The CDC axes AIDS orgs in its newest funding follies

On May 21, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced its 2004 community-based organization (CBO) AIDS grantees, and, like kids on Christmas morning, groups nationwide awoke to see whether they’d been deemed naughty or nice. The CDC says it gave $49 million to 142 organizations that “know best how to address HIV in their communities.” But it dispensed $6 million less than last year, and 99 former recipients, now rejected, have been scrambling to get back in Santa’s good graces.

Mark McLaurin, chairman of the Prevention Defense Working Group, a DC-based lobbying group, calculates a 42 percent decrease in direct prevention funds for the top six urban areas most affected by HIV. For example, Washington, DC, whose HIV prevalence is nine times the national average, lost 55 percent of its funding.

The CDC’s Karlie Stanton says many grantees were selected “because they support the goals of [the CDC’s 2003] Advancing HIV Prevention Initiative.” The initiative shifts focus from preventing HIV in neggies to keeping PWAs from spreading it. Most controversially, it aims to identify the approximate 250,000 PWAs who don’t know their status by ramping up routine testing. Indeed, some $23 million went to nice CBOs that aim to keep positive folk and their partners from passing on HIV, and another $14 million targeted voluntary counseling, testing and referral initiatives for HIVers unaware of their status. The naughty CBOs had emphasized outreach among at-risk neggies—gay men and drug users, for instance.

The CDC denies that the funding is conservatively charged. “The focus is to reduce new HIV infections in the U.S.,” Stanton says. But prevention experts like Victor Barnes, one of many to leave the embattled agency during the last four years, say shifting the burden to positive people is “just going to end up driving PWAs underground.” With the CDC’s HIV/AIDS division decimated under Bush, the prevention community is hoping for a very Kerry Christmas.