OAKLAND - Three community agencies in Alameda County that
target African Americans have lost $900,000 in federal funding
for AIDS education - a cut that public health officials and
advocates say leaves a vacuum in services for a group whose
numbers in the epidemic are surging.
Although only 17 percent of Alameda County residents are black,
they constitute 41 percent of AIDS cases, according to the
county Health Department; 54 percent of black people with AIDS
are gay men; 25 percent are intravenous drug users.
Since the awards from the Centers for Disease Control in
Atlanta were announced this past spring, critics have charged
that the CDC has abandoned organizations that serve black
The issue has gained so much attention that the NAACP and the
Congressional Black Caucus are making inquiries into CDC
funding decisions across the country.
Rep. Ron Dellums, D-Oakland, has written to the U.S. Department
of Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala and the
CDC requesting reviews of the Alameda County grants. "Our
community's needs cannot go unmet," said Dellums aide Michael
Riggs. "We're in an emergency situation and something must be
The African American AIDS Support and Survival Institute
(AMASSI), AIDS Project East Bay and California Prevention and
Education Project had received $300,000 each for the past three
years for education.
This year, only two community organizations in Alameda County,
both in Oakland, received CDC grants: Asian Health Services -
which was granted $300,000 last year - received $246,000 to
serve Asian/Pacific Islander youth, and La Clinica de la Raza
received $150,000 to serve IV drug users in the San Antonio and
Record 482 agencies compete
Mary Willingham, a public health advisor for the CDC's division
of HIV/AIDS Prevention, said that this year a record 482 U.S.
organizations applied for 94 awards totaling $17 million.
Seventy of the 94 awards went to organizations that serve
But Christopher Smith, program director of New Village in San
Francisco, said that while some organizations may serve black
people, it doesn't necessarily mean they reach them.
"The money's not going to organizations that are by, for and
about the target population," Smith said. Often, he said, such
groups use a model that works for white groups. When this
strategy works, he said, it usually reaches middle-class and
"What about the person who's on the street or the person in the
inner city that's struggling with their sexuality, or who's
trying to find health care or a meal?" he asked. "By and large,
that's where the epidemic is living."
This year, Alameda County lost $800,000 in CDC funding, putting
added pressure on the county Office of AIDS, which has only
$1.3 million in state and county money to cover education and
prevention programs for 1.3 million people. Education programs
for black gay men receive 8 percent of the funds.
Roosevelt Mosby, an AIDS activist and gay black man who lives
in Oakland, said the county needs to redirect money to the
community hit hardest: African American men who have sex with
"When I first came to California (nine years ago), I didn't
know people getting HIV who were African American," Mosby said.
"Now . . . I've seen a lot of people die. In 1997, we are still
having the same struggle (convincing people) that it is time
for you all to fund us."
Education called crucial
Experts say that reducing the number of AIDS cases in the black
community hinges on education. Before the CDC cut funding,
AMASSI and the AIDS Project East Bay mostly educated black gay
men, while Cal-PEP focused predominantly on black prostitutes
and their partners.
Such education is crucial, says Dr. Robert Scott. Scott, an
Oakland internist who handles AIDS patients, recalled a
24-year-old man who recently discovered he was HIV-positive.
"He started having sex at 14. He has three children (aged 7 to
10). He was incarcerated when he found out," Scott said. "This
was a man who had no idea he was at risk. People don't realize
they're putting themselves at risk. Those kids in high school
are going out to take these chances."
San Francisco AIDS education consultant Toni Young sees a
crisis at many levels for the groups: Most don't pursue private
dollars; the success of protease inhibitors has made AIDS less
of a priority for some; and an influx of low-income people -
displaced from razed San Francisco housing projects - has
increased pressure on the county.
"We have to figure out how to support Alameda County, which
will always live in San Francisco's shadow," Young said.
Michael Shaw, education and prevention director for the Office
of AIDS in Oakland, said part of the problem has been that the
people most willing to start an organization sometimes lack the
expertise to manage big budgets.
For example, AMASSI was told it was too fiscally and
administratively unsound to receive money - a charge that
stemmed from a 1996 county audit recommending improved
Although the county had offered to help the organization and
act as its fiscal agent, the CDC denied the grant request
Cal-PEP also has a mark on its record: In 1993, the state fined
the organization for financial mismanagement. But because
Cal-PEP appealed the claim and won, Shaw believes it had little
effect on the CDC's decision. In fact, Cal-PEP has a $288,138
grant from the San Francisco AIDS Office.
Dellums writes to CDC
Dellums wants the CDC to reconsider its decision not to fund
Oakland's African American programs. In an Aug. 18 letter to
the CDC, he suggested it offer such organizations technical
assistance to improve management and accounting. If that
doesn't work, he wrote, the CDC should grant the funds to the
county office, which could administer them to an organization
it would monitor.
But others, including AIDS patient advocate Earnest Hite, say
the county is to blame for not contributing more to battling
the problem. Alameda contributes just $150,000 of its
$1.3million education prevention budget.
AIDS office director Ronald Person said the county is looking
for funds to soften the blow felt by the three programs.
"We definitely won't be able to match the $900,000 that was
lost," he said, "but we're going to try to do what we can."