May 16, 2013 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
New AIDS group debuts as NAPWA successor
Frank Oldham, NAPWA, National Association of People With AIDS, National Gay Men's HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, gay news, Washington Blade

Frank Oldham, Jr. is the former CEO of NAPWA, which closed in bankruptcy earlier this year. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A newly created national coalition called Pozitively Healthy will advocate for people with HIV and AIDS following the closing in February of the 30-year-old National Association of People With AIDS (NAPWA), according to the coalition’s organizers.

In a May 10 statement, organizers said the new coalition will be an arm of the Washington, D.C.-based national AIDS group HealthHIV, which will manage the coalition’s finances and infrastructure.

“Pozitively Healthy’s mission is to ensure the strong independent voice of the 1.2 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States,” the statement says.

It says the coalition will advocate for “access to quality health care and the most impactful prevention, care and treatment services in this era of health reform implementation.”

The statement says organizations, including the Names Project Foundation associated with the national AIDS Quilt, and AIDS-related publications will be a part of the coalition in addition to individuals.

“Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the Pozitively Healthy coalition will develop and drive an advocacy and education agenda to address issues impacting People Living With HIV/AIDS, with special attention to African-American MSM [men who have sex with men], women, and transgender populations,” the statement says.

Brian Hujdich, executive director of HealthHIV, said HealthHIV and organizers of Pozitively Healthy are inviting AIDS activists and their supporters from throughout the country to apply for membership on a national steering committee created to set the coalition’s agenda and mission.

He said organizers are also inviting activists and others supportive of the coalition’s efforts to become members of the coalition. He said membership is free. Information about Pozitively Healthy and a sign-up form to become a member is available at HealthHIV.org.

Five members of the steering committee, which had 16 members as of early this week, are former officials at NAPWA, including NAPWA’s former executive director and CEO Frank Oldham.

Veteran Washington State AIDS activist Judi Billings, a former NAPWA board chair, has been named co-chair of the Pozitively Healthy steering committee.

David Waggoner, founder and publisher of the Albany, N.Y.-based national AIDS magazine A&U, has been named as the other co-chair.

The prominent role being played by former NAPWA officials and staffers prompted AIDS activists and bloggers Michael Petrelis of San Francisco and Greg Milward of Wisconsin to raise concern, saying events leading up to NAPWA’s financial collapse and bankruptcy took place under their watch.

With creditors owed more than $750,000, NAPWA filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy at the time it announced it was shutting its doors permanently in February.

Oldham announced his resignation from his post as NAPWA’s executive director and CEO in October and left the organization in November before news of the impending bankruptcy surfaced. A document filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Maryland lists Oldham as owing NAPWA more than $80,000 in “accounts payable.”

Oldham and all other former officials at NAPWA have declined to comment on any of the details that surfaced in the public records associated with the bankruptcy filing.

Stephen Bailous, NAPWA’s former deputy executive director and a current member of Pozitively Healthy’s steering committee, told the Blade shortly after the bankruptcy filing that NAPWA’s financial problems stemmed from the organization’s difficulty in raising funds during the downturn in the economy, which he said led to a mounting debt.

Hujdich of HealthHIV told the Blade that Oldham, Billings and the other former NAPWA officials were named to the Pozitively Healthy steering committee because of their years of experience in AIDS-related matters and their distinguished record of advocacy for people with AIDS.

He said that similar to all members of the steering committee, the former NAPWA officials’ role in the coalition would be limited to policy and advocacy matters.

“We’re handling the management of it so that we’ll handle everything financial and any infrastructure with regards to how to help support it,” Hujdich said.

“As it relates to the way NAPWA was managed, none of the former NAPWA board or staff members that are part of the coalition are connected in any way to the running of the coalition financially,” he said. “And so they have no role in anything fiscal.”

According to Hujdich, Pozitively Healthy will operate as an all-volunteer entity, with a membership and most steering committee members located throughout the country.

Added Hujdich, “There shouldn’t be an issue about their involvement. And all the more reason — not just those who were involved with NAPWA but others who are long committed to HIV advocacy — why wouldn’t we want to include their voice and give them an opportunity to do this?”

Just three days after the announcement of the creation of Pozitively Healthy, Oldham testified on behalf of the new coalition at a D.C. City Council hearing on Tuesday.

The hearing, before the Council’s Committee on Health, reviewed the city’s implementation of President Obama’s healthcare reform program related to insurance exchanges created to enable consumers to select affordable health insurance policies.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

25 Comments
  • Frank Oldham Jr Should in my personal opinion RESIGN from HEALTHHIV's national coalition until he explains why he owes "more than $80,000 in “accounts payable" to NAPWA. It was sickening to see him at a recent Town Hall meeting representing this coalition and HealthHIV.

    • I agree this man was so drunk and high on something.. When I met him..he stuck his tongue in my Xboyfriends mouth when he told him he was the Berlin project….too much shady stuff.within the aids groups…lets follow the money.. Sad thing in Washington .d.c. A lot of the money is cash and its passed around in paper bags..like hardcore drugs ..it's so hard to prove.. And they have been doing it for years..for Wall Street or them selfs…

    • I agree this man was so drunk and high on something.. When I met him..he stuck his tongue in my Xboyfriends mouth when he told him he was the Berlin project….too much shady stuff.within the aids groups…lets follow the money.. Sad thing in Washington .d.c. A lot of the money is cash and its passed around in paper bags..like hardcore drugs ..it's so hard to prove.. And they have been doing it for years..for Wall Street or them selfs…

    • Frank Oldham needs to be cuffed!

  • Frank Oldham Jr Should in my personal opinion RESIGN from HEALTHHIV's national coalition until he explains why he owes "more than $80,000 in “accounts payable" to NAPWA. It was sickening to see him at a recent Town Hall meeting representing this coalition and HealthHIV.

  • This new coalition is made up of several former NAPWA staff and associates. Shouldn't we wait for the NAPWA autopsy (or at least wait for the criminal investigations to come to a resolution) before the same people are put in charge of a new organization?

  • No one wants a 'New' NAPWA, no one asked for a 'New' NAPWA'.

    The organization that claimed to be "most trusted voice" in the HIV and AIDS community has been disconnected from people most impacted by HIV & AIDS around the country for almost a decade now.

    NAPWA's direction, advocacy priorities, purpose, and practices have not kept up with the growing diverse populations and issues that post the Ryan White Care ACT epidemic has evolved. Even worse, when called upon to address the growing epidemic among women and girls, developing and supporting grassroots leadership nationwide, re-evaluating it's structure to be less dependent on pharmaceutical company 'gifts and sponsorship' while investing in community level resources, organizations, and networks to deliver more grassroots advocacy strength, visibility, and power, NAPWAs leadership chose not.

    Our advocacy strength and political influence as people living with HIV and AIDS will NOT be represented or branded by ANY organization buying our allegiance and "trust" with gifts and promises. HealthHIV should rethink it's goal of having this relationship with this so-called coalition. In fact, ALL coalitions, boards, and caucuses claiming to be the voice of people living with HIV & AIDS should not only re-evaluate their purpose, mission, and goals. Better yet, people living with HIV and AIDS should be a bit more discerning about those claiming to speak for us when most don't even speak to us.

    • Wow there is a lack of integrity with HealthHIV's decision to do this. Makes absolutely no sense and I agree with you Larry. There is a reason more than fiscal why the leadership of NAPWA caused it's doors to close, extremely bad idea to take that same leadership and form a new group. Bad decision all around.

    • just another way to get hands on more monies to put in pocket

    • I agree with Larry. What is needed is for the old guard to step aside and let some new voices, new legs, and most importantly, new ideas step forward. More of the same under a new name is just more of the same.

    • In my personal opinion, there is absolutely NO TRUST in anything to do with NAPWA or the former NAPWA or with anyone that had a part in it. ..They don't speak for me and never will. I agree with Larry 100% . When they so called advocates hit their asses out on the street and really advocate , then and only then I may allow them to speak for me.. This is a joke and and an insult! As for the old NAPWA, the old board members fell asleep at the wheel and let the organization go down!

    • Absolutely no way! How dare any of the beltway crown themselves ” the new advocacy organization”… The brainchild who came up with that is an absolute idiot. This will take away “scare resources” from legitimate organizations who truly do the work that many within the “Beltway” claim to do. Most of those beltway organizations are no more grass roots than a piece of astroturf and are self promoting fools. We at the "real"grassroots" level are sick of beltway organizations claiming something that they aren't.

  • No one wants a ‘New’ NAPWA, no one asked for a ‘New’ NAPWA’.

    The organization that claimed to be “most trusted voice” in the HIV and AIDS community has been disconnected from people most impacted by HIV & AIDS around the country for almost a decade now.

    NAPWA’s direction, advocacy priorities, purpose, and practices have not kept up with the growing diverse populations and issues that post the Ryan White Care ACT epidemic has evolved. Even worse, when called upon to address the growing epidemic among women and girls, developing and supporting grassroots leadership nationwide, re-evaluating it’s structure to be less dependent on pharmaceutical company ‘gifts and sponsorship’ while investing in community level resources, organizations, and networks to deliver more grassroots advocacy strength, visibility, and power, NAPWAs leadership chose not.

    Our advocacy strength and political influence as people living with HIV and AIDS will NOT be represented or branded by ANY organization buying our allegiance and “trust” with gifts and promises. HealthHIV should rethink it’s goal of having this relationship with this so-called coalition. In fact, ALL coalitions, boards, and caucuses claiming to be the voice of people living with HIV & AIDS should not only re-evaluate their purpose, mission, and goals. Better yet, people living with HIV and AIDS should be a bit more discerning about those claiming to speak for us when most don’t even bother to listen to or speak to us.

  • I am offended and maybe somewhat confused as to why Hudjich would not understand why an entire community would have issues and question their involvement. To think that this is just about financial non-accountability is an insult to the community that they were to serve. This was not a friendly separation of friends who decided that they wanted to travel different paths. Maybe the community that you have positioned yourself to serve no longer want to your service. Maybe this same community have decided that they are tired of being force fed "leadership" by those that are not leading toward an outcome that best meet the needs of the community that they are serving. So, I'm still not exactly clear as to why Hudjich doesn't see the problem, but I am sure that if he asked and listened to the community that would rectify that issue.

