TOP 10: City cuts AIDS funds

Posted on 30 Dec 2009 at 3:29pm
By David Taffet

Under the duress, the Dallas City Council cuts all AIDS funding to cover budget shortdalls, angering HIV/AIDS activists.

Dallas cuts HIV funding: Facing a $190 million shortfall, Dallas city officials proposed $325,000 in cuts to HIV/AIDS prevention and education services in June. They indicated little chance the money would be restored to this year’s budget before it was finalized in September.

LGBT activists who attended a community budget forum on June 22 at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas in North Dallas said they weren’t going down without a fight. About a dozen activists, mostly from Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats and Queer LiberAction, were among hundreds who turned out for the forum to speak on a variety of cuts that also included library, after-school recreation and senior programs.

The $325,000 represents the entire amount currently spent by the city on HIV/AIDS from its general fund. The city also administers $3.2 million in federal grants for housing people with HIV/AIDS that won’t be affected by the cuts.
The Aug. 26 city council meeting was devoted to hearing citizen concerns about budget cuts.

Stonewall Young Democrats President Travis Gasper called restoration of funding "one of the best investments" the council could make. He called prevention and education not only the right thing to do, but also the responsible thing to do.
Gasper said he was working with city council members Angela Hunt, Pauline Medrano and Delia Jasso about restoring the cuts.

Mayor Tom Leppert said that two grant applications to cover the HIV funding loss were pending. He gave no other details about those grants or whether it would restore funding to all five agencies. The cuts would affect prevention and outreach education programs at Resource Center Dallas and AIDS Interfaith Network.

The Resource Center would lose $75,000 for a program that targets the Latino population. AIN’s programs targeting African-American and low-income communities would lose its entire $100,000 in city funding. Other program cuts included $44,000 for an epidemiologist at Dallas County Health and Human Services, $44,000 for a program targeting minority adolescents run by the Urban League and $58,500 for a program serving minorities at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

At the end of September, the city of Dallas was awarded a $247,000 federal grant for HIV/AIDS outreach and prevention. The grant was part of a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services program called HIRE, which stands for HIV/AIDS Initiative for Re-Entry, according to Brett Wilkinson, director of intergovernmental services for the city. Wilkinson said the HIRE program is geared toward outreach and prevention among HIV-positive people who are being released from prison.

Wilkinson said the grant money will be split into three areas: an existing city program that provides case-management to nonviolent parolees, called Project Reconnect; a city pilot project called Dallas One-Stop Optimized Re-Entry System, which will set up one-stop centers where recently released convicts can go; and outside HIV/AIDS service providers that can provide similar services.

However, the money did not restore cuts to the agencies previously providing outreach services.

Although the money restored funding levels to about $75,000 of previous city spending, it did not actually replace the previous cuts. None of the grant money would go to the agencies affected by the budget cuts — AIDS Interfaith Network, Resource Center Dallas, Urban League of Greater Dallas and UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Resource Center Dallas will no longer be able to conduct HIV/AIDS outreach and prevention exclusively targeting gay Latinos, one of the highest-risk groups for infection.  And AIDS Interfaith Network is faced with the possibility of not being able to conduct any outreach or prevention at all.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 1, 2010.

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