San Francisco Receives ‘Lion’s Share’ of AIDS Funding, But ‘Squanders’ Funds, Op-Ed Says
San Francisco has "long been considered the model for other cities struggling to cope" with HIV/AIDS, and recent CDC studies suggest the city's infection rates may actually be below the national average. But city AIDS organizations continue to lobby for and receive large proportions of federal HIV/AIDS dollars, perhaps at the expense of other areas, Wayne Turner, co-founder of the Washington, D.C., chapter of ACT UP, writes in a San Francisco Chronicle op-ed. For example, Turner says, the San Francisco-based AIDS Health Project, which received nearly $1 million in federal grants last year, sponsors events such as "HIV bowling nights" and "interactive" dating workshops, while the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, with a budget of more than $18 million, in 1999 reported it spent $1.7 million on lobbying efforts to increase its funding. "To be fair, [the funding] is largely because San Francisco was, in the early years, ground zero of the AIDS epidemic in America," Turner says. However, the epidemic has shifted, largely to "poor" African Americans, in part due to "enduring socioeconomic disparities like lack of access to medical care." Turner says that while San Francisco continues to garner about $50 million in federal HIV/AIDS funds each year, states such as Alabama, South Carolina and West Virginia, which receive smaller allocations, have waiting lists for their AIDS Drug Assistance Programs, while other states have to limit the drugs they make available through ADAPs.
In addition to raising concern over the amount of money received by San Francisco, Turner questions what proportion of the funds actually reach "those who need it most" and the "quality of services provided." He writes that more than 3,400 people remain on the city's waiting list for housing assistance and others "face a bewildering array of paperwork" before receiving assistance, he states. These are "legitimate questions," Turner concludes (Turner, San Francisco Chronicle, 6/3).