Letters

Ms. Glasgow indicates that there have been "frustrating" attempts to inspect financial reports. We are puzzled by this allegation, as HCN provides regular reports to funding sources and appropriate authorities about use of funds. In compliance with our 501(c)(3) status, information on HCN's financials and tax returns is always available to the public upon request.

Ms. Glasgow also refers to HCN's challenges as spurring "an outpouring of concern and a raft of rumors." In her relentless focus on the negative, she gives credibility to unsubstantiated rumors by repeating them throughout the article. She cites comments from disgruntled ex-employees and openly hostile "community activists" who have used little discretion and less-than-factual information to spout their angry words through the years.

Indeed there has been an overwhelming outpouring of concern from the community over the past several months, but not in the manner implied in the article. In January we faced the difficult decision to downsize the staff and temporarily furlough employees without pay for two weeks in order to survive. An extraordinary event transpired. Dozens of dedicated employees came to work -- without pay -- out of a true concern for the needs of their clients. While the phones may have rung a little longer and some appointments may have had to be rescheduled, the agency's clients were certainly not "thrown into turmoil" as the article indicates.

As a further affirmation of HCN's community support, a record number of people -- more than 20,000 -- turned out for AIDS Walk Miami. Their presence represented an enormous "outpouring of concern" for community good will. However, only one out of three participants actually brought money to the Walk, which reflects the tragic misperception that the crisis is over. To the contrary, Miami currently has the third-highest incidence of HIV/AIDS in the nation.

HCN is here because we are needed, and we will continue to strive for improvement as we face the AIDS crisis as best we can. We welcome any input from the community, including justified criticism. The virus and its destructive path keep changing, and so has HCN. We are extremely excited about the pending merger of HCN and Community Research Initiative. This merger represents an extraordinary opportunity to pioneer a new standard of comprehensive care. We are poised for the future in order to address the real crisis: the increasing number of people living with and dying from AIDS who truly need us all.

Betty L. Alvarez, president
Board of Directors
Health Crisis Network

HCN: Victim of Baseless Rumors
As a member of the gay community, a participant in the AIDS Walk, and a past volunteer and small contributor to Health Crisis Network, I feel compelled to say that Kathy Glasgow's article was filled with rumors that have very little basis in fact.

I applaud HCN for not commenting on matters such as the departure of director Mark Lichtman, yet I question Mr. Lichtman's remarks. If he was so disgusted by the White Party as a drug-and-sex fest, then why would he take his teenage daughter and her friend to the party?

Name Withheld by Request
Fort Lauderdale

HCN: Victim of Sloppy Journalism
As an HIV-positive community educator/ advocate and the author of HIV Law, I write to express my severe disappointment with Kathy Glasgow's article. We live in dangerous times, as HIV infection rates continue to increase even as a damaging public perception that the AIDS crisis is over takes hold. The disease continues to spread like a slow-burning fire, affecting people of both genders and all ages and races, its flames kindled by the racism, sexism, and homophobia still defining our society. An accurate understanding of the disease, and our community's response to it, could therefore not be more challenging or important. Unfortunately the article as written brings more smoke than light to the issues presented. Simply put, the journalistic integrity of the work (or lack thereof) falls far below that called for by the urgency and importance of the subject matter,

Let's start here: Health Crisis Network is not perfect. It is simply a group of highly committed people, many of them volunteers, struggling to do their best as they confront a constantly expanding series of challenges with a limited budget. AIDS work is not easy, and despite the creativity and dedication of the agency's staff and volunteers, room always exists for improvement. All of the (too few) people who give a damn about the epidemic are being put to the test by its challenges. HCN is no exception. Nevertheless the agency's clients have the right to expect a timely response, competent assistance, and respect. I'm certain the agency will continue to work toward that goal.

That said, it must be pointed out that Glasgow's article, replete with inaccuracies, half-truths, and appalling stereotypes (such as her reference to the sinister influence of "the gay power structure," a thinly veiled charge of elitism that can serve only to divide), sadly misleads the reader about the truth of HCN's strengths and weaknesses. Where is the factual basis for her loaded allegation that the agency shows a "continued disregard for minorities?" In keeping pace with the changing face of the epidemic, the agency has not only reached out in innovative ways to help meet the needs of the female, black, and Hispanic people now being slammed hardest, but has taken the lead in doing so.

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