St. Louis AIDS agency hires new director

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com May 02 2003 12:00 AM ET

St. Louis-based HIV/AIDS organization Blacks Assisting Blacks Against AIDS has hired a new executive director, replacing a predecessor who was fired after the organization used federal grant money to pay a porn star to appear at a syphilis prevention event, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. George Cotton, a member of the school board and city council in University City, Mo., was tapped for the job. "We have to rebuild the enthusiasm for BABAA so the community can help in the cause," Cotton said. "I respect the good work that BABAA does. We need to make it the preeminent source of AIDS resources and research for the African-American community."

The BABAA board in November fired former executive director Erise Williams Jr. and senior director James Green after city and federal officials began investigating claims that BABAA paid $500 from a $96,000 syphilis prevention grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to hire porn star Edgar Gaines, whose screen name is Bobby Blake, to speak at a July 20 event at Williams's home. Two former employees of the organization allege that the actor appeared at the event wearing only a towel and boots, that he stripped, and that he allowed some of the two dozen attendees to fondle him.

Williams and Green deny the charges. A lawsuit they filed against BABAA seeking back pay over their firings is scheduled for a nonjury trial on May 14 in Missouri circuit court in St. Louis.