HIV/AIDS: Groups Restructure In Response To Increased Funding Competition
AIDS patient advocacy groups in California, facing increased competition for federal and state funding, are being forced to reorganize financially and look for new ways to serve clients. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that "[a]lthough state and federal AIDS funding has remained constant, that money must be divided among an ever larger number of local agencies" as the disease spreads to "smaller cities, suburbs and rural regions."
Filling The Void
For instance, Concord's "fledgling AIDS Volunteer Resources" program is applying for nonprofit status to attract government grants and contracts, the Chronicle reports. The alliance is also choosing volunteers instead of full-time employees and seeking other ways to stretch dollars further. The Concord group is basing its approach on the "bitter lesson of last year's decision by the Oakland-based AIDS Alliance to pull up stakes in Contra Costa." The Oakland alliance, which focused on services at the expense of fundraising, found itself in a financial crisis that forced it to give just two weeks' notice before terminating a contract to serve 400 county residents, a decision that "frightened clients, shocked volunteers and puzzled the county." Other agencies took up the slack; the Contra Costa County health department, "along with the organization's former employees and volunteers, stepped in and guaranteed that clients would continue to receive the counseling, health care, household help and support they needed." The county also redistributed its $1.9 million in federal AIDS funding that was going to the departing Oakland AIDS Alliance and distributed it among four agencies that provide counseling and help direct AIDS and HIV patients to volunteer organizations.
AIDS Alliance President Elizabeth Grossman notes that, in part, "corporate and foundation support had tapered off because new drugs were introduced that halted the disease's progress in many patients." She said, "I think we were a victim of the good news on protease inhibitors." Derek Gordon of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation said that many private donors, "including those in the gay community," have reduced their funding as new therapies advance. He noted, "Some are starting to get burned out and moved on. To come this far and have people back away at the critical moment is disconcerting." Volunteers have replaced many of the professionals who originally served these organizations; the "shift from preparing to die to staying healthy is changing volunteers' work." Volunteers find themselves taking on new roles, including those of "job counselors, financial advisers and cheerleaders." Sheila Gutman, an AIDS Alliance volunteer from Walnut Creek, said she hardly noticed her organization's switch to all-volunteer status, saying, "Our group kind of never hiccupped during the entire transition" (Hytha, 4/18).