Following revelations that New York City’s sole agency that focuses exclusively on HIV prevention work among gay and bisexual African-American men was struggling financially, Tokes Osubu has resigned as the agency’s executive director.
“No comment, no comment at all, it’s done, that’s it,” said Osubu, who will relinquish the helm at Gay Men of African Descent (GMAD), a Brooklyn-based AIDS group, on September 14.
On the evening of September 12, Zachary Jones, a senior bishop in the Unity Fellowship Church Movement and the GMAD board chair, confirmed Osubu’s resignation and the date of his last day.
Vaughn Taylor-Akutagawa, the current deputy executive director, is expected to head the agency at least temporarily. Jones said the board would issue a statement soon.
Osubu took over the agency in 2003. Founded in 1986, GMAD is the oldest organization dedicated solely to serving black gay men. In 2003, it was also the largest, but it was eventually eclipsed in size, accomplishments, and prestige by People of Color in Crisis (POCC), also a Brooklyn-based AIDS group. POCC closed in 2008 after Michael Roberson, then the executive director, was accused of pilfering nearly $80,000 of POCC’s cash.
“We’re back,” Osubu told Gay City News in 2003. “Our doors are open, we’re ready to make some changes, and those who want to help make that a reality are welcome to come onboard.”
Prior to joining GMAD, Osubu was a project director for the HIV Alliance of New York City. Osubu had a vision for the agency.
“There are so many components to GMAD,” he said in 2003. “Of course, without question there is the health and wellness component. But, without downplaying those, I would also like people to be more aware of the advocacy and youth programming we have to offer. I want to make things more exciting, create a youth scholarship fund, bridge the generation gap.”
GMAD did not keep pace with how government funders, GMAD’s primary source of revenue, were addressing HIV prevention. Increasingly, federal, state, and city agencies want private contractors to move away from behavioral interventions and toward more HIV testing. The theory is that those who test positive will change their behavior to avoid infecting others. All who test positive will also be treated with anti-HIV drugs so even if they do not alter their behavior, they will be less infectious and less likely to infect others.
GMAD lost some city resources and cash this year because the city health department asserted the agency was not identifying enough HIV-positive clients and the worth of some its interventions, notably an anti-stigma campaign, was questioned.
“It just says a lot about the value they attach to that,” Osubu said in July. “Stigma is not that important, which is very unfortunate... The work we do is just as valuable. We’re really talking about the structural, environmental impediments to good prevention work.”
GMAD relied almost entirely on government contracts for its funding. In the first six months of 2011, roughly 85 percent of GMAD’s budget came from government contracts. In the first six months of this year, all of those contracts were cut, and one was eliminated entirely.
In 2010, the most recent year for which a full year of data is available, $1.15 million, or 88 percent, of GMAD’s $1.3 million budget was from government contracts. In 2009, $1 million, or 76 percent, of the agency’s $1.3 million budget came from government contracts. The agency spent $5,300 on raising private dollars in 2009, and nothing on such fundraising in 2010. GMAD raised just under $6,800 in private funds in the first six months of this year.
GMAD’s revenues were just under $358,000 for the first six months of this year, and just over $657,000 for the first six months of 2011. The group’s deficit as of July 12 of this year is nearly $284,000. The agency’s expenses in the first six months of this year were just under $642,000 compared to just over $624,000 for the same period last year.
Like many small AIDS groups, GMAD has not raised private funds that can come without the strings that attach to government dollars nor has the agency been able to tap into other government sources, such as Medicaid.