AIDS task force to shut down

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aids The Santa Rosa Minority HIV/AIDS Task Force`s contract with the Florida Department of Health is not being renewed, and the nonprofit agency will close its doors.

"We received a letter that our contract would end Dec. 31, but no explanation was given," executive director Gail Collins said. "The $75,000 we get from the state is our only source of money."

Milton Mayor Guy Thompson has sent a letter of support for the task force to the department.

"It's a great program, and our county needs these funds for that mission," he said. "The task force has been able to do a lot. I don't know why our county got cut."

The state health department's communications office did not return calls seeking comment.

The task force, started in 1999, is the sole agency in Santa Rosa County that provides free outreach and testing services for minorities. So far this year, it has served more than 940 people through outreach and testing services.

"We use the $75,000 to provide outreach and testing throughout Milton and at the county jail," treasurer Leon White said.

Collins said the services extend beyond Santa Rosa County.

"We have clients who come to us from Escambia counties in Florida and Alabama as well as Okaloosa County due to the stigma attached to being tested for HIV and AIDS," she said.

Collins said the increase in Hispanics in Santa Rosa County since Hurricane Ivan in 2004 has presented another minority population that may need testing and outreach.

"With the population increase, the continuation of our services to the community is fundamental to helping eradicate the spread of HIV and AIDS," she said.

Lee Hinds, a volunteer with the task force, said the group works diligently to help those in need.

"If this closes down, what other alternatives will people have?" he said.

source - Pensacola News 

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This page contains a single entry by ID Admin published on November 25, 2006 6:14 PM.

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