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AIDS Accountability

by ACT UP Saturday, Jan. 12, 2002 at 10:49 PM
actupsf@hotmail.com (415) 864-6686 1884 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

Is it any wonder programs for PWAs are ineffective when their focus has turned to expensive salaries and high rents rather than serving PWAs?

"Money and control of expenses are key."

"He said the programs are working, despite a two-fold increase in infection rates among gay men in San Francisco over the past few years."

In the eyes of the press, the New Year has been a tough one for San Francisco's beleaguered AIDS Industry. First story after story about federal auditors poking their noses and calculators into the orifices, oh, uh, offices of AIDS organizations. Now the grand dame of the AIDS Empire, Pat Christen and her battleship San Francisco AIDS Foundation are embroiled in a legal battle for the ability to control lucrative AIDS fundraisers.

Millions are appropriated every year to these organizations but San Francisco, the AIDS model city, has little to show for it. From the San Francisco AIDS Foundation to the Stop AIDS Project to the Health Department there is not much in the way of services or results. Instead the gay community is used as a sponge for soaking up federal and pharmaceutical funds. Perhaps the long awaited federal AIDS audits may finally come about. Michael Petrelis of the AIDS Accountability Project and ACT UP San Francisco's David Pasquarelli have been two of the most vocal critics of AIDS funding and it is no coincidence that they are still incarcerated in San Francisco County Jail.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The City looks at its AIDS programs

By Tanya Pampalone, Examiner Staff

San Francisco Examiner

Thursday January 10, 2002

The scrutiny of HIV prevention programs became the focal point of a Department of Public Health news conference to introduce a new informational AIDS publication Wednesday -- in the wake of reports of an increase in local infection rates.

Questions about what types of HIV prevention programs are appropriate and useful were raised, in response to the federal obscenity ruling of programs run through the local nonprofit, the Stop AIDS Project.

The Examiner reported last week that the nonprofit group embarked on an advertising campaign to clear their name following a report that puts all federally funded AIDS organizations under a financial microscope.

Steve Gibson, a member of the DPH's HIV Prevention Planning Council, who led the press conference, defended the usefulness of local HIV prevention efforts.

He said the programs are working, despite a two-fold increase in infection rates among gay men in San Francisco over the past few years. Gibson, who is also the program director of the Stop AIDS Project, attributed the rise in infections to the higher number of men living with HIV in San Francisco. Decrease in condom use has also been cited, due to the mistaken belief that AIDS drugs alone can combat the virus.

DPH officials hope the 7,000 new glossy magazine-style publications titled "The AIDS epidemic is not over" will help educate affected communities and influence policy makers and politicians to support AIDS funding.

"It's an easy way for them to understand what is happening with HIV in San Francisco," said Tracey Packer, DPH's head of planning for HIV prevention.

Statistics showing the rise of HIV in gay men -- one in three are infected in San Francisco -- and the decrease of the epidemic in injection drug users, which is attributed to needle exchange programs, dominate the publication alongside "spokesmodel" stories.

Steve, a 27-year-old volunteer with the Stop AIDS Project and "spokesmodel" who is featured, sans shirt, in the publication, said gay men in San Francisco still don't talk about their HIV status -- a hindrance, he says to good prevention.

"There is still a stigma attached to it," he said. "Even in San Francisco."

E-mail Tanya Pampalone at tpampalone@sfexaminer.com

----------------------------------------

Bitter feud casts pall over AIDS Ride

By Carol Ness, Chronicle Staff Writer

San Francisco Chronicle Thursday, January 10, 2002, Page A-1

Silicon Valley businessman Steve McCreddin figured he could raise ,000 or more in this year's California AIDS Ride. Instead, he's sitting it out while high-priced lawyers duke it out over the future of the popular, inspirational mega-fundraiser for AIDS charities.

McCreddin is not alone. Last year by this time, 4,000 riders had signed on for the 2001 AIDS Ride, which channeled millions of dollars to the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center.

But this year, only about 1,100 have signed up so far for what's splintered into two competing 2002 rides and one big lawsuit. Thousands of loyal riders and potential new blood are confused, disillusioned or waiting for the legal dust to settle before they commit their quads, sweat and friends' money to either one.

Unless there's a miracle last-minute settlement, the case goes to court in Los Angeles Monday.

"I'm very disappointed that I don't feel comfortable doing either ride, and I've withdrawn," said McCreddin, a 47-year-old husband and father of two who lives in Redwood City. "I assumed that with two competing rides, it would get confusing for people contributing. I also thought that if they split the ridership up, then both events would be smaller. I can't believe they couldn't have negotiated a better solution."

Stacks of legal documents filed in the breach-of-contract case in Los Angeles Superior Court depict the two nonprofit charities that benefit from the California AIDS Ride on a collision course with Pallotta TeamWorks, the for-profit Southern California company that originated the ride in 1994 and has always produced it.

Money and control of expenses are key. So, according to a growing chorus of California riders and other bikers and walkers who've taken part in PTW- produced events nationally, is their shift in focus from AIDS to personal transformation.

