AIDS interest flagging in Flathead 

“It’s getting to be too much,” says Dee Boyce, a board member on the Flathead AIDS Council.

Over the last few years, her crew of 10 volunteers has been whittled down to three, who are trying to continue the fund-raising designed to help pick up where county aid leaves off for the approximately 17 people in the Flathead Valley living with HIV/AIDS.

In the past, Boyce says her organization has helped its beneficiaries in a variety of ways, assisting one young man whose mother died to pay his mortgage for a month and find roommates, helping a couple pay for their medication when they came up short one month and providing transportation to seminars and retreats for local HIV/AIDS patients.

The council usually receives $5,000 from a federal Hoffman grant, and another $5,000 in donations, she says. But with so few volunteers out working to get donations, she says, those numbers have dropped off considerably.

To make matters worse, with just three people, the AIDS Council should technically be out of business. Boyce says that to maintain the organization’s nonprofit status, it needs four members. Without that status, they’ll no longer be eligible for the $5,000 grant. Right now, she says, they’re looking into merging with the Flathead Valley Alliance, a local gay/lesbian organization, so they can keep their grant.

Wendy Doely, director of Flathead County’s family planning office, says the AIDS Council has played an important role in the past, providing services once the county ran out of federal dollars. She says they are needed now more than ever, as federal funding for AIDS health care programs is poised to take another hit.

Boyce says it’s unclear why interest in the AIDS Council has waned, but she’s hopeful that interest in HIV/AIDS issues is on the rise. She notes that in December, 25 people attended a Kalispell candlelight vigil in recognition of AIDS/HIV victims worldwide.

She hopes at least a few of the people who attended the vigil will follow up on that interest by helping the council out.

“We need bodies and minds,” she says.

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