Local and Community News
Florida: AIDS Resource Alliance Shuts Down
March 21, 2003
After years of money and leadership problems, central Florida's first AIDS resource agency closed its doors today, leaving its clients to search elsewhere for assistance. Headquartered in Orlando, the AIDS Resource Alliance also provided services in Osceola and Lake counties. "There were so many pieces that had to fall in place perfectly for us. That didn't happen," said ARA Executive Director Mark D'Aoust.Adapted from:
ARA opened in 1988, offering health and counseling aid, in addition to rent, utility, travel and other assistance. With its closure, it is not clear which area agencies will pick up services formerly offered by the group. D'Aoust was concerned about those clients who sporadically seek help and might not know about the agency's closing. "They may get lost in the system," he said.
Troubles for the group began after a past director was late -- by 30 seconds -- with a grant request to Orange County officials. Despite missing out on the funds, ARA continued its services, thus digging itself into a financial hole. The agency's financial problems cost it another AIDS grant award this year. An appeal by ARA officials this month was rejected. Leaders then decided to quit. "They've been going through this for several years," D'Aoust noted.
ARA's closing comes at a time when local AIDS services continue to be stretched. For the past two years, overall local funds have remained flat at roughly $7.3 million, said Syd McCallister, a senior Orange County coordinator who deals with AIDS grants. McCallister said he expects funding to stay the same next year, or be cut. He added that the area witnessed an almost 20 percent spike last year in HIV/AIDS patients seeking help. McCallister anticipates that a bad economy and high health costs may push even more people to seek assistance soon.
03.21.03; David Damron