San Francisco Mayor Rejects Proposed Budget Cuts to HIV/AIDS Services
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom recently rejected proposed cuts to HIV/AIDS services in his fiscal year 2009 budget, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. According to the Chronicle, Newsom rejected a proposal by Mitch Katz, director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, to cut $3 million of the $10 million the department allocates to 30 not-for-profit groups that provide HIV/AIDS services.
Katz made the recommendation in response to an order by Newsom earlier this month to reduce $11 million from the health department's budget to help alleviate an estimated $338 million city deficit. Katz recommended maintaining medical care and housing for people living with HIV/AIDS but reducing funds for food deliveries, legal services, support groups, acupuncture, massage and herbal therapy. The health department, which is projected to lose $54 million next year, already has made cuts and halted other programs. Although AIDS groups will "fare better than they'd feared," the city still plans to implement a 22% reduction in funds to all community programs, including AIDS groups that receive public health funds, the Chronicle reports. In addition, it is not clear how much federal funds the city will receive for HIV/AIDS programs next year.
Katz said he made the recommendations because the city does not have the "funds to provide these services to anyone else with chronic diseases -- people with cancer, people with neurological diseases." He added, "If the city is saying that complementary therapy is our priority, it would need to be the priority of all people who benefit." Newsom said, "I just couldn't in good conscience justify" the funding reductions. He added, "To the extent there are any cuts, they won't be at this magnitude -- not even close."
Some HIV/AIDS advocates praised Newsom for not implementing the reductions but said the city should be investing more money because there are more people living with HIV/AIDS in the city and the amount of federal funding to San Francisco is uncertain. According to state figures, there are 4,512 HIV-positive people and 8,973 people with AIDS living in San Francisco. In addition, 800 to 1,000 people are newly diagnosed annually, the Chronicle reports. Ayrick Broin -- communications director for Immune Enhancement Project, which receives city funding -- said, "Maybe [AIDS groups] have gotten some extra dollars, but we've also done more protesting." He added that HIV/AIDS groups have "been the most vocal in getting the public aware and realizing this isn't a problem that's going away."
Mark Cloutier, executive director of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, said, "In order for people [living with HIV/AIDS] to participate in primary care, they need these other services." He added, "For people to remain adherent to their treatment regimen, they have to have their mental health issues and substance abuse issues under control, and they need to be stably housed so their lives are not chaotic" (Knight, San Francisco Chronicle, 5/28).