Lack of Funding, Inaccurate Public Perception Lead Atlanta Advocacy Group To Close
Public perception that the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the U.S. is under control and increased competition for grants has led the Atlanta-based not-for-profit group AIDS Survival Project to shut down operations, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. ASP provides HIV/AIDS testing and training for people living with HIV/AIDS to counsel peers, lobby politicians and educate the public. ASP's testing program will continue until June 2009 but other operations will end on Dec. 31.
Leaders of the group, which had a $1 million budget this year, said increasing difficulties in fundraising led to the decision to close rather than face a budget crunch, according to the Journal-Constitution. Melanie Sovine, executive director of ASP, said a majority of HIV/AIDS-related funding is "going to medical care, substance abuse, to (counseling) agencies with licensed professionals," rather than peer counseling and advocacy groups such as ASP.
Tracy Elliot -- executive director of AID Atlanta, another service agency in the city-- said that the inaccurate public perception that HIV/AIDS is under control in the U.S. is making is difficult for advocacy groups such as ASP to find funding. "We don't see AIDS as a problem in our society anymore," Elliot said.
Georgia has seen a 24% increase in new cases since 2004, and 32,000 Georgians are living with HIV/AIDS, according to the Georgia Division of Public Health and CDC. Elliot said the "biggest loss" in ASP's closing is the "voice ASP had in the fight." According to the Journal-Constitution, signature projects of ASP like Thrive Weekend -- a two day education and networking event for people living with HIV/AIDS -- currently are being transferred to other local organizations, such as AIDS Alliance Northwest Georgia (Quinn, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 9/26).