Since PTW owner Dan Pallotta ran the first California AIDS Ride in 1993, his empire has swelled to 16 AIDS and breast cancer events on three continents that have raised 1 million. PTW brochures call them human potential events that allow people "to experience their own magnificence and forever alter their sense of what is possible . . ."

At the same time, the cost of producing the logistics-heavy events has soared. Expenses ate about 50 percent of every dollar contributed in last year's California AIDS Ride; costs were under 40 percent in previous rides, except the first.

While the ride generated contributions of more than million to the center and foundation combined in each of the last three years, the foundation's net dropped from million to .3 million in that time.

The jump in costs is what led to the legal mess, says AIDS Foundation Executive Director Pat Christen.

It triggered close scrutiny of all expenses, which Christen said revealed spending far beyond budget and charges for costs unrelated to the California ride. For example, according to court documents, the foundation was charged for part of delinquent tax penalties from Pennsylvania and for concrete barriers in Chicago.

THEY COULDN'T AGREE

Months of negotiations between PTW and the foundation over a contract for the 2002 ride failed to "reach an agreement where we could have reasonable cost controls in place," Christen said.

The foundation and the Los Angeles gay center broke with PTW and immediately scheduled their own San Francisco-to-L.A. ride, the AIDS/LifeCycle, two weeks before the June 2-8 PTW event.

On Dec. 6, PTW sued for breach of contract, contending its agreements with the two organizations prohibited them from mounting a similar ride.

In court Monday, the company is seeking a court order stopping AIDS/LifeCycle from going ahead.

"We felt we have no choice," said PTW President Stephen Bennett in Los Angeles.

"When it comes to financial accountability, I think we were willing to do anything," Bennett said. "I don't think that was the issue. I think they wanted to do their own ride."

While contracts and money are the legal grounds for the fight, at its heart it's about staying true to the cause, say longtime riders.

Mark Dunlop of San Francisco, who had ridden in two previous California AIDS Rides and crewed on one before taking part last year, said he was stunned by the change in the 2001 ride.

"I ride because of AIDS. I'm a person with AIDS. It's part of me saying, 'I'm alive, I can ride and I can give back to other people with AIDS,'" said Dunlop, a San Francisco Redevelopment commissioner and member of Positive Pedalers, which supports HIV-infected cyclists.

"(Last year's ride) just totally lost that," Dunlop said. "It became about individual effort and surviving a seven-day ride and the opportunity for cross- selling other Pallotta rides. It didn't feel like it had anything to do with AIDS, or very little."

Dunlop has nothing to do with the lawsuit, and Positive Pedalers has taken no position on it. But 100 longtime riders and volunteers signed a letter voicing the same complaints.

OTHER EVENTS PROMOTED

A new safety video promoted PTW's other events. The traditional red-ribbon AIDS flags were replaced by banners with the company logo. Booths hawked the company's events, philosophy and Dan Pallotta's new autobiography, "When Your Moment Comes: A Guide to Achieving Your Dreams by a Man who has Led Thousands to Greatness."

What happened during the annual "Night of Remembrance" for those lost to AIDS rankled most, according to court documents and interviews. Dunlop called it the "crowning glory."

"The special program was Pallotta talking about himself and the trouble he had finding the right bedding material for the rides . . . (and) his lover's suicide and his new suicide prevention walk, and then a band played his songs," recalled Dunlop.

Pallotta defended his company's approach in an open letter to AIDS riders, saying more than million had gone to the center and foundation in nine years.

"We're good custodians of your compassion," he wrote. "You can trust us. Our hearts are in the right place."

PTW's stance is that any corporate excesses could have been easily corrected this year.

BOTH SIDES SCRAMBLING

With a court date looming, both sides were scrambling this week to try to head things off.

Pallotta has signed up only 400 so far for the ride -- which will benefit AIDS Project Los Angeles -- and is still seeking a replacement for longtime sponsor Tanqueray, which pulled out. PTW has circulated a letter signed by some high-powered Southern California gay and lesbian leaders that calls for unity around one ride but suggests two may be acceptable if they're not so close together.

Meanwhile, some longtime riders were getting a petition together calling for PTW to drop its suit and let AIDS/LifeCycle go ahead. It's attracted 700 riders so far, according to the AIDS Foundation. Dunlop will be one of them, "hopefully, if it happens."

"It's a real sad thing," he said. "All this is hurting people with AIDS."

E-mail Carol Ness at cness@sfchronicle.com.

----------------------------------------

Please help support the effort to release Michael Petrelis and David Pasquarelli:

Contributions to The Direct Action Civil Liberties Fund

can be made online with a credit or debit card at www.daclf.org,

or checks can be mailed to the address below:

The Direct Action Civil Liberties Fund

Attn: Free Petrelis and Pasquarelli

PMB 101

100 First Street, Suite 100

San Francisco, CA 94105

Web: www.daclf.org

Email: info@daclf.org

==================

ACT UP San Francisco

1884 Market Street * San Francisco, CA 94102

Phone: (415) 864-6686 * Fax: (415) 864-6687 * www.actupsf.com

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