Employee Fired From St. Louis Black AIDS Group Establishes New Minority Health Group
A former employee of the St. Louis-based group Blacks Assisting Blacks Against AIDS has launched his own not-for-profit group aimed at helping African Americans and other minorities combat diseases, including HIV/AIDS, that disproportionately affect their communities, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports (Hollinshed, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2/23). The board of BABAA, which is now known as REACH St. Louis, in November 2002 fired Erise Williams, who served as its director, after the City of St. Louis Department of Health began investigating on behalf of CDC allegations that BABAA had used federal money to pay a retired gay pornographic film actor to strip at a sex education event. The funds were part of a $96,000 grant to fight syphilis. The BABAA board also fired Senior Director James Green over the incident (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/16/03). Williams said that being fired from BABAA was "life-changing," adding, "It was like a part of my life being sucked out of me because I had, some time ago, decided to dedicate my life to it."
Williams now heads a group called Williams and Associates, which aims to "serve as a catalyst in the fight against HIV/AIDS ... while providing life-enhancing education, disease prevention, health promotion and care services that address the health disparities of minorities in the St. Louis region with particular regard to African Americans," according to its mission statement. Williams said that while working to fight HIV/AIDS, he has become "concerned" about other health issues facing minority groups, including diabetes, high blood pressure, mental illness and substance abuse, according to the Post-Dispatch. He said, "I feel an obligation to the people who have gone from this devastating disease, and I also have an obligation to protect and do what I can to assure the future generation that this isn't something that they have to live with." The organization currently is funded by several small grants; Williams and five other volunteers, including Green, are not paid. Williams is currently working as a teacher's assistant, according to the Post-Dispatch (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2/23).