St. Louis HIV Planning Council Cuts $700,000 in Services After Nearly 14% Drop in Ryan White CARE Act Funding
The Metro St. Louis HIV Health Services Planning Council, which is responsible for applying for federal HIV/AIDS grants and deciding how the money will be spent, on Friday cut $700,000 from the city's HIV-related programs, including housing, food, child care and transportation services, drug cost reimbursement and emergency financial assistance, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The city received $4.3 million, or nearly 14%, less in Ryan White CARE Act grants than it did last year and was "the biggest loser" among the 51 metropolitan areas that receive the funding, according to the Post-Dispatch (Moore, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 3/13). Forty of the 51 grants were lower this year than last year's funding levels, with cuts ranging from 3% to 14% (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/2). Last year in St. Louis, 2,063 people received services financed by the grants. However, the number of newly reported HIV cases in the area doubled in 2003, compared with 2002. Although the council decided to continue to fund primary medical care and health insurance reimbursements, it cut drug cost reimbursements for over-the-counter medications. In addition, the council cut by half funding for transportation, eliminated funding for day care at clinics and cut by more than half funding for mental health and food bank services, according to the Post-Dispatch. The council also cut the positions of three case workers, one of the "[m]ost controversial" cuts, the Post-Dispatch reports.
The cuts to services are "going to be a huge burden on people living with HIV and AIDS," David Lauber, director of development and communications for Doorways, the primary provider of housing for HIV-positive people in St. Louis, said. He added, "Without a place to live, they have no place to keep their food or medicine, or for their doctor to call them." Kevin Ropp, spokesperson for the Health Resources and Services Administration, which administers the grants, said that Congress appropriated $595.3 million for the program this year, which is $4.2 million less than in 2003. "With fewer dollars to award, there's going to be fewer cities that receive an increase," Ropp said, adding, "We award whatever we are given." St. Louis Health Commissioner Melba Moore said that the federal government's priorities "must change" to address HIV/AIDS, according to the Post-Dispatch. "I understand about homeland security and what is going on in Iraq, but when you put money into one area, you have to take it from another area," Moore said, adding, "These are people's lives. I want them to live longer. But in order for them to live longer, you've got to give them services. ... The last thing these patients need is worry" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 3/13).