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D.C. officials respond to HIV/AIDS criticism
  10/19/2009, 3:28 p.m. EDT
The Associated Press
(AP) - WASHINGTON - D.C.'s mayor and city health officials on Monday acknowledged problems with the way the city's HIV/AIDS office has given out grant money in the past but say they have corrected the failings. The response during a news conference at the Department of Health came after The Washington Post began a series of stories Sunday on what it said was the mismanagement of money going to HIV/AIDS groups that help D.C. residents. The paper reported that from 2004 to 2008, more than $25 million was given to groups that had questionable spending or questions about the quality of care and services.
D.C. Attorney General Peter J. Nickles promised to follow up on the paper's report. His office has been looking at past misuses of money, but it was "helpful" to have the paper's research, he said.
The head of the city's HIV/AIDS office, Dr. Shannon Hader, said that over the time period studied, the city spent some $500 million on HIV/AIDS services. The overwhelming majority of the funds was well spent, she said. She added that the "vast majority" of the cases the paper has cited in its report were already under investigation when she started in 2007.
The city has now overhauled the process by which organizations get grants, officials said.
The city's mayor, Adrian Fenty, who took office in 2007, said that at the beginning of his administration he probably "did not move fast enough" to address problems at the HIV/AIDS office.
According to a report released by D.C. health officials earlier this year, at least 3 percent of residents in the nation's capital are living with HIV or AIDS.
About the investigation
Wash Post Monday, October 19, 2009
For these reports, The Washington Post analyzed the spending, services and finances of every specialized AIDS organization that was funded by the District's HIV/AIDS Administration from 2004 to 2008 -- an estimated 90 groups that were awarded a total of more than $80 million. Not all of the money was drawn down and spent.
Along with the city's medical clinics, the groups make up the front lines of the District's fight against the disease.
Records from the HIV/AIDS Administration are inconsistent, incomplete and, at times, missing altogether. To evaluate the performance of AIDS groups in the city, The Post built a database using thousands of pages of tax returns, audits and lawsuits; real estate, D.C. Council and court records; and corporate and police reports.
The Post also obtained grant agreements, invoices and government correspondence, when available, for about 60 of the groups. Included in the documents were site inspection reports, which repeatedly chronicled questionable spending, deficient services, missing records and other problems. The Post also culled information from a database of city expenditures and purchase orders obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Over 10 months, the newspaper interviewed dozens of people with HIV or AIDS, their families and service providers and visited more than a dozen organizations across the city.
The HIV/AIDS Administration also funds medical clinics, hospitals, universities and AIDS programs in Northern Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia. Those groups were excluded from this study.
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