Originally published on Advocate.com March 25 2004 1:00 AM ET
St. Louis's Regional Education Advocacy Coalition on HIV/AIDS, which previously operated as Blacks Assisting Blacks Against AIDS, is in serious financial difficulty and is threatened with closure, according to a city comptroller's audit of the organization, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The city audit also uncovered several other problems at the organization, including a failure to properly file tax forms, late internal audits, inadequate workers' compensation and auto insurance, and the late filing of seven of nine monthly financial statements. Many of the irregularities and financial problems began under the organization's previous leadership, when the agency faced legal and financial setbacks after using federal money to hire a porn actor to appear at a syphilis awareness event.
Ongoing funding problems, including a cut in federal Ryan White CARE program spending for the coming year, could worsen the financial picture at the agency, according to city officials. "We noted negative trends which indicate the agency may have difficulties in sustaining its current operations," the audit reported. REACH's entire $1.1 million budget comes from grant money. REACH officials say that to help make up for the funding shortfall the organization will start to charge fees for some of the workshops and classes it offers. Agency staff members also will be focusing on soliciting private donations and financial support to avoid the organization's closure.