Director hired for The AIDS Project
By Steven G. VeghGeorge W. Friou's career in social service has taken him from a farming project in Gabon to a Dorchester, Mass., public health clinic and a San Francisco senior citizen agency. Now it's taking him to The AIDS Project in Portland.
©Copyright 1997 Guy Gannett Communications
Friou will take charge Nov. 1 as executive director of The AIDS Project, which is Maine's biggest agency for serving people with HIV and AIDS. He was the unanimous choice of a committee that reviewed 40 applicants for a job that opened in March, when Stephen T. Moskey resigned.
Friou, 41, currently is executive director of North of Market Senior Services in San Francisco. The $2.3 million agency provides health services to senior citizens.
The AIDS Project has a $1 million budget and a staff of 19 who provide HIV/AIDS prevention education and service to people with HIV and AIDS in York, Cumberland, Androscoggin and Oxford counties.
Reached Wednesday in California, Friou said his career has involved him in many public health issues such as nutrition, high school health education, senior services, and health needs in developing countries. He has worked in Pakistan and the African country of Gabon.
But Friou has grown increasingly concerned with HIV and AIDS.
''A lot of gay men and women infected with HIV are friends of mine, and they are passing away, and it's become very personal - how to find ways of preventing this,'' he said. ''It becomes quite a motivating point of one's life.''
Friou also has a Maine connection. His family has owned land and a camp since the late 1800s in Wytopitlock in southern Aroostook County, and also has land on Cranberry Island off Friendship in Knox County. Friou's father also will be moving to Greater Portland soon, he said.
Officials at The AIDS Project praised Friou's demeanor and wealth of experience.
Friou's experience with needle-exchange programs at North of Market Senior Services and at Upham's Corner Health Center in Dorchester was of particular interest to the search committee. Needle exchanges are designed to limit transmission of the HIV virus among intravenous drug users.
''One of the things we're aware of is that intravenous drug use is being represented among a greater percentage of people who get infected with HIV,'' Mike Martin said.
Martin, vice-president of The AIDS Project board of directors, said the trend in Maine shows greater HIV incidence among people who have substance abuse and mental health problems.
The eight-person search committee, composed equally of TAP employees and board members, also found Friou a pleasing personality. ''He is a very likable, low-key, intelligent person, a very good listener, and he seems very interested in working for TAP and coming to Maine,'' Martin said.
Friou will be the agency's fourth executive director since 1990, and TAP officials acknowledged the turnover may justifiably have raised eyebrows among the public.
''AIDS service organizations have a tendency to be volatile because the work is so intense, so probably the turnover rate (in AIDS work) is a little greater than average,'' said Marjorie Love, who is running TAP on an interim basis.
But she conceded that at The AIDS Project, ''the turnover over the last few years is not normal, even in this environment.''
Friou said he considered regular staff turnover commonplace at small non-profit organizations, and did not consider The AIDS Project to be unusual.
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