Friday, September 22, 2000

AIDS support group struggles with sharp decline in donations

By Tim Bonfield
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Several years of good news about AIDS treatment has been bad news for the budget of AIDS Volunteers of Cincinnati, the Tristate's leading AIDS advocacy and support organization.

        Since 1997, the agency has watched revenue from its annual AIDS Walk — its biggest fund-raising event of the year — drop more than 23 percent. This weekend, AVOC expects to collect less money than last year, even with plans to spice up the event with a concert and a 5K race.

    • What: AVOC's 11th annual AIDS Walk will span two days of events:
    • When/where: Saturday: A benefit concert featuring several alternative bands runs 4-10 p.m. at Sawyer Point. Admission is free. Runners and walkers with $50 in pledges can get drink discounts.
    Also Saturday, registration begins at 5:30 p.m. for a 5K run that starts at 7 p.m. at Sawyer Point. Registration fee is $19 in advance or $25 day of the race.
    Sunday: Registration begins 7:30 a.m. for 10K walk, which starts at 9 a.m. at Sawyer Point.
    • Information: 421-AIDS.

        “Some of it is that people are bored with AIDS. It's not the disease du jour,” said AVOC President Kathy Nardiello. ""AIDS used to be in the media all the time. Every Oscar night you'd see people wearing red ribbons. Where are they now?”

        Thanks in large part to a cocktail of medications that has slashed death rates, AIDS in America has shifted from a potential plague to a chronic disease. And that means less urgency and less interest in participating in walk-a-thons.

        But the drug cocktails are not cures. Most people on the drugs live much longer than AIDS patients used to live, but few get well enough to return to full-time work. And that means the need for agencies like AVOC has gone up — not down.

        “The reality is that we have more clients with more needs than ever before,” said Kathryn Thompson, AVOC education coordinator. “The fight is far from over.”

        AVOC has an annual budget of about $1.7 million and a staff of 25 people with offices on Central Parkway. Most of its money is used to pay for housing, uninsured health costs, transportation and other support services to more than 1,100 people with HIV infections and full-blown AIDS. Another large portion goes to public education to prevent the spread of AIDS, such as printing brochures and speaking at schools, health fairs and jails.

        In the past several year, however, the face of AIDS has gradually shifted from being primarily a disease of gay white men to one that strikes heavily among women, intravenous drug users and African-Americans. That means AVOC needs to update its mission and materials; but transforming itself amid declining financial support has been a struggle, in part because:

        • It wants to expand efforts to reach out to African-Americans, to people in rural communities and to young people who may be taking the risks of AIDS for granted. But fresh billboards, brochures and presentations cost money the agency feels it doesn't have.

        • It has a $117,000 city grant to support a move into a new building purchased in July 1999, but lack of internal funds has delayed design and planning work needed to get the city money.

        • It wanted to offer a retirement benefit to keep experienced staff, but cannot fund the plan.

        So far, AVOC has managed to tread water as money from the AIDS walk has dwindled. Last year, the agency made up a $75,000 budget shortfall (from a budget of about $1.7 million) by obtaining several one-time grants and by cutting expenses — such as dropping professional development programs and cutting its newsletter from bimonthly to quarterly.

        This weekend, AVOC has added a second day to its event to include a 5K race and a benefit concert featuring several alternative bands. AVOC expects $150,000 in net proceeds, which would be down from $180,000 collected last year.

        Services have continued this year without staff cuts, waiting lists or service reductions. But if funds keep dropping, next year's budget may need deeper cuts and that might mean service reductions, Ms. Nardiello said.

        “We budgeted conservatively, so we hope to exceed our goals,” Ms. Nardiello said. “But past this year, this agency just can't keep doing the things we've been doing.”

Few warned of twister
7-year-old helped others dig out of smashed church
Psychologist: Fear of storms can be dealt with
Spared in 1974, but not in 2000
Bush in N. Ohio: Oil's hot issue
Fall is bustin' out all over
Jury urges death for child-killer
Overhaul Ohio's proficiency test, group demands
- AIDS support group struggles with sharp decline in donations
'Dial the Code' calls begin Oct. 1
A big heart for tiny babies
Ask a stupid question
Hammys to honor finest swine
Ex-doctor to plead guilty in death, official says
Suspicions followed doctor across globe
Doctor group urges prenatal HIV tests
Father seeks powerful help in custody battle
Firm creates college alumni association
Higher education budget is $6.1B
In the Schools
Man charged in assault of woman in office
Man charged with bilking investor
Man's service honored
Neighbors, friends mourn for slain teen-ager
New Franklin fire chief assesses goals
Newport board weighing housing options
Nuclear sites list shocks some
Patton puts out tobacco plan
Race relations panel part of town hall series
School sells choice seats for games
Two area schools earn blue ribbons
University of Cincinnati teeming with freshmen
Woman punished for $19K con job
Get to it
Pig Parade: Hamlite
Tristate A.M. Report