"QUESTION CLOSELY what your favourite charity is really doing. It may be little more than a politically correct pressure group which long ago stopped doing what it says on the tin - and does not need your money anyway. One renowned institution now receives 88% of its resources, directly or indirectly, from the taxpayer. So that is the first question you must ask: 'Where does your money come from?' Then you should inquire 'How much is your chief executive paid?' Investigate what your charity actually does. Does it do what you think it does? How much is spent not on such activities, but on publicity and lobbying? It distresses me to see kind people with modest means handing over money on trust to bodies which are not what they think they are... We do not, in most cases, give our money to be used for company cars, shiny offices, £100,000-a-year salaries...or for what amounts to political propaganda. We give it to help and protect others."
~ Peter Hitchens [Political commentator]
Stagnation and neglect are symptomatic of hierarchal organisations that grow out of touch with the street level consensus and refuse to adapt or change, becoming stuck in obsolete beliefs, methods and conventions. Private businesses fall on their sword or are forced to change their policies when they lose their way or become inert because their customers vote with their feet and go elsewhere. But where charitable public sector organisations like AID$ Inc. are concerned, the funds continue pouring in regardless of their lack of effectiveness and accountability, and their abject inability to grasp the straightforward concept that failure must result in dismissal. Indeed, were such inefficient organisations in the private sector they would be ducking the onslaught of law suits citing corporate negligence.
"You cannot solve problems with the same level of consciousness that created them."
~ Albert Einstein
Blaming everything on a handful of people at the top, however, no matter how destructive and corruptive their policies, misses a critical point. Systems tend to self-perpetuate. Remove one player and the next comes in to ensure business as usual. Replacing those in power won't help if the power structure itself doesn't change. And that means addressing how our own actions maintain the dysfunctional system.
"People with HIV have to take on activism themselves. We have to fight our own battles. HIV/AIDS has become so commercialised and the HIV campaigns are now just about getting money. We need to go back to the drawing board and find strategies that will help us."
~ Rubaramira Ruranga [Positive Nation]
Confined to our distracting, self-absorbed worlds, it is easy to forget that, as public servants, AID$ Inc. are answerable to us, their funders, and we each have the right to question their methods. If we don't then they continue to behave corruptably, righteously and with impunity, and remain woefully unaccountable. Effectively we become unwitting collaborators in their misguided and ill-conceived actions - and inaction - that ultimately threatens our wellbeing and very existence. Unless we change the system itself then we have no right to be shocked by the scandals and failures that cumulatively serve to keep us in ignorance and ultimately impact on our health.
But how to make our voices heard? And how to gauge if your local AIDS organisation is acting in the interests of community or to a pre-conceived and self-serving agenda? Does it:
• Hinder and dither in the way it operates and takes action over vital health issues, waiting until after the horse has bolted instead of acting at the first sign of a problem emerging?
• Dispute or deny the nature or extent of a clear and existing or emerging problem until it is too late to take decisive and effective action?
• Dismiss firsthand experience and anecdotal evidence out of hand and insist instead on the time-consuming accumulation of statistics to prove that a problem exists, then spin the results when they do emerge and evade the issue with PC rhetoric instead of swiftly acting on the findings?
• Place its own bloated interests ahead of the needs of the community it purports to serve (i.e. are most funds lavished on staff salaries, expenses, perks and office upgrades, and only a fraction on public campaigns)?
• Design PC sexual health campaigns that on the surface suggest responsible behaviour like condom use and STD testing yet subliminally encourage rampant sexual hedonism, promiscuity and the inevitability of contracting HIV?
• Recruit staff members whose behaviour in private conflicts with the health issues they should be confronting?
Shout down all criticism of their approach to HIV prevention out of hand and refuse to enter into debate with those representing the majority viewpoint, opting instead to belittle and smear their detractors?
• Harbour seemingly immortal positions for arrogant, out-of-touch executive members who refuse to admit their mistakes and move on and continue awarding themselves fat cat salaries at the expense of vital community health initiatives?
• Receive funding from external sources like pharmaceutical companies in return for being obliged to promote ethically conflicting interests?
Actions you can take to facilitate change:
• Hold the organisation to account by putting your perceived claims of mismanagement in writing. As public servants they are obliged to respond and their reply will itself form a part of your evidence against them.
• A Vision and Mission Statement describes an organisation's objectives and principles. Find out if yours is complying with its enshrined policies.
• Bring the problem into the public arena by writing letters to your prominent gay media. If your community newspaper or online forum operator is "in bed" with the organisation and places its ad revenue above public health and freedom of speech, consider contacting the newsdesk of your local mainstream press, television and radio stations instead (or set up your own web site!).
• Write to your local state representative or Member of Parliament outlining your concerns along with relevant statistics and press cuttings to back up your claims, and request that the issue be raised at national level.
• Study the accounts published in your local organisation's annual report to see how its funds are apportioned. If there is an obvious misuse of funds - if the amount it spends on itself is over 50% of its income and less than 10% is spent on campaigns - alert its listed patrons and donors and put them in the picture.
• Notify the regulatory body that polices the standards and practices of the charity or organisation in question. For example, The Charity Commission governs registered charities in the UK.
• Form a grass roots pressure group to inform others of your findings and petition them to sign their names to a declaration demanding positive change via an HIV sector that is funded and run by and for the community, devoid of corruptible individuals who collude with outside bodies to promote their interests and agendas at the expense of those they are appointed to serve.
• Set up your own organisation based on these sound principles and objectives, employing only intuitive and passionately-motivated people who remain 100% committed to your compassionate goals.
Exclude academics, who only consider prolems theoretically and so have no useful or productive role to play in reducing HIV transmissions and drug use. Instead act on what is clearly self-evident, and value anecdotal evidence as highly as scientific evidence.
• Stop donating to their "war chest", unless of course you are happy to continue bankrolling them...