If the country goes over the fiscal cliff, the number of HIV cases in Middle Tennessee could increase.
Sound like a stretch? The people here at Nashville Cares don't think so. They say it's a real possibility.
While you're letting that sink in, think about this.
Nashville Cares is just one of many nonprofit organizations threatened by the looming fiscal cliff.
Qua Lam tested positive for HIV 10 years ago.
"I was broke, homeless," said Lam. "I desperately needed help. I was suicidal at the time and literally crazy."
He found Nashville Cares, which he said saved his life.
"I just can't even imagine if Nashville Cares wasn't available 2 1/2 years ago," said Lam.
Today Lam works at the nonprofit where they serve 60,000 people in 17 Middle Tennessee counties each year, providing education, testing and services ranging from housing to emotional support.
"If we were not here able to provide these services, first of all the epidemic would be much worse than it was because many more people would become infected," said Nashville Cares CEO Joseph Interrante.
"The people who are positive, many of them would end up being evicted because they can't pay their rents or their heat would be turned off."
It's why they're watching the fiscal cliff fiasco with baited breath.
Thousands of nonprofit organizations now face the possibility of severe cuts.
"Nationwide, HIV programs alone lose about half-a-billion dollars in federal funding," said Interrante.
And it's not just federal dollars. Local nonprofits worry about loss of private donations too.
"It is unfortunate that the fiscal cliff uncertainty coincides with this giving season that is so important to the nonprofit sector because there are lots of donors who are not giving with great comfort," said Ellen Lehman, president of the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.
It's a potential lose-lose situation.
Though no one knows yet what the final fiscal cliff outcome will look like, here at Nashville Cares, their biggest fear is less help for those most in need.
"The need is always greater with every passing year," said Lam. "The funding is always smaller with every passing year and unfortunately we need it the other way around."
Nashville Cares assures their patients and recipients that they are committed to staying open and providing services regardless of what happens.
But it is becoming clear that if and when the cliff does occur, organizations like Nashville Cares will have to do more with a whole lot less.
Copyright 2012 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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