Massachusetts AIDS Agencies Scrape Together Funding to Extend HIV Testing, Counseling Program in Wake of Budget Cuts
Two Framingham, Mass.-based AIDS agencies have used a total of $4,000 from their emergency funds to continue an anonymous HIV testing and counseling program, but the state's continuing budget crisis has placed the future of the program in jeopardy, the Boston Globe reports. In November, the state Legislature approved a $22.6 billion budget that included a $12.2 million cut for AIDS programs. The cut resulted in the elimination of the free counseling and testing program, which has been suspended for the past four months. The two agencies, the Metrowest AIDS program and the regional AIDS consortium OnTRAC, recently used a total of $4,000 to relaunch the program, which will begin operating again on Wednesday. More than 100 people accessed testing and counseling services through the program last year. Metrowest Director Kevin McNamara said that he believes people have gone untested during the program's four-month hiatus. "If we do not provide anonymous testing and counseling, people will not get care and continue to spread the disease," McNamara said. OnTRAC Chair Steve Moran added that many people avoid getting HIV tests from their regular physician because they fear it will have a negative impact on their record for health insurance or employment purposes. Metrowest and OnTRAC used money from their emergency funds, which are typically used to purchase medicine for clients or pay for funeral arrangements, but McNamara said that the financial future of the testing program is unclear. He added that although the program -- which costs $25,000 per year to operate -- has enough funding to remain operative until December, it will not likely receive any state funding for fiscal year 2003 and will have to be financed through private donations. He plans to launch a fundraising campaign to secure enough money to extend the program beyond December (Abelson, Boston Globe, 4/19).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.