Arkansas HIV/AIDS Task Force Final Report Requests $3M for Awareness Efforts, Testing Sites
The Arkansas HIV/AIDS Minority Task Force on Monday released its final report and said it will request $3 million in state funding over the next two years to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS in minority communