Monday, June 17, 2013

What on earth is HIV planning, anyway?

We do it, the health department does it, the community does it, and providers do it.  HIV planning is pretty much our bread and butter around here - we are, after all, the Office of HIV Planning.  But what does that mean?  (Hint: no, we don't plan HIV.)

Ok, give me the details.

Every year, our area gets money directly from the federal government to help with the cost of HIV care and prevention in the Philadelphia area.  (For care, this money covers Philly and eight surrounding counties.  Prevention money is just for Philly.)  The feds know that each city has different needs, so they ask every city to come up with its own plan for how they'll spend the money.  That's where community planning comes in.  We have one group that works on the care side (the Ryan White Planning Council, or RWPC), and one group that deals with prevention (soon to be the HIV Prevention Planning Group, or HPG).  Both groups meet here at the Office of HIV Planning.

Great, but what do they do?

For starters, they have a lot of meetings in our office.  Each planning body has its own monthly meetings, plus committees to deal with specific issues or processes.  Who comes to these meetings, you ask? At least two of our own staff, plus planning body members, HIV service providers, health department staff, and community members (including people living with HIV/AIDS).  What's the point of all these meetings? To plan HIV services in our area.

The topics covered in each meeting vary, but they all have the ultimate goal of making HIV services better and more effective.  We talk about the needs of the community, and sometimes we do surveys or focus groups to get more information.  Other times we talk about the services and how they work.  We also try to stay up to date on the latest news on funding, federal and local policy, and more.  Our office takes the discussion from the meetings and works along with the health department to work some magic.  We document the meetings, do research, and otherwise get a lot of the legwork done so the planning bodies can focus on making educated decisions.  Then we bring our work back to whichever group requested it, so they can use that information as they plan the services.

Sounds like you've got this under control.  Why do you need me?

Ah, thank you.  Here's the thing:  we can do research until the end of time, but it's not the same as getting real input from people that live and work in our community.  There aren't too many opportunities for you to have an impact on the way an entire system works, but this is one of them.  You get to work with other dedicated individuals to make HIV care and prevention work better. 

You sold me.  How do I get involved?

That depends on how much time you have to give.  The HIV Prevention Planning Group (HPG) is taking applications for new members through Tuesday, June 18 at 5 p.m.  You can apply here, and then send your resume and personal statement to  You can also learn more about the Ryan White Planning Council (RWPC) on our website.  (They accept applications on a rolling basis - their next round will be in the fall.) Can't make a commitment right now?  Register as a community expert and we'll call on you when we need your expertise.  You can also attend a meeting, call us at 215.574.6760, or email me at

Briana Morgan is a health planner and website coordinator at the Office of HIV Planning. You can also find her on Google+.

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