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Local and Community News

Florida: HIV/AIDS Agency Forced to Close; Grant Cut Off as Founder, Money Missing

January 29, 2003

Broward County cut off a $500,000 grant to a nonprofit HIV/AIDS agency this week after its founder dropped out of sight and money proved missing, according to employees, activists and county officials. The move forced the Wansiki Foundation in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to close Tuesday, temporarily leaving about 700 HIV patients to hunt for medical care, casework service and other therapy.

Founder Marie Wansiki opened her agency 15 years ago to assist patients in obtaining HIV drugs. The agency has had poor performance reviews and more than $160,000 in unpaid bills, records show. Wansiki has not been seen by the agency staff for more than two weeks, and county auditors are trying to trace about $12,000 in grants paid in December, employees and county officials said.

"We have decided to close our clinic immediately," Wansiki board member Mark LaFontaine said in a statement on Tuesday. The board said the organization had merged with the nonprofit AIDS Project Florida -- formerly Center One -- and would recommend that patients go there.

Wansiki was collecting $500,000 a year in federal Ryan White grants, a program overseen by the county that arranges care for uninsured HIV/AIDS patients. Wansiki had contracts to manage patient cases, provide medical care with part-time doctors, and offer therapy such as massage and acupuncture.

The board's statement said Wansiki had been removed as director on Jan. 3 due to noncompliance with county rules, but did not elaborate.

AIDS Project Florida agreed to take all Wansiki patients, although there is no guarantee the county would award it the grants, Chair Norman Kent said. He urged the county to quickly redistribute Wansiki's grant money to avoid a halt in service.

Wansiki, in an interview in May, said her agency got in trouble because it moved to more costly offices, experienced paperwork problems that delayed Medicaid reimbursements, and saw a drop in donations after Sept. 11. Wansiki ended 2000 more than $82,000 in debt, records show. Broward courts have granted judgments of $160,000 to creditors, and employees said they are owed several thousand dollars each in unpaid salary.

Back to other CDC news for January 29, 2003

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Adapted from:
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
01.29.03; Bob LaMendola

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.