New Life

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That year, CAP's board of directors appointed a task force to examine the organization; as a result, it was restructured in an effort to be more cost-effective.

It also adopted a new image. The plain, corporate-looking CAP logo and the slogan "The loving touch of a caring community" was replaced with an image of different-colored hands reaching skyward and the motto "Hope Until Victory." The phrase was printed on press packets and CAP literature, and the nonprofit's public-affairs staff began to emphasize a new campaign called "Changing Face of AIDS, Changing Face of CAP."

But some of the gay white staffers at CAP resented the attention being paid to other populations. Gay men, after all, still constituted the largest population of people infected with HIV and AIDS both in Colorado and in the rest of the nation. Men who have sex with men accounted for 66 percent of the newly diagnosed AIDS cases and 64 percent of the newly diagnosed HIV cases in Colorado last year. The majority of those men are white.

"In their 2000 annual report, they say they strive to 'prevent the spread of infection in every community,'" says Joe Mauro, a grant writer who left CAP in May 1999 to work for another nonprofit. "That's a pretty tall order. If you're following an infectious disease, shouldn't you aim prevention at the majority of the population infected with HIV?"

In a February 22, 2001, interview in Resolute! a newsletter published by the People With AIDS Coalition Colorado, Julian Rush, who was about to step down as CAP's executive director, addressed the problem directly and talked about the tensions CAP's broadening focus had created within the organization.

"I can remember distinctly having staff discussions about things that we needed to tone down in the agency, because it had been a pretty freewheeling gay atmosphere...and it was a realization that we needed to have a place where gay people can still feel at home but not have the straight people feel uncomfortable," he was quoted as saying.

"I think the gay men that we had on staff who had come out early, whose socialization had been primarily with other gay people, really weren't that sensitive to how other people might feel.... But we became aware of needing to tone things down as we got more hemophiliac children who were positive, and that started the discourse among the staff on how to deal with these changes," Rush said.

"I can remember getting into a real argument with one of our case managers, who said, 'I have fought too hard for my gay world to make my office neutral,' to which I replied, 'It's not your office. Your office is a piece of CAP. Your home is your castle, but this is CAP's office that you're using, and you have to act accordingly.' I think there were all shades of response. There were the gay people who wanted to be more sensitive to everybody, and there were also the gay people who were digging their heels in and saying, in a sense, 'This is our epidemic, and we don't want to share it.'"

Thomas Bruner, executive director of the Cascade AIDS Project, which serves Oregon and southwest Washington, understands exactly what Rush was talking about. He has seen similar attitudes among people he knows. "As a gay man myself, what's that about? What's with the investment in owning AIDS? As gay men, we need to quit looking at AIDS service organizations as quasi-gay community centers that we founded for ourselves and begin looking at them as human-services agencies for everyone," he says. "Gay men ought to feel just the opposite. I mean, look at what we did. We stepped into the middle of a scary crisis and created a community-based response. Look at the gift we gave. These organizations are now poised to help others in addition to ourselves."

Maloney was also aware of those attitudes when she assumed her new post in October. She'd been CAP's director of public affairs and marketing for two years prior to that. "I was nervous about that," says Maloney, who spent the first few weeks in her new job meeting with longtime CAP supporters. "I wanted to make sure that the people who supported us all along the way wouldn't feel a disloyalty from us. I wanted to make sure we showed them we were grateful to them." A lot of those feelings have since dissipated, she adds. "I think people realize it's a disease that doesn't discriminate and that we need to reach out to everyone. We are in a place now where we continue to serve the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community while also addressing the new trends in the epidemic."

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Julie Jargon
Contact: Julie Jargon

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