Aids groups eye Community Care Fund for cash

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 November, 2010, 12:00am

Groups fighting Aids are eyeing the new HK$10 billion Community Care Fund as a possible solution to their constant search for cash.

They see it as a way of obtaining corporate money they have trouble attracting directly because of companies' fears that being associated with Aids could harm their image.

The fund, announced by Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen in his policy address last month, will be financed equally by the government and business.

Loretta Wong Wai-kwan, chief executive of Aids Concern, said commercial sponsors were hard to find.

'We were once rejected by a company as they thought a donation would be too sensitive,' Wong said. 'Aids is sex-related and a lot of people still think it is taboo.'

While a company might worry that donating to an Aids organisation could tarnish its brand image, donating under the large umbrella of the Community Care Fund might be more acceptable, she said.

Most Aids NGOs receive financial support from the government's Aids Trust Fund, which gave HK$34 million to 28 organisations last year and has handed out HK$125 million over the past five years.

But Shara Ho Pik-yuk, chief executive officer of Choice, a small NGO, said the trust fund gave it enough to support only 60 to 70 per cent of its operating costs.

'There are many projects we want to do, such as those promoting emotional health. But we had to give up as there is no funding,' she said.

The Aids Trust Fund also does not reimburse rent payments on premises for such NGOs, which Ho said was a constraint on their work. She said a convenient location for their services was vital to encourage more potential HIV carriers to come for testing and counselling.

Leo Yiu Wai-ming, a staff member at Midnight Blue, an NGO that helps homosexual men, said while some companies were willing to provide funds, donations were usually piecemeal and one-off. He said Hong Kong was not a priority for overseas assistance, as people believed the city was wealthy enough to support itself.

Wong of Aids Concern said the group depended on donations from the public, which provided 60 per cent of its annual income.

But she said it had been harder to rally support in recent years, as people were 'getting numb' to Aids campaigns. 'People are getting less enthusiastic about it compared to 10 years ago, as they have been listening to the same messages over the years.'

The group, which employs about 30 people, has an annual operating cost of HK$11 million to HK$12 million, of which the government provides HK$3 million.

Wong said the government was supportive of its work but would only fund scientifically-proven projects rather than pilot ones.

'While we can get money for testing services and outreach programmes for gay men, the fund does not support anti-stigma campaigns or those aimed at teenagers.'

The details of the Community Care Fund have yet to be announced, but it is touted as a means of providing support to the poor in areas not covered by the welfare system.

Large enterprises and tycoons have reacted positively to the fund. Cheung Kong (Holdings) chairman Li Ka-shing has pledged HK$500 million, while Henderson Land chairman Lee Shau-kee and the Kwok Foundation of Sun Hung Kai Properties agreed to contribute HK$400 million each.