HOUSTON VOICE • JANUARY 21, 2000
Lack of funding bogs down initiative to combat HIV
> Continued from Page 1
"Th.it is where the dollars between now
.mil [une will go," Kendrick said. "Th.it is
what we are moving on the fastest—to get
information out thai people can hear and see."
But like most of Brown's plan, even funding for the media campaign isn't in place.
Much (*f the city's $5 million HIV Prevention
Program is already allocated, so health officials are studying it to reallocate some funds,
shift staffing or find unused money,
That evaluation should be complete next
month, though reallocating existing grants to
community-based organizations to target
blacks could take weeks or months longer as
the proposals move through the health department and city council for approval, she said.
Health officials are also coping with a
recent $600,000 cut from its nearly $100 million budget as part of city-wide budget trimming to address an expected shortfall in revenues, Kendrick said.
"Our wiggle room is lowered quite a bit
with this last decrease in our budget," she said.
City health officials plan to seek in-kind
contributions from media organizations and
the community to help fund the public information campaign and other portions of
After the media campaign starts, health
officials want to mobilize the community and
solicit support from families, churches and
business leaders, Kendrick said. Then they
want to move to one-on-one and small group
interventions with residents of the areas hard-
est-hit by the rise in I HV infections to modify
behaviors that increase the risk of infection,
"Part of the overall plan is to get as much
coordination and input from our community
members as we cm. The human factor is part
of the key factor," Kendrick said. "We are trying to get as many individuals to step up to
the plate and say what they can do in their
But taking weeks, or even a few months, to
deliver funding to community-based organizations serving the black community is disappointing for officials and AIDS advocates
who had hoped Brown's declaration of an
emergency would help put Ihe plan in place
"I am a little surprised because the mayor
wanted to fast-track this and 1 was hoping we
would be able to shave some of that time,"
said City Councilwoman Annise Parker.
But Parker praised the approach of city
health officials, who want to implement
parts of Brown's initiative through existing
community-based organizations, rather than
creating new groups or arms of the city
"I am not at all interested in seeing us
support a new proliferation of new agencies.
We ought to be working through existing
community-based organizations. It is always
the tendency of the city to want to bring it in-
iiouse, rather than helping existing, experienced organizations move into a new
A bully pulpit?
When Brown announced his plan in early
December, he told a packed press conference
that educators, media, clergy and business
leaders must grasp the importance of good
health. I le also called for an open discussion
of sexual activity to "counteract the millions
of media messages that glorify" unsafe sex.
And he pledged to use his office as a bully
pulpit, speaking out on HIV prevention and
the rise in HIV infections in the city's black
community during his speeches and appearances.
But in two major addresses this month—
his Jan. 3 inaugural address and his annual
state of the city on Tuesday—Brown did not
mention his declaration of a state of emergency or his plan to combat the new rise in
During his 45-minute state of the city
address to members of the Greater Houston
Partnership, Brown touted the accomplishments of his administration and outlined
three challenges for the next several years:
air pollution, transportation and providing
an adequate water supply.
"There were dozens of things i could have
talked about. I wanted to brief the community on our successes and the triangle of
challenges I mentioned," Brown said after
But Brown added that he has talked about
HIV in the black community during other
public appearances, though he didn't cite
Leaving out any mention of HIV and ihe
city's efforts to combat the rise in infections
in his recent speeches means Brown missed
opportunities to build public support for
fighting the problem, Parker said.
"We have such a strong division of labor
between the city and the county in health
care. The city is limited to education and prevention, so having an articulate spokesman
for HIV/AIDS, particularly one from the
African-American community would be
effective," said Parker, who attended
Brown's state of the city on Tui
Parker said even though the city lias
increased funding for HIV programs in
recent years, it's still not enough, so it's critical for public officials to find other ways to
address the problem.
"We know that we aren't going to have
the kind of money that folks would like to %
see, so we have to have other things that IE
don't require tax dollars. One of those things y
is public awareness and that is tree. We need ~
to do as much of it as we can," Parker said.
Overcoming the stigma
A report from the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention last week suggested
that the stigma of homosexuality plays a role
in spreading the disease because minorities
are less likely than whites to identify themselves as gay or seek AIDS prevention and
HIV is not often mentioned by leaders in
the black community, which sometimes
views homosexuality, sex and illegal drug
use as taboo topics that shouldn't be discussed, AIDS advocates acknowledge.
City Councilwoman Annise Parker said Mayor
Lee Brown has missed chances to build public
support for his HIV initiative.
To help overcome that, Brown and city
health officials want to convene a summit of
business, political and clergy leaders in the
black community to discuss HIV and prevention methods.
Brown said in December that the summit
would be held this month, but a spokeswoman for the event's chief organizer, City
Councilman Jew Don Boney, said it is still in
the planning stages.
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