Tightening the red ribbon

By |2018-01-16T13:10:24-05:00January 21st, 2010|News|

by Jessica Carreras

Several of Michigan’s HIV/AIDS organizations may have a tough 2010.
As the Michigan Department of Community Health’s HIV/AIDS Prevention and Intervention Section made their announcements in response to requests for funding, several organizations say they are feeling the hurt of the economy more than ever.
“Unfortunately, we have seen an increase in clients through the direct care side,” said Leon Golson, director of prevention programs at Ann Arbor’s HIV/AIDS Resource Center. “But their funding is getting tighter.”
Worse than direct care funding, however, is the money coming in for prevention services.
Golson noted that out of over $4 million asked for by state HIV agencies, only around $2.5 million was available. In HARC’s case, this meant that one of the grants they applied for asking for $85,000 was completely rejected, while another for $130,000 yielded them $5,000 over that amount. “But of course,” noted Golson, “there are a couple of added objectives that came with that increase.”
Doing more with less appears to be the name of the game. The Michigan AIDS Coalition, based out of Ferndale, lost $170,000 this year, compared to their 2009 award from the MDCH. Another $80,000 will be gone in 2011, reported MAC Chief Operating Officer Craig Covey. As a result, MAC had to cut hours and institute temporary layoffs for some, while also reducing advertising budgets and freezing wages for over two years.
But the biggest hits for MAC are coming to their programming. Covey said the organization will be losing several prevention programs, including the Popular Opinion Leader HIV education, Alcohol/Drug Awareness Prevention and Training and the Positive Perspectives speakers bureau programs.
“Like all organizations, Michigan AIDS Coalition is suffering from large budget cuts and reductions in donations due to the bad economic times,” Covey said of the cuts.
“In our 22-year history, we had never had to lay off staff members or had a payless payday. But even with the large cuts we are making to our budget now, we will continue to strive to protect the vital programs we provide to the GLBT community around HIV AIDS prevention and education.”
As such, MAC CEO Helen Hicks added that the agency will strive to continue its prevention programming without the help of the MDCH.
Likewise, HARC plans to try to continue their prevention programming as best as possible, but admitted that some cuts are inevitable, such as with their incentives program, which offers cash awards to HARC clients who bring in others for testing and treatment. “We were funded to do (a referral program), but at the same time, there still isn’t a whole bunch of money to increase those incentives a great deal,” Golson explained. “It is a heavily incentive-based program.”
Prevention supply funding has also been sliced by HARC to fit their new budget, meaning less availability of such things as condoms, lube and literature on HIV and STDs.
Even HIV agencies in the state that have not seen the cuts HARC and MAC are struggling with are having to pinch pennies.
AIDS Partnership Michigan received grant increases of $54,088 for 2010 and $81,130 for the two following years from MDCH’s HAPIS program. While APM Executive Director Barb Murray was happy to report state funding increases, she claimed that other areas of funding were still tough. “What has become difficult in the economic collapse, particularly with the automotive industry, is fundraising,” Murray noted. “Most nonprofits have had this experience.”
Hicks of MAC concurred, explaining that 55 percent of her agency’s funds come from state and federal dollars, while only 10 percent comes from events and personal donations from individuals yield the smallest amount of their income at 5 percent.
As a result, MAC has begun holding monthly breakfasts, inviting anyone and everyone to come in and hear about the organization, in hopes that the community will feel more personally connected to them.
Golson simply stated that during such tough economic times, the key was for agencies to remain committed to their ultimate goal: helping HIV-positive Michiganders. “I would ask for agencies to be encouraged and to try and keep the focus, as difficult as it is, on the important aspect of what we do,” he said. “I think we should appreciate what we are able to do and what we do have and keep the focus on what it’s all about, and that’s providing services to those clients.”

About the Author:

Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.