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LAGUNA BEACH : Councilman Urges More AIDS Support

With the number of reported AIDS cases continuing to climb in Laguna Beach, Councilman Robert F. Gentry has suggested that an additional $10,000 of the next city budget be set aside for AIDS support organizations.

Laguna Beach, where a total of 174 AIDS cases had been reported as of April 30, has by far the highest per capita incidence of AIDS in the county. Countywide, 1,433 AIDS cases have been reported, or .56 cases per 1,000 people. In Laguna the rate is 6.66 per 1,000.

The city has been criticized for offering so little money for AIDS services that agencies have become competitors for scarce funds instead of working cooperatively.

Normally, the city budget includes $40,000 to $50,000 in community assistance funds, which are split among a variety of organizations, from the Laguna Beach Community Clinic to the Chamber Music Society. But during preliminary budget discussions, Gentry said groups providing AIDS services should be set apart from the other groups because of the need they fill for the city.

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“Rather than us opening up our own agency that would provide service to people with AIDS, it just seems smarter that we just support those that are already doing an excellent job for our residents,” he said.

“By the time you go to the federal government and the state government, you’ve lost people,” added Gentry, whose own companion died last year of AIDS. “With the fact that we are in the middle of this AIDS crisis and we are one of the highest impacted cities in the state, it seems to me the organizations that take care of people with AIDS in Laguna Beach should not have to compete for those moneys.”

Gentry said the city should give additional financial support to the Laguna Beach Community Clinic, Laguna Shanti, the Ahimsa Foundation and the Irvine-based AIDS Services Foundation. The city’s AIDS Education Task Force should recommend how the money is divided, he said.

Last year the city gave $2,900 to Laguna Shanti, $5,500 to the Laguna Beach Community Clinic and $1,000 to AIDS Walk Orange County, according to finance director Dick Reese. In addition, the education task force received $10,000.

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The final budget will be adopted during the June 19 City Council meeting, Reese said.


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