April 12, 2005
COLOR THEM SHADY: Communities of Color Go Without While City Sits on AIDS Dollars
Last June, the New York City Council did the right thing when it came to combating HIVAIDS in communities of color, hard-hit by the epidemic: It appropriated $6 million specifically for organizations in such communities to provide HIVAIDS prevention, education, outreach, advocacy and support services to vulnerable folks, especially women. Even better? It threw in an extra $2.7 million in "emergency funding" for some of the same communities, including faith-based ones.
If only the follow-up were as rosy. Even though the City Council has nominally earmarked that total $8.7 million for 188 awards to community-based organizations, to date only 23 of those contracts have been registered. The rest are languishing somewhere within the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH). More outrageous is the DOHMH's flagrant dismissal of original language saying the money would go not only to prevention but education, outreach, advocacy and services. Right now, the department is only allowing organizations to use the funds for prevention. That just ain't the whole picture.
Talk about shady math: If all 23 contracts registered to date were awarded at the maximum $47,000 each, that would mean that only a bit more than $1 million of the total $8.7 million has so far actually made its way into needy communities. At this rate, all those unused millions will likely find their way back into the coffers of the DOHMH, because groups are required to spend down their full awards by June 30th. As needed as the funds are, who can put them to use in a mere six weeks?
Call the mayor at 212-788-3000 and health commissioner Tom Frieden, MD, at 212-788-5261 and demand that they speed up the release of these millions of AIDS dollars for communities of color -- and that they extend the period in which groups can use the funds to December 1, 2005 -- World AIDS Day. Anything less, and it's hard to believe that this Department of Health cares about stopping HIVAIDS in vulnerable populations as much as it does about getting international publicity for single cases of multidrug-resistant virus.