Help is here: William Harper and ASAP lead the way in Pinellas HIV/AIDS care

By : Ciara Varone
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William Harper WATERMARK MOST REMARKABLE PEOPLE 2015

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William Harper, executive director of AIDS Service Association of Pinellas, will celebrate 20 years with ASAP in May. During his tenure, he has served in different positions, but all with the same goal: Helping those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.

“I’ve worked my way through the ranks. I started out as a case manager, supervisor manager and then executive director,” Harper says. “I don’t come from my position of executive director as just strictly a business person. I come to it as a person who understands all of the needs of the organization and the community we serve.”

But being in charge hasn’t changed Harper’s personal approach to working with ASAP’s clients and staff.

“I take time with people. Everybody is important to me,” he says. “I feel my leadership style is definitely more of a partner than a superior type of thing. “

Harper’s leadership has led ASAP to new heights in a time when smaller AIDS service organizations are losing funding left and right.

“For ASAP, we’ve actually grown over the last several years, even through this rough time,” Harper says.

ASAP has added behavioral health services and counseling services, and grown its food and personal needs pantry, as well as its financial assistance program for clients.

By utilizing EMPATH’s pharmacy and the 340B Drug Discount Program, which allows eligible pharmacies to purchase drugs at significantly lower prices and then bill insurance companies at the normal rates, Harper has helped ensure ASAP’s financial security for years to come.

“The great part is, God forbid, we lose one of the grants or something that we have, we don’t have to lay off people. We don’t have to tell clients, ‘so sorry we can’t serve you anymore.’” Harper says.

ASAP has also used the pharmacy’s funds along with donations from the community to partner with Pinellas Care Clinic, working on its Home 3050 expansion, which is expected to open debt-free in the spring of 2016. It was Harper’s idea to bring this all-inclusive center to Pinellas County, where service locations are currently scattered.

“Your commitment must be that you reinvest your earnings back into the program and to the clients and services. So that’s exactly what we tried to do,” he says.

In addition to his success at ASAP, Harper works hard to be a good son, donating much of his time recently to his mother, who suffers from a debilitating back problem. Harper has been spending his weekends in Lakeland helping her heal from two major surgeries.

“It has taken me away from being as involved in the community as I’d like to be. I feel that’s unfortunate and I’m sorry about that… but I can’t apologize for putting my family first because that’s the most important thing to me in the world,” he says.

But he has still been able to help the LGBT community through his position of power.

“I have a personal commitment to that as well, as a gay man. I want to make sure that our community receives all of the services that they need.”

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