The Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation is holding this year's AIDSWALK at a time when sources of federal funding are drying up. SAAF Executive Director Anne Maley hopes to offset that lost income by having a successful event, starting at 6:30 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 8, at the University of Arizona Mall. Maley talked about how the cuts could affect programs like Pulse, which is designed to target those who engage in risky sexual behaviors after using so-called "club drugs" like methamphetamine and ecstasy. To register, donate or get other information on AIDSWALK 2006, visit aidswalktucson.com or call 791-WALK.
What's new with AIDSWALK this year?
Well, we have lots of new things this year. The biggest change that we've made ... is moving it from Rillito Downs to the University of Arizona Mall.
Why did you do that?
Everything was fine at Rillito Downs; there were no problems. It's just that we wanted to change it. It was up there for a number of years, and I believe change is good. (We wanted to) try a new venue that's centrally located, and ... the route brings us out into the streets a little bit more, (so there'll be) more publicity.
What other changes are going on this year?
Well, the big news is that the university men's basketball team is all going to be there, and they're going to walk. ... We're going to have two bands play. One is a group of youth; I think it's called Politically Incorrect. ... I think they're 15- and 16-year-olds. Then, TMI--Too Much Information--is also going to perform. So (there'll be) more entertainment. We have a whole kids' zone for families and kids, with activities for kids and clowns and balloon making and lots of fun activities.
What are your goals for this AIDSWALK?
Well, the primary goal is to raise money for people living with and infected by HIV/AIDS in Tucson.
Do you have a target set for that?
Any idea about the expected turnout?
It's always hard to know with any event. All I can tell you is that, compared to last year, the number of registrations is higher. But who knows? We're optimistic.
Why is the Pulse program being cut in March?
The Bush administration informed all recipients (about the cut). It was a five-year (funding) contract, and they cut it after two years. Everyone across the country got cut--just other priorities going on in the world right now. It was devastating for us, because it's a really effective program. And so it will end in March 2007.
So you're looking for other funding sources?
We're looking. It's a big program, so we can't just depend on the community. We're looking for some community support ... (and) if there are other opportunities to apply for other money, whether it's a private foundation or federal or whatever.
You were saying there have been government cuts--is this across the board?
Eighty percent of SAAF's funding comes from the federal government. ... We made some cuts in administration beginning July 1--the finance department, the volunteer-resources department. We made some cuts, but we haven't cut the programs. That day will come if we don't supplement the funds. ... So we're really hoping to meet and beat the goal with AIDSWALK, because it will really help us to maintain our services.
As far as city government, were there some cuts there as well?
The city gets their money from the federal government. It's HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development) money that comes, and it was for some programs here. So, yeah, that got cut this year for the first time. I will say, for the first time, we are not getting any money from the city, and that's hard. We have a great relationship; they just got cut. It's not that they're not committed or anything; it's that they have hard choices to make. They funded one proposal in our category in another agency. One. So, yeah, it's hard.
How do you feel about all these cuts?
I will tell you in the 14 years I've done this work in Tucson, it was the most difficult budgeting year I've ever been through. It was heartbreaking; I had to lay off people for the first time because of budget cuts. I've never had to do that. ... It's going to be harder for me if I have to cut programs, because that means we're going to affect clients. That's going to be hard. The need is going up, and for me to be cutting programs--it makes no sense what's going on right now.