Former Employees Allege That St. Louis AIDS Organization Used Federal Money to Pay for Male Stripper at ‘Safer Sex’ Event
The City of St. Louis Department of Health last week announced that it has begun investigating on behalf of the CDC allegations that the HIV/AIDS organization Blacks Assisting Blacks Against AIDS in July used federal money to pay for a gay adult film star to strip at a "safer sex" event, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Kevin Coleman, BABAA's former youth center director who said he was "let go" on Oct. 4 after filing a sexual harassment charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, told the St. Louis Civil Rights Enforcement Agency and the health department that Edgar Gaines, an actor in gay pornographic movies, appeared wearing only a towel and boots, stripped naked and allowed people to "fondle" him at an event held at the home of BABAA Executive Director Erise Williams. Coleman said he complained to Williams about the event that night. Another former BABAA employee, who said he was fired on Friday and who wished to remain anonymous, confirmed Coleman's description of the event. Bruce Hopson, an attorney representing BABAA, said that the group paid Gaines $500 from the organization's $96,000 CDC grant to fight syphilis to speak at the event but added that Gaines "did not strip for anybody, and nobody touched him." Hopson conceded that Gaines was wearing only a towel and boots but "[t]hat doesn't mean he stripped." According to Coleman, approximately 24 men, most of whom were members of BABAA's Harambee Empowerment Center for Youth, which includes members as young as age 13, attended the event with Gaines. Hopson said that no members under age 18 attended the event. Gaines said that he "basically" only spoke about safe sex at the party, adding, "I am retired from the movies, but people look up to me, so I can be a good voice to inform people to practice safe sex." Williams could not be reached for comment, according to the Post-Dispatch. Dr. Hugh Stallworth, city health director, called the allegations "quite serious" and added that if the health department determines that the group "inappropriate[ly]" spent the grant money, the department could freeze the grant or force BABAA to reimburse the amount misused (O'Neil, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 10/29).
Editorial Says AIDS Groups Play 'Hanky-Panky' With Public Funding
"Whatever the outcome" of the CDC investigation of the BABAA event, "it's worth noting this isn't the first time AIDS awareness groups have been accused of playing hanky-panky with federal funds," a Washington Times editorial states. The editorial cites a San Francisco AIDS Foundation-sponsored event that featured an "orgasm coach" and a Stop AIDS Project seminar titled "The Basics of Sadomasochism." The editorial states that in addition to sexually explicit events, some officials with AIDS groups misuse federal money through spending on personal items, such as calls to psychic hotlines, shopping trips and luxury cars. "Of course, the government has an important role in funding research and programs designed to combat the spread of deadly diseases. But misuse of those funds by health organizations only hurts those whom they are dedicated to helping," the editorial concludes (Washington Times, 10/31).