Political Notebook: State AIDS cuts to San Francisco near $4M
by Matthew S. Bajko
The state Office of AIDS informed local municipalities this week how it intends to divvy up nearly $60 million in direct service cuts to AIDS care and HIV treatment and prevention programs, with San Francisco taking at least a $4 million hit to its funding.
According to the documents released by state AIDS officials, Los Angeles and San Francisco, which also receive direct funding from federal AIDS dollars, will be allocated half of their new formula allocation they would have received from the state. The remaining half will be redistributed among 15 cities and counties that are also highly impacted by the AIDS epidemic.
Out of the total $7 million the state doles out for treatment, 46 percent will be given to the 15 jurisdictions while Los Angeles will be allocated 18 percent of its prior allocation ($1.2 million) and San Francisco will be allocated 14 percent of its prior allocation ($434,300).
San Francisco will see its state resources for HIV prevention and testing cut by 82 percent, a reduction of $2.4 million, leaving it with $512,000 in the 2009-2010 fiscal year. Both San Francisco and Los Angeles could have seen all of their state funding eliminated, since they receive federal money directly, but state AIDS officials opted not to go with that option.
Dana Van Gorder, executive director of Project Inform, said it makes sense for state officials to allocate the money in a way that tracks the HIV epidemic. Los Angeles and San Francisco have the highest concentration of HIV cases anywhere in the state.
"You have to continue to fund San Francisco and Los Angeles in particular, although we've been careful to argue on behalf of some of the smaller jurisdictions like San Diego that have epidemics too," said Van Gorder, who was still trying to digest the 79-page report detailing how the state was allocating money this year. "They have epidemics but don't have the kinds of local resources San Francisco does. There are a lot of counties in the state of California, Los Angeles is one of them, where virtually no local contributions are being made."
Still, the news this week was sobering, said local AIDS officials.
"No matter how we parse it out, this is a huge impact to HIV prevention and care services. This is a devastating cut to care, prevention, and treatment," said Courtney Mulhern-Pearson , a policy and legislative associate at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
The city's Department of Public Health has yet to inform local AIDS agencies and service providers the exact amounts of how much their contracts will be reduced. The city's HIV prevention director, Dr. Grant Colfax, could not be reached for comment by press time this week.
He reportedly told local AIDS agencies during a conference call Tuesday that the city will be operating with just 25 percent of what it had expected to receive in state money and 46 percent of what it had budgeted from the city's general fund.
"It is potentially devastating," said Stop AIDS Project Executive Director Kyriell Noon.
The agency receives one-third of its $378,000 in government funding from the city and state, and Noon said he has yet to figure out how much it will lose due to the budget cuts.
"We are just waiting," said Noon Tuesday night, who praised Colfax for "keeping us as informed as he is."
"If anything I am curious how our city Department of Public Health allocates what is left with its money," added Noon. "There is no indication of how soon that would happen."
Stop AIDS has been in merger talks with the AIDS foundation for months. Asked if the budget cuts would hasten the need to combine both agencies, Noon said the fiscal situation is not the driving force behind the negotiations.
"We are looking at will merging lead to fewer HIV infections in San Francisco, that is driving it. It is not about the funding from the city and county," said Noon.
In the city's budget, local leaders did set aside some funds to backfill any cuts from the state. Noon said AIDS advocates have pressed their case with Supervisor Bevan Dufty, one of the board's two openly gay members who sat on the budget committee.
But he said with other worthy needs such as children's health care, mental health services, and substance abuse programs all hurting for cash, he is uncertain just how much money will be allocated toward AIDS agencies.
"In times like these everyone is forced to compete with the supervisors' attention. It is a horrible dance," said Noon.
Last week's Political Notebook misidentified Laura Spanjian, a candidate running to replace Dufty as District 8 supervisor next year, as being Jewish. She is in fact second generation Armenian American and grew up in an Episcopal household.
The online version of the column has been corrected.
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