HIV/AIDS infections have been on the increase in New York City's communities of color since the start of the syndrome's crisis. But initially, most of the funding for prevention and education programs was directed toward organizations that had little contact with people of color.
In January 2000, CDC reported that, for the first time since the beginning of the epidemic, the majority of new HIV/AIDS cases could be found among African-American and Latino men.
In January 2001, the New York City-based policy advocacy group Housing Works published a report stating that persons of color made up over 83 percent of new AIDS cases confirmed in 1999, according to the New York State Department of Health. People of color made up the vast majority of the 56,698 people living with AIDS in New York by mid-2000. African Americans made up 43 percent; Latinos made up 32 percent; and whites made up just over 23 percent of the total. Housing Works used CDC data and local statistics to show how a funding disparity toward HIV/AIDS groups was partly to blame for the high incidence rates. They reported that in New York City, although people of color make up almost 80 percent of people living with AIDS, minority organizations received only 35 percent of $63 million in AIDS Institute funding.
In response, black, Asian, Native American and Latino organizations that served HIV/AIDS populations came together to form the New York City Communities of Color HIV/AIDS Coalition, which set up an April 2001 summit on HIV/AIDS. The coalition was successful in getting about a third of City Council members to attend the summit and pledge to support a proposal to have New York City grant funds to support HIV/AIDS-oriented groups of color.
The coalition's campaign pushed City Council to agree to a $3.2 million tax levy that, combined with some $1.8 million in state matching funds, led to a $5 million allotment for groups of color working on HIV/AIDS prevention. Even though some of the money was redirected after the September 11 attacks, the mayor and City Council granted nearly the same amount of funding in 2002.
"Everybody wants to help stem the epidemic, and the only way is by funding the community-based organizations that are of color," one activist said. "If the rates are high among black men, we have to fund the agencies that serve black men. We all seek services with the communities we feel most comfortable in."
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