AIDS Fund revamps structure to focus on individuals, not agencies

AIDS Fund revamps structure to focus on individuals, not agencies

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The Philadelphia AIDS Walk marks its 30th anniversary next month, with a new fundraising strategy in place that mirrors a change at the organization that stages the annual event.

Proceeds from this year’s walk, on Oct. 16, will support organizer AIDS Fund’s revamped focus on emergency assistance for people with HIV/AIDS. Previously, HIV/AIDS organizations could put forth a team to raise funds earmarked for their agencies.

The change in the fundraising structure is in line with the organization discontinuing its grantmaking for HIV/AIDS agencies in the region.

Instead, AIDS Fund executive director Robb Reichard told PGN, all efforts will be focused on providing emergency funds directly to people impacted by HIV/AIDS.

“This is an unmet need in our community we want to address,” he said. “We looked at the current environment and this is where we want to head moving forward.”

The organization is in the process of creating a committee that includes medical-case managers from several organizations to help develop policies and procedures for the fund distribution.

“We want it to be flexible. That’s our goal,” Reichard said about what types of emergencies people could use the funds for. “Typical things we’re hearing are things like assistance with rent or utilities. Also, there’s a huge need for people to get just $50 to get a state ID so they can access services. Unless you have a state-issued ID, you can’t get services, so for some people, $50 can change your life.”

The emergency-fund plan will roll out in 2017.

When asked about how the change will impact organizations that previously benefitted from their teams’ walk proceeds, Reichard referenced the evolving environment for HIV/AIDS agencies.

“Here’s the reality: When the AIDS Walk started 30 years ago, there was no other source of funding for these organizations,” he said. “Traditional service providers weren’t even willing to meet with people living with HIV, let alone provide services. The environment is so much different today, so we wanted to look at how we could have the greatest impact on the lives of people who live with HIV.”

Reichard said the organization will consider requests from organizations that are in emergency situations and need funding, but the primary focus will be on the individuals, not the organizations.

Organizers of this year’s walk have set a fundraising goal of $350,000. The walk campaign kicked off Sept. 15 in Rittenhouse Square.

This year’s theme focused on “getting to zero.”

“Zero new infections, zero stigma, zero deaths as a result of HIV,” Reichard explained. “This is a really achievable goal now, with the advent of PrEP, and with the knowledge that if we get people into care to the point of an undetectable viral load, they’re unlikely to pass HIV on to others. We’re really focusing on this path to zero, and our new funding strategy is a part of that.”

A portion of the AIDS Memorial Quilt will be on display at the walk and names of victims will be read, Reichard said, adding organizers plan to commemorate the 30th anniversary by looking ahead instead of to the past.

“We are focused on ending this epidemic. That’s where we’re at in 2016; we’re looking towards the end of this,” he said. “While we are proud of the 30 years of history, we’re looking forward.” 

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