A small program in South Florida aiming to empower young people living with AIDS and reduce the stigma surrounding the disease has lost its funding, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports (sun-sentinal.com 7/12).

The program, Charles’ Crew, consists of 30 HIV-positive young people from the South Florida counties of Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade. In June, the group’s umbrella organization, Treasure the Children, got notice that an additional operating grant provided by the county chapter of the United Way would not be renewed for what would have been the fifth time.

United Way officials praised Charles’ Crew but said a sagging economy forced them to give precedence to large groups that can supposedly use grants more efficiently to prevent HIV. Charles’ Crew costs about $70,000 annually, mostly for transportation and small stipends for the speakers.

“By cutting the funding we won’t be able to go to these places like we want to, like we should,” said Quintara Lane, a 21-year-old Charles’ Crew member.

“It’s not that Treasure the Children’s not a good program,” said Scott Badesch, the United Way of Palm Beach County president, adding that the United Way was unable to fund many worthy and much-needed programs.