2 min

White knights needed

ACO counting on AIDS Walk

The AIDS Committee of Ottawa may soon hit a funding shortfall in some of its most important programs.

Both the Man-to-Man Project and the Women’s Project are funded by the federal government’s AIDS Community Action Program, but funding has been capped at 25 percent less than in past years.

“In the past, we have received $100,000 for the two projects,” says Brent Oliver, ACO’s executive director. “Re-application for funding is capped at $75,000. This will definitely impact services after Oct 1.”

ACO will learn in August whether its funding renewal proposal will be approved.

To help bridge the possible funding gap this year, ACO is depending on the 2003 AIDS Walk on Sep 20, an annual joint fundraiser with Bruce House and other partner AIDS service organizations.

The theme of this year’s event is White Night/Nuit Blanche, and participants are encouraged to wear white and bring their families and their pets on the five-kilometre walk in support of people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS in Ottawa.

Bruce House executive director Jay Koornstra says that this particular partnership is an important initiative for the gay community.

“I think it is important for anyone who is involved in the GLBT community to work together. I also believe it is the role of Bruce House, ACO and Pink Triangle Services to not only deal with the HIV/AIDS issues but the contributing factors. None of this stands alone. We have to work together.”

And over the past five years, ACO has been following Koornstra’s advice.

Oliver points out that ACO has partnered with Pink Triangle Services and the Gay Men’s Wellness Council, a coalition funded in part by the City of Ottawa.

ACO’s partnership with PTS to provide gay-focussed services is a return of sorts to its roots. PTS was an instrumental part of ACO’s foundation in the mid-1980s.

“ACO was created by PTS in response to the AIDS epidemic,” says Bruce Bursey, president of PTS. “This [current] partnership was an excellent opportunity because ACO is an established agency with similar programming objectives to ours.”

Five years ago, though, ACO was facing criticism from the gay community that it had gotten away from its roots in an attempt to provide services to every client group affected by AIDS.

Now, as Oliver prepares to temporarily pass on the torch to interim executive director Robert Grantier, he says he feels ACO has addressed that criticism.

“I feel we have made significant progress in all these different areas,” says Oliver. He cites the Man-to-Man Project, founded a decade ago, as a prime example of ACO’s renewed focus on the needs of HIV-positive gay men.

“We have really taken the wellness approach since I’ve been here. There’s a lot of safer sex counselling. We talk about self-esteem and body image,” says Man-to-Man project manager Stephan Duchesne.

“We’ve tried to move beyond the ‘Here you go, we’re going to hand out condoms’ approach,” adds Duchesne, “because people just take them and throw them out.”