Mecklenburg County, N.C., HIV/AIDS Advocates Request More Funding, Better Focus on Local Epidemic
HIV/AIDS advocates in Mecklenburg County, N.C., plan to ask the Board of County Commissioners to provide increased funds for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, advocate for more "attention" to the epidemic in the county and place a "stronger focus" on prevention efforts, the Charlotte Observer reports. The board last year heard recommendations from a task force it created on how to reduce the county's rising HIV prevalence rate, which is twice that of the state as a whole, and adopted the goal of no new HIV/AIDS cases by 2015, according to the Observer. However, the Republican-controlled, nine-member board "backed away" from the task force's "more controversial" recommendations, including creating a needle-exchange program -- where injection drug users could exchange used syringes for clean ones in an attempt to prevent HIV infection -- increasing outreach to "high-risk" groups and creating an advisory group of HIV/AIDS experts, according to the Observer. The commissioners provided about half of the $650,000 the task force recommended to hire six new health workers. The task force had recommended hiring 12 new workers. "The county commission, which operates as a board of health, is looking at this more as a political issue than as a medical emergency," Eloise Hicks, a task force member and director of the Regional HIV/AIDS Consortium -- which coordinates efforts by agencies in 13 counties -- said. The commissioners in 2005 "face tough budget choices," but new board Chair Parks Helms (D) said fighting HIV/AIDS will be a "high priority" of the now majority Democratic board of commissioners, the Observer reports. Mecklenburg County in 2002 had 437 new HIV cases -- a 43% increase from 2002 -- and 344 new cases in 2004 (Levine, Charlotte Observer, 2/1).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.