makers. These can include "birddogging" legislators on issues, or formal sit downs to discuss policy issues. Stage 4 includes an internship in our communications "department". We see improved, smart communication and media strategy as a need in the global AIDS movement. Global ACCESS thinks our fellows can fill this need and this will provide them with an additional skill not usually learned in other leadership development trainings. We also plan to offer our communication assistance to campaigns we support and for a fee as a way of building in a form of self-sustainability. Our fellows will operate virtually via computers and cell phones reducing the cost of this valuable and needed service. Global ACCESS has trained 500 people per year across the United States in our Stage 1 one-day local leadership development trainings. It is from this pool that our fellows for stage 2,3, and 4 will be selected for our future component of the work. Throughout my time as an organizer with Health GAP, I have trained over 1000 individuals from across the country In this next year, Global Access will hold 36 meetings with key decision makers on issues that are most important to the global AIDS movement. In 2008, Global ACCESS will issue 12 press releases, 6 op-eds and 24 letters to the editor. Our fellows will win victories on campaigns, including increasing funding to the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. We are developing and diversifying the entire global AIDS movement here in the United States. Our fellows will understand the importance of having an "inside/outside" strategy. They will have sharp and innovative communication skills and will be adept at creating a media strategy. They will develop strong and lasting relationships with each other and with key decision makers. We believe that our graduates will be able to move into key positions at organizations in DC, and throughout the US to coordinate strategy and, most of all, win. Global ACCESS will work closely in the next 2 years with a consultant to track our overall contribution to the global AIDS movement, and we will have the students evaluate their courses.

Project Updates

Global ACCESS is off to a great start. We have been traveling around the country engaging in teach-ins to get young (as in new) activists fired up about global AIDS advocacy. Our efforts have generated thousands of letters to Congressmembers and the President and we just completed an exciting direct action in the lobby of the Capitol building where legislators came and directly saw and heard our passion about the issue of truly making needle exchange legal and funded in this country and around the world. The following day, Rep. Obey who heads up the Congressional budget process, issued an amendment which would lift the ban on federal funding for access to clean syringes (a proven way to prevent the spread of HIV). Talk about effective!

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