Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations
Minnesota AIDS Activists Protest Gov. Ventura’s Plan to Reduce HIV Prevention Funding
Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura has proposed cutting state spending for AIDS prevention efforts for "the first time since the epidemic began," a move that has state AIDS activists "up in arms," the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports. Under Ventura's plan, the state would cut funding for HIV prevention -- which had totaled about $5 million annually -- by $250,000 per year. AIDS activists plan to lobby against the proposal at the state Capitol on "AIDS Action Day" Feb. 15. However, state health officials contend that Minnesota is "not backing away" from the fight against HIV, pointing out that the state will shift the funding into a program that targets STDs in general (Lerner, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 2/3). "We've not cut the amount of money that's available for HIV and STDs, we've maybe rearranged it," Minnesota Assistant Health Commissioner Aggie Leitheiser said, adding, "We're trying to prevent sexually transmitted diseases, which include HIV. When you're doing prevention, the strategies are similar" (AP/St. Paul Pioneer Press, 2/4). Bob Tracy, community affairs director of the Minnesota AIDS Project, dismissed the proposal as a "shell game," adding, "The way to do STD prevention is not to stop doing HIV prevention. It's not an either/or proposition." Dr. Keith Henry, an AIDS specialist at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, said, "It's worrisome to get complacent about cutting back on the prevention efforts," adding that $250,000 would fund treatment for one AIDS patient for 10 years. "So if you prevent one infection, then it's highly cost-effective," he said. According to Leitheiser, the governor's proposed budget would also "pump new money" into the fight against AIDS under a $14 million program to eliminate health disparities among minority groups. "We could actually be increasing the pot of money available for HIV and STDs," she said, adding, "We all need to work together. I hope that we aren't going to be spending our time fighting against each other." Last week, the Minnesota AIDS Project, which receives about $230,000 in state funding, "blasted" Ventura's proposal in its newsletter and urged supporters to join in lobbying legislators against the plan. The group also objected to a proposal that would eliminate a fund that helps schools develop AIDS educational programs (Minneapolis
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