SAN FRANCISCO: AIDS Fundraising More Difficult As Demographics Shift
The changing face of AIDS from white, gay and male to black, poor and female is posing problems for AIDS advocacy groups in California's East Bay area. The Contra Costa Times reports that the rising prevalence of HIV among poor and disenfranchised groups "seems to ... translate into less advocacy from community leaders, corporate donors and other bases of local power." AIDS awareness programs in the East Bay area are struggling to convey their prevention messages, while just across the bay, San Francisco political activists run well-funded information and service programs. When AIDS first emerged in San Francisco, the city's gay population was "well established" within the "corridors of power," and "political leaders and the medical community joined the effort to make AIDS a public health priority." San Francisco, which now has 25,494 cases of AIDS, "was soon regarded as an international model for how to respond to the crisis," the Contra Costa Times notes. But in nearby Alameda County, which reports 5,231 AIDS cases -- a majority of whom are minorities -- similar broad-based efforts have not emerged. Organized AIDS advocacy groups "still [don't] exist," according to Dr. Robert Scott, board president of the AIDS Project of the East Bay. "With the shift in the disease to a poorer population, those are not people who are easily mobilized. We now have this marginalized patient base that we're serving," he said. The Contra Costa Times reports that the majority of the AIDS Project's 1,000 patients "scrape by on roughly $650 a month in AIDS-related disability payments. Ninety-five percent are black," and do not receive treatment until the disease has progressed to a critical stage. Most have a history of drug abuse. Amelia Funghi, a senior case manager at AIDS Project said, "The folks we see ... don't have friends who are going to get out and lobby or march, or even families who will take them in when they get sick. It's a cultural difference, not just about ethnicity; it's a culture of poverty."
The AIDS Project of the East Bay expects to raise around $25,000 this year from its largest fundraiser. By contrast, the AIDS Foundation of San Francisco anticipates raising "more than $3.5 million during the July 19 AIDS Walk." The San Francisco AIDS Foundation operates on a budget of $18 million per year, almost 80% of which comes from private donations, while across the bay the AIDS Project operates on one tenth of that -- only $1.8 million -- nearly all of which is subsidized by the government. The AIDS Project's fundraiser reportedly was "snubbed" by community and corporate leaders. "It's like yelling and no one's hearing you," said Robert Daniel, the group's event coordinator. He added, "The black community is being hit very, very hard. We've had clients in the hospital dying alone. In San Francisco, you're not stigmatized. (The stigma is) still very alive and well in Oakland" (Mcmillan, 7/12).