Competition for Federal Funding Causes ‘Friction’ Among AIDS Agencies in Florida
The number of agencies seeking federal AIDS funding in Central Florida doubled between 1999 and 2000, leading to infighting and "increasing friction" among groups, the Orlando Business Journal reports (Lundine, Orlando Business Journal, 3/26). Controversy over grant applications began last week after the AIDS Resource Alliance, "one of the largest single providers of AIDS services in Orlando," was denied federal funds for turning in its application 59 seconds late. Several other agencies were also denied funding for submitting late proposals ( Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/21). At a recent Orange County Commission meeting addressing the application, ARA representative Donna Smith was booed by other AIDS agency representatives. The reaction was "symptomatic" of the friction and "hostility" growing between local agencies, the Journal reports. Health officials only expect the infighting to increase as the number of AIDS agencies "rapidly expands and an already modest pot of government money available to those agencies neglects to keep pace with that growth." Jerry Kinzler, executive director of Turning Point of Central Florida, which provides HIV clients with substance abuse counseling, said, "There is never enough money for any agency, so they are put in a position of being competitive, which isn't in the best interest of the clients. And that is a shame."
Funding Not Following Epidemic's Shifts
The money shortage in Florida is representative of a national trend, the Journal reports. As the epidemic shifts from white gay communities to minority communities, more community-tailored agencies are being established. "[P]eople in the community are calling for the dollars to follow the epidemic," Ernest Hopkins, director of federal affairs for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, said. However, federal funds have "barely" grown, resulting in "[i]ncreasingly smaller amounts" being given to "increasingly larger numbers of agencies," the Journal reports. In central Florida, an estimated 8,525 HIV-positive residents are "[c]aught in the middle" of the funding struggle. Smith said that they could be better served and the federal money better spent if local agencies cooperated. She proposed a collaboration among agencies in Orange, Lake and Osceola counties to create a "one-stop" AIDS office, which would offer housing and other services. Kinzler called Smith's plan an "excellent" idea, adding that a one-stop service is "the one thing our community lacks." But Marilyn Carifi, executive director of Hope & Help Center of Central Florida, said that Smith's proposal would drive people who are worried about protecting their anonymity "underground." People in rural counties are "reluctant to go to places that are known to serve the HIV community," she said, adding that they "prefer" to go to Orlando to remain anonymous. Competition also creates more choices for clients, she said, and "forc[es]" agencies to "provide the best possible services" (Orlando Business Journal, 3/26).