AIDS Activists Criticize Los Angeles County HIV Commission’s $25,000 Retreat
AIDS activists are questioning why Los Angeles County health officials are holding a $25,000 retreat on AIDS funding two days after supervisors "slashed" funding for sexually transmitted disease testing and treatment, the Copley News/Torrance Daily Breeze reports. The county's 49-member Commission on HIV Health Services began its annual retreat on Thursday at a waterfront hotel in Redondo Beach, and the meeting has "infuriated" activists who say the retreat "sends the wrong message" at a time when budget cuts have led to the closure of clinics and the reduction of services. As a result of Los Angeles County's "major budget crisis," the county Board of Supervisors last week eliminated $400,000 worth of contracts with clinics that provide STD screening and treatment. "They're telling people that clinics for people with HIV may be cut back, but then they're sending a bloated commission ... to a hotel," Miki Jackson, a consultant for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, said. Commissioner Genevieve Clavreul also criticized the cost of the retreat and said that she plans to reimburse the county for her hotel accommodations and meals. "I'm appalled. We could have spent that $25,000 on care, care for which the county would not have to pay," she said. But several members of the commission defended the retreat, saying that the money used to pay for the meeting comes from federal funds, which "could not have been used to save" the contracts eliminated last week. Commissioners -- who are not paid by the county for their service on the panel -- added that the retreat allows panel members to develop their annual work plan on HIV/AIDS (Zahniser, Copley News/Torrance Daily Breeze, 11/14). The commission came under fire earlier this year after county supervisors requested an audit of the Los Angeles County Office of AIDS Programs and Policy. The HIV Commission is the legislative body for the OAPP (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/20). Supervisors had been concerned that OAPP Director Chuck Henry had a conflict of interest because he also served as head of the HIV Commission that determines how federal and state money is spent (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/9). The county auditor-controller issued a report several weeks ago that indicated there "was at least the appearance of conflicts of interest" among the HIV Commission (Rester, Long Beach Press-Telegram, 11/13).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.