GMHC's Upcoming Move Creates Rifts With New York's HIV/AIDS Community
May 12, 2010
An update to the story below was posted on May 17.
As thousands of New Yorkers gear up for the annual AIDS Walk in Manhattan on May 16, Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) -- the main recipient of donations from the event -- has come under heavy criticism.
On April 21, New York Magazine's Tim Murphy reported that the venerable HIV/AIDS service organization will be moving out of its building on West 24th Street and will settle into a new building near Penn Station on West 33rd Street:
Organizations move all the time. So what's the big deal?
Some complain that the move breaks the long-term relationship that GMHC has with the gay-friendly neighborhood of Chelsea. But what appears to really have many in the local HIV/AIDS community riled up is the perception that GMHC's exodus will also mean an end to many of the much-needed services that GMHC offers -- services that have underlined the core of GMHC's mission since its founding in 1981.
In an open letter, GMHC's own Consumer Advisory Board (CAB) blasts the HIV/AIDS organization for changing its mission statement without community input. The GMHC CAB claims that the strict lease terms at the new location will eradicate GMHC's clinic services and its nutrition, harm reduction and HIV testing programs. Here is an excerpt:
Joseph Sellman -- a 24-year GMHC client and activist -- told TheBody.com that while GMHC has been reluctant to go into detail about possible cuts, people inside the organization have confirmed what is in the open letter from the GMHC CAB. "I have been there for a long time and have many contacts, and this has been their consensus," he said. "Marjorie Hill [GMHC's Chief Executive Officer] and the board keep telling us to trust them and that they have our best interest in mind. I no longer believe them."
Sellman says a protest rally will be held on May 19 from noon to 2 p.m. in front of the doors to GMHC's current building on West 24th Street. "The notion of getting rid of services has really pinched a nerve in the community," he said. "There has even been talk of people boycotting the AIDS Walk to make a statement." Sellman adds, "Without these services, how can they keep taking money that are given to fund services?"
TheBody.com reached out to Hill to talk about these accusations. Krishna Stone, GMHC's Assistant Director of Community Relations, declined our request, but sent us the following statement:
It's not known when GMHC will divulge any real details about its future, but Sellman suspects that it will happen after this weekend, given that AIDS Walk 2010, the funds from which largely benefit GMHC, takes place on Sunday, May 16. "They are not going to say anything now, because they know that people would go ballistic at AIDS Walk."
TheBody.com will continue to monitor this story and provide any updates.
[Editor's note: TheBody.com's team committed itself to taking part in, and fundraising for, AIDS Walk 2010 long before this story developed; it participated in last year's AIDS Walk as well. TheBody.com's participation in the walk is continuing as planned.]
This article was provided by TheBody.
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