Cop, criminal defense lawyer work to combat AIDS

first_img September 1, 2003 Daniel Staesser Assistant Editor Regular News Cop, criminal defense lawyer work to combat AIDS Cop, criminal defense lawyer work to combat AIDS Assistant EditorWhen street-savvy ex-cop Antelmo “Andy” Terrades met criminal defense lawyer Robert Pelier, he was in need of legal services. He would get more than he bargained for. The unlikely pair forged a friendship, an alchemic relationship formed from two similarly tempered pasts.Terrades’ brother-in-law had been infected with HIV/AIDS and died from the disease in December 2000. Being around the disease was nothing new to Terrades, who had lived in Peru throughout the early 1990s, where he said the disease was not accepted. He said nobody told their families if they had acquired HIV, for fear they would be ashamed. Inspired to make a difference and to promote awareness, Terrades began fighting the imminent epidemic.In the summer of 2000, Terrades was contacted by a German company called Gei Fer, an organization that promoted and provided rapid diagnostic testing programs for infectious diseases. The company had gone belly-up due to lack of funding and Terrades was asked to continue the programs.That August, Terrades began his own organization called International Public Safety Associates. Funded by The Global Fund, a reserve organized by the United Nations, and through secondary resources such as hospitals, IPSA has started rapid diagnostic testing programs throughout Latin America, including in Brazil, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic.Pelier partnered up for the cause having lost a family friend to the disease. He said he saw the opportunity as one of both personal importance and professional possibility.“We are in Miami, which is a prime location to really help adopt a hemispheric approach to the war on HIV,” said Pelier.Evidence indicates that migration, immigration, travel, tourism, and social/sexual behaviors allow the disease to transcend the geographical parameters in both Latin America and the Carribean nations. As Miami is often referred to as a gateway to Florida, AIDS could have a more significant state impact if measures are not taken to educate these specific areas.The first of these measures involves outreach. With support from organizations such as Christian Children in Action and Corrazones Unidos, a nonprofit group that helps administer the tests, Terrades and Pelier go into target countries and perform what they call voluntary counseling and testing (VCT).An educational element is administered on the importance of such things as abstinence and condoms. Then they provide testing kits, purchased by the host government after a pilot program, and wait for the 15-minute results.Representing Hema Diagnostic Systems, IPSA administers a rapid diagnostic testing process similar to a home pregnancy test. The test, a demonstration of which can be viewed at www.rapid123.com, is both simple and cost-effective at under $12 per kit.If a negative result appears, those tested are on their way, better educated on the disease and ready to inform others in the communities. If positive, testees begin a nutritional program which emphasizes the necessity of protein in a daily diet.“They need a special diet, a high protein diet,” said Terrades. “I’ve seen it through my brother-in-law.”With a primary staff of seven and as many consultants, IPSA uses technology that came into testing about five years ago.“We’re not just reinventing the wheel,” said Pelier. “These are tried components and principles espoused by the UN and CDC.”The Center for Disease Control, which estimates around 42 million people are living with HIV/AIDS, indicates a growth rate of 510 new cases per day in the areas where IPSA is testing.With no other similar organization in the world, Terrades and Pelier agree that part of the reason for IPSA’s success is their outreach capability. Terrades said that standard testing for the disease, which is virtually unaccessible to rural areas, requires two weeks for results, after which time many people just do not return. The rapid testing allows help to be administered almost immediately.Another reason for the partners’ success is what each brings to the table. Terrades, formerly of the City of Miami Police Department, has had experience in implementing public safety programs, has seen first-hand the poverty-ridden areas of South, Central and Latin America, and has a familiarity with government officials, a qualification that “helps cut through the bureaucratic red tape,” said Pelier.“Robert brings in more of the intellectual capacity and handles all the corporate matters,” said Terrades. “He is the public speaker for the company.”Working with host law firms such as Meloe Associados, in the Dominican Republic, Pelier presents a formal aspect of the organization with structuring and negotiating agreements, and brings to the table a vital knowledge of privacy and health laws.Despite their differences in backgrounds, Pelier’s intellectual ability and Terrades’ street mettle have galvanized to wield a staunch sword against the HIV/AIDS epidemic.last_img read more