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HIV/AIDS education non-profit faces closure

By Jesse Dungan

February 20, 2008

A San Francisco-based nonprofit that focuses on providing HIV/AIDS education to gay and bisexual Latino men may be forced to close its doors at the end of March due to a lack of funding, the organization announced yesterday.

Since 1994, AGUILAS has been offering programs focused on HIV/AIDS awareness, prevention, education and outreach for gay and bisexual Latino men out of its office at 1841 Market St.

"We're known as a sanctuary city and AGUILAS has provided that sanctuary,'' Supervisor Tom Ammiano said at a news conference.

Eduardo Morales, executive director of AGUILAS, said that the organization receives $243,000 annually from the AIDS office of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, but that between $330,000 and $350,000 is needed to keep the organization running. The 2008 grant for new HIV prevention services is expected to be delayed from local, state and federal sources until 2010, according to AGUILAS.

Morales said AGUILAS has had to make cutbacks such as reduced employee hours due to the funding shortage.

The organization decided to take on the challenge of matching funding it receives through the AIDS office, but realized in October that goals would not be met, Morales said.

Ammiano said that he will speak about the issue at budget meetings with Mayor Gavin Newsom.

"This is not a time to nickel and dime any agency that saves lives,'' Ammiano said.

According to the organization, program evaluation data collected over the past seven years reveals a 42 percent to 70 percent reduction in high-risk sexual activity among program participants of AGUILAS. In 2007, the organization served more than 1,200 persons through group and individual sessions.

Alberto Velez, a seven-year client of AGUILAS, said, "We're all down a little emotionally because we may not have a place to go after March.''

Velez, who regularly attends seminars at AGUILAS and uses the organization for networking, said that AGUILAS is especially important to Latino men because it is a bilingual organization and that a lot of Spanish speakers will have no other place to go.

According to Morales, the city has proposed an additional $40,000 to serve as "patchwork'' for the organization and help the organization find temporary accommodation as the building that hosts AGUILAS has been sold.

The organization, which received an overall commendable rating in all areas from the AIDS office, is the only fiscally responsible organization in the western United States that was developed and administered by and for Latino gay and bisexual men, according to AGUILAS.

Eduardo Morales said that without additional funding the organization will have to close by the end of the year and that AGUILAS would not continue to operate if it could not remain fiscally responsible.




Copyright © 2008 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.




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