  • Thanks, Lou, for giving us the facts in a balanced way. Much gratitude to all the people with AIDS and our allies calling out Pozitively Healthy, Health HIV and old NAPWA hands back in business with a new name. Pozitively Healthy represents no one but themselves and NAPWA leaders still owe us answers about their incompetence.

  • As an accountability activist in Wisconsin I have been outraged over the treatment I received from Frank Oldham and the NAPWA leaders during the year leading up to the bankruptcy. The problems were apparent and the crisis was looming and all requests for information or clarification regarding mission were ignored. I dutifully paid by NAPWA dues, yet Oldham and other key staff refused to respond. The bankruptcy came as no surprise, yet there are so many unanswered questions that raise the very real possibility that there was malfeasance involved. We deserve answers; we deserve to know what the status is of the investigation into the finances of NAPWA and we deserve to know how the chief staff person left the agency owing his employer in excess of $80,000.00. Judy Billings was board chair of NAPWA for many years and is part of the “status quo” club and by joining hands with Frank Oldham and others is sending the message that it is business as usual.

    What is most concerning, though, is the judgement of Brian Hujdich of HealthHIV. He can talk all he wants about how Oldham, etal will not have financial oversight, yet in saying this, he proves that he simply does not get it and needs to get out of his ivory AIDS, Inc., tower and engage the broader HIV/AIDS community (yes—there is a community outside of the beltway) and he would quickly learn that he has aligned himself with failed from the beginning coalition of “leaders” who have lost all respect among the broader HIV/AIDS community. Brian Hujdich is needs to be accountable to the HIV community, especially since he has proclaimed that HealthHIV suddenly represents my interest as a person living with AIDS.

    Brian Hujdich and HealthHIV has flown under the accountability radar for far too long. With this doozy of a blunder, Hujdich has assured that HealthHIV and his stewardship of the organization will be the subject of much greater scrutiny from this point forward

  • It seems to me that before the NAPWA gang asks people with HIV around the country to support them in a new endeavor, they should be providing an explanation as to why the organization, under their leadership, went bankrupt. So far, we've gotten zip, let alone any kind of accountability or transparency. This has been a problem with NAPWA's leadership for a number of years and I'm afraid the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, so I'm not optimistic this new venture will be any different. The irony is that the authentic national networks of people with HIV in the U.S.–the Positive Women's Network, Int'l Community of Women with HIV/AIDS, Global Network of People With HIV/North American Chapter, Campaign to End AIDS and Sero Project–are working together more closely, cooperatively and respectfully than at any time in my memory, along with scores of statewide and local networks.

  • Frank J. Oldham, Jr.

    The work of Pozitively Healthy is Absolutely Paramount to 1.2 million People Living with HIV/AIDS in America. Pozitively Healthy’s work cannot be detracted by those who have personal issues against any one individual. I am resigning from Pozitively Healthy’s Steering Committee at this time and will work hard as a person living with HIV to ensure the success of the PLWHA Movement as I have done since 1988.

    • Absolutely no way! How dare any of you crown yourselves ” the new advocacy organization”… The brainchild who came up with that is an absolute idiot. This will take away “scare resources” from legitimate organizations who truly do the work that many within the “Beltway” claim to do. Most of those beltway organizations are no more grass roots than a piece of astroturf and are self promoting fools.

  • The work of Pozitively Healthy is Absoulutely Paramount to 1.2 million People Living with HIV/AIDS. Pozitively Healthy's work cannot be detracted by personal issues or any individuals. I am resigning from Pozitively Healthy's Steering Committee at this time and will continue to work hard as a person living with HIV to ensure the success of the PLWHA Movement as I have done since 1988. Frank J. Oldham, Jr.

  • Personally, I don't ride FERRIS WHEELS! I will watch what POSITIVELY HEALTHY does! If the STEERING COMMITTEE, contains the same LEADERSHIP from defunk NAPWA, I will continue to be INDEPENDENT and ADVOCATE for the VOICES AGAINST SILENCE!

  • Hi Frank,

    Thanks for doing the right thing. I hope you understand that answers are needed about what the heck led to the demise of NAPWA and your role in it. There may be a role for you to still play in PWA advocacy, but until such time as there is full transparency about the NAPWA going out of business, and the longstanding questions about you and the group being better at advocating for the CDC and AIDS Inc, you can expect loud and persistent criticism. The same goes for HealthHIV and how they’re trying to co-opt PWAs with their sham Pozitively Healthy group that is stacked with other NAPWA folks.

    Much gratitude to Lou Chibarro for a factual and balanced article, and to all the folks who made comments here!

  • Why the “special attention to African-American MSM [men who have sex with men], women, and transgender populations”? It’s tough being a gay white male these days…. I know, it’s where the money is. Also, it is appalling that folks that contributed to the demise of the previous organization are being brought into the leadership. Glad to see that Mr. Oldham has had the good sense to resign before this dragged much further down the road. Why this happened to begin shows a significant lack of judgment by the founders of this group looking for a fresh start.

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