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Vermont HIV/AIDS Advocacy Group Decides Not to Apply for Federal Funding Due to New Regulations, Privacy Concerns

September 17, 2004

The HIV/AIDS advocacy group Vermont CARES this week announced that it did not apply for almost $100,000 in federal funds from CDC for HIV prevention programs because the "strings attached would have been too onerous," the Burlington Free Press reports. The federal funds would have been administered through the Vermont Department of Health and would have comprised approximately 8% of the organization's annual budget, according to Vermont CARES Executive Director Kendall Farrell. Although Vermont CARES previously has applied for and obtained CDC funding, it did not do so this year because of federal regulations concerning anonymity and prevention methods, according to the Free Press. Specifically, Farrell said that accepting federal money would require the group to "disclose potentially identifying information" of people who wanted anonymous HIV testing because new regulations require clients to disclose personal information, such as frequency of sexual intercourse and needle-sharing incidents. In addition, CDC regulations would require the group to adopt prevention methods that might not be as effective in rural Vermont as in more urban areas, and the organization would be required to provide abstinence-based education and "question the effectiveness" of condoms for HIV prevention, the Free Press reports. Farrell said that the new regulations could "discourage people from seeking help," according to the Free Press. Kurt Kleier, head of the HIV/AIDS section at the state health department, said that these specific federal regulations are "in flux," adding that the department currently is lobbying for changes that would preserve the anonymity of people living with HIV/AIDS who are seeking services, according to the Free Press. "This department is extremely committed to confidentiality," he said, adding, "We definitely share those issues and have forwarded those concerns to the appropriate CDC contacts." Both Farrell and Kleier said that they did not know of any other organizations that have declined federal money based on privacy concerns. Vermont CARES has another opportunity to apply for the federal funding in three years because the program is on a three-year cycle, Kleier said (Sutkoski, Burlington Free Press, 9/15).

Group Stages 'Die-In' to Draw Attention to HIV/AIDS
Vermont CARES on Wednesday staged a lunchtime "die-in" to draw attention to HIV/AIDS and alert the public to the group's AIDS Walk scheduled for Saturday, the Burlington Free Press reports. More than a dozen people wearing black -- some with red AIDS ribbons pinned to their clothing -- lay silently in the Church Street Marketplace at noon surrounded by banners and signs spread out on the ground. One sign read: "Eat this. During your lunch hour, 583 people were infected with HIV, 330 died from AIDS." During the protest, members of the group handed out information and red ribbons and invited passersby to join in the campaign. The reaction was varied, with some people ignoring the display and others taking time to read each sign. "We're trying to remove that apathy and make it a powerful subject again," Matthew Gray, the office coordinator of Vermont CARES, said (Jacobson, Burlington Free Press, 9/16).

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