Fired Director of St. Louis AIDS Agency Acknowledges Mistake, Wants Job Back
Erise Williams, former executive director of St. Louis-based Blacks Assisting Blacks Against AIDS who was fired at the beginning of the month after the organization used money to hire a gay adult film star for an event, on Tuesday during an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said that he "acknowledges" that he made a mistake and wants his job back, the Post-Dispatch reports (Freeman, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 11/7). The BABAA board on Nov. 1 fired both Williams and James Green, BABAA senior director, after the City of St. Louis Department of Health began investigating on behalf of the CDC allegations that the organization in July used federal money from a $96,000 CDC grant to fight syphilis to pay Edgar Gaines, a retired gay pornographic film actor, to strip at a sex education event. A former BABAA employee alleged that Gaines appeared at the event wearing only a towel and boots, stripped naked and allowed attendees to "fondle" him. Bruce Hopson, an attorney representing BABAA, acknowledged that the group paid Gaines $500 from the organization's grant to have him speak at the event and that Gaines was wearing only a towel and boots, but he added that Gaines "did not strip for anybody, and nobody touched him" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/7). In the interview, Williams conceded that hiring Gaines to speak was "probably not the best idea" but added that HIV/AIDS organizations must be "innovative" in order to reach "high-risk members of the community." Williams "vehemently denied" that Gaines stripped naked or allowed anyone to touch him. According to the Post-Dispatch, the vice chair of the BABAA board last week said that no evidence had so far been discovered to support the allegation. Williams, who had been the head of BABAA for 13 years, said that his work with the organization was "the most important work I've ever done," adding, "I want to go back to doing what I've dedicated my life to" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 11/7).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.