Health Officials From Southern States Ask Federal Government for More Money To Provide HIV/AIDS Health Care, Prevention Services
Health officials from 14 Southern states and Washington, D.C., on Thursday called on Congress to allocate almost $122 million a year to states in the South to make up for what they say is an inequality in federal funding for the region, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports. Speaking at the Southern AIDS Coalition conference in New Orleans, the officials said that the number of HIV/AIDS caseloads in their states is outpacing the federal funding they receive. According to the CDC, the coalition of states accounted for 39% of the nation's new AIDS diagnoses in 2001, the latest year for which the figures are available, the Times-Picayune reports. The officials are asking for $25.5 million for prevention programs, almost $34.6 million for basic care, $48.6 million to help HIV/AIDS patients pay for prescription drugs and about $13.1 million to help pay for housing (Pope, New Orleans Times-Picayune, 9/18). According to a report by the North Carolina Division of Public Health HIV/STD Prevention & Care Branch, the federal government allocates an average of $5,625 for health care for each AIDS case around the country, but in the South, the average for each case is $5,184. That means for every dollar spent on health care for the average AIDS patient across the country, the average AIDS patient in the South receives a little more than 92 cents, according to the report (Basinger, Florida Times-Union, 9/17). The officials said that the funding discrepancy occurs because the formula the federal government uses to determine funding levels favors cities with large AIDS caseloads, such as New York, Miami and New Orleans. However, many Southern cities do not have high concentrations of AIDS cases, making them ineligible for some federal grants, according to Evelyn Foust, director of programs for AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases in North Carolina's Department of Health and Human Services, the Times-Picayune reports.
No Discrepancy, HRSA Says
"It's unfair for HIV-infected individuals to not have adequate care," Thomas Liberti, chief of the HIV/AIDS Bureau of the Florida Department of Health, said, adding, "It's in our nature to fight a disease and see gains. We know we can't [make strides] as long as we're fighting with one hand behind our backs" (New Orleans Times-Picayune, 9/18). However, Kevin Ropp, a spokesperson for the Health Resources and Services Administration, which administers federal HIV/AIDS funding, said, "Is there a funding discrepancy? Not that we are aware of." Ropp added that federal officials are aware of the coalition's concerns, noting that HRSA Associate Administrator Deborah Parham attended the conference to listen to the advocates' concerns (Florida Times-Union, 9/17). The two-day conference ended on Thursday (Gyan, Baton Rouge Advocate, 9/18).