June 30, 2011
A group of HIV agencies in New Orleans on June 24 issued a report card on the city's progress in tackling HIV/AIDS.
While CHANGE (Coalition of HIV/AIDS Nonprofits & Governmental Entities) praised the city for its HIV medical and prevention services, particularly the broad network of area care providers, it gave New Orleans a "D" for its untimely disbursement of federal grants. The city is so slow to provide housing assistance that it risks making some HIV/AIDS patients homeless, the report said. People with HIV/AIDS are homeless at a higher rate than the general population, it said, noting that area rents have increased since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
"We don't want to point fingers and say, 'Hey, you're not doing your job,' but we've got to do better; we've got to figure this out," said Noel Twilbeck, CEO of the NO/AIDS Task Force. CHANGE also includes Project Lazarus and Odyssey House.
Though a lag between spending and reimbursement is not uncommon for agencies relying on federal grants, CHANGE said groups struggle for too long, particularly for housing funds. This year, the award season for federal Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS grants began in January, but agencies still do not know their annual funding levels, CHANGE said.
New Orleans is in the process of selecting agencies for housing grants, and the signing of Ryan White contracts recently began, said Karen DeSalvo, city health commissioner.
"We have been working aggressively to shorten the timeline that for years has been failing," DeSalvo said. "We're going to commit to doing things as quickly as we can on our end."
Times-Picayune (New Orleans)
06.25.2011; Ashley Hopkinson
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