California: Cuts Hurt HIV/AIDS Support Group

The HIV/AIDS organization Sierra HOPE (Health Opportunities, Programs and Education) has seen its budget for the current fiscal year slashed by more than a third. The nonprofit has experienced a $62,000 cut in state money and a $42,000 in federal funding cut this year, said Executive Director Jerry Cadotte.

The agency serves Tuolumne, Calaveras, and Amador counties and has an average annual client roster of 40. Last year, Sierra HOPE's budget was just under $300,000.

"We may not have the numbers they have in larger areas, but we also don't have the resources," said Cadotte. "We believe that just because somebody lives in a rural area doesn't mean they shouldn't have access to the services they need to maintain their health."

As a result of the recent cuts, Sierra HOPE's four staffers, including Cadotte, are now working on a part-time basis.

Cadotte said he is considering seeking assistance from nonprofit organizations like the Sonora Area Foundation. "It may be something that can help in the short-term," he said. In addition, the various fundraisers Sierra HOPE organizes are now "more important than ever."

Ironically, the cuts come at a time when demand for services is on the rise due to the poor economic situation, Cadotte said: "At times like this, we're seeing increased need - people having more difficulty, people who've lost jobs, lost insurance, people who are having a hard time getting by."

Sierra HOPE will host the Sierra AIDS walk on Sept. 19 at the Big Trees State Park in Calaveras County. For more information on the fundraiser, telephone 209-736-6792.