Central Texas AIDS Groups to Lose Funding for HIV Prevention Programs Under New Grant Allocation System
Several HIV/AIDS agencies in central Texas will lose much or all of their state funding for prevention programs next year due to a new funding allocation system, the Austin American-Statesman reports. Texas Health Department officials said that state funds for HIV prevention services will be allocated according to areas and population groups that are most affected by the virus. The changes in the funding system were made in part to focus on areas with the highest HIV infection rates -- larger metro areas such as Dallas and Houston -- and populations that are disproportionately affected by the disease. "We're basically relying on the science of HIV prevention. We now have a lot more information about what programs work and what makes them effective, and as a result of using the best science available, this is the path it has led us down," Casey Blass, director of the health department's HIV and sexually transmitted disease health resources division, said. Several central Texas agencies, including Community Action, ALLGO Informe-VIDA, the Williamson County health district and United Way of the Greater Fort Hood Area, will receive no state funding for HIV prevention programs next year. Other agencies, including CARE of Travis County and AIDS Services of Austin, have partnered with the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department, which did receive state prevention funding. However, the two organizations will "ultimately ... receive less" than they did last year because they will be sharing the funding with the county health department. Austin Outreach also received state funding for HIV prevention services. Several central Texas agencies receive state and federal funding for other HIV/AIDS services, and these grants will not be affected by the funding changes.
The Austin-based organizations that did not receive state funds said they plan to appeal the grant allocations and may protest the cuts. Advocates say that the loss of funding may force groups to cut services or shut down, leaving people without services. "It's going to impact the clients we serve. There will be no intervention programs in the rural counties (around Austin) as of Jan. 1, and that concerns us deeply," Carole Belver, director of community health services for Community Action, said. Martha Duffer, executive director of ALLGO, added, "Many of these programs have been developing skills and expertise in the last 15 years. We've been making major strides in addressing the epidemic in central Texas. If these programs are shut down, that expertise is lost." Blass said that organizations that receive funding can still serve their current clients and "may have more flexible requirements once they negotiate the award contracts," a process that begins this week (Rodriguez, Austin American-Statesman, 9/13).