Arlington County Manager Anton Gardner, responding to reports that the county has nearly one-quarter of all AIDS cases in Virginia, has formed a citizen advisory committee on the disease.
Seven people have agreed to serve on the panel, which is charged with determining whatkinds of county-sponsored programs should be instituted to educate people about acquired immune deficiency syndrome as well as to help patients who have the disease, Gardner said.
The committee is to make recommendations to the county manager and the county board after reviewing proposals from a consortium of local health and community organizations and county staff members.
"The citizens group will serve as a kind of sounding board for the specific things that the professionals come up with," said Ron Carlee, acting director of Arlington's Department of Human Services, the agency responsible for providing AIDS-related services.
"I see this as a positive way to look at problems. The biggest job is to educate the public and to cope with unfounded fears that still exist about the disease," said committee member John Whitener, who works for the American Optometric Association.
When selecting committee members, Carlee said, he tried to find people who represent a broad section of the community. Several, such as Whitener, volunteered.
Tasks of the committee include recommendating a comprehensive education program, reviewing county budget proposals for AIDS-related programs and services, and advising the county manager on legislative and public policy issues, such as mandatory testing. The committee's first meeting is set for Aug. 11.
In addition to Whitener, committee members are the Rev. Louis Hunter, a minister at Lomax AME Zion Church in South Arlington; Catherine Wang, a lawyer; John Marshall, a manager with the U.S. Department of Agriculture; Patricia Jones, of the Hospice Association of America; Bobbie Schanzenbach, who recently retired as director of the Northern Virginia Hotline, and Rebecca Leet, a community activist and communications consultant. Several additional members are expected to be appointed this week, Carlee said.
Representatives from community organizations that deal with AIDS have been invited to attend a meeting today to discuss how they can help the county develop strategies, Carlee said.
Between the consortium of organizations and the citizens advisory committee, Carlee said, he thinks the county government is reaching out to Arlington's diverse community.
"If we've left someone out, we welcome them to come," he said.