Vermont CARES Rejects Federal Money Over Concerns That New Rules Will Hinder Goal of Preventing Spread of HIVVermont CARES, the state's largest AIDS organization, has decided not to seek or accept a three-year, $100,000 annual federal grant out of concern that new regulations would hinder its goal of preventing the spread of HIV, the AP/Barre-Montpelier Times Argus reports (Sneyd, AP/Barre-Montpelier Times Argus, 11/26). Vermont CARES provides counseling, resources and education services to people in 10 of the state's 14 counties, according to the AP/Times Argus (AP/Barre-Montpelier Times Argus, 11/26). The group "particularly" opposes a new CDC survey that asks clients questions about their sexual practices, frequency of sexual activity and drug use practices and provides "unique identifiers" that allow for tracking responses through a federal database, according to the AP/Times Argus. Vermont CARES "worries" that such a practice might put people who already are "reluctant" to seek services at risk of being publicly identified, the AP/Times Argus reports. The group also disagrees with being "pressured" to use CDC's recommended prevention strategies -- which have been shown to be effective in urban areas -- instead of methods the group believes are more successful in rural areas, the AP/Times Argus reports. In addition, the group objects to two new messages that CDC wants the groups it funds to relay: abstinence is the most effective method of prevention and condoms are not 100% effective, according to the AP/Times Argus.
Peter Jacobsen, director of prevention for Vermont CARES, said, "In essence, a lot of the [CDC] mandates revolved around what we perceived as a threat to anonymity for people receiving prevention services." Vermont CARES Executive Director Kendall Farrell said, "The message that we want to put out there is that CARES is taking a stand based on our principles, based on our mission, that we don't want to compromise our mission." The organization instead will apply for additional foundation grants and attempt to raise money through fundraising appeals, according to the AP/Times Argus. Other organizations throughout the state have applied for the CDC grant money (Sneyd, AP/Barre-Montpelier Times Argus, 11/26). The CDC funds would have accounted for about 12% of the group's $800,000 annual budget and about 40% of its budget for prevention activities (AP/Barre-Montpelier Times Argus, 11/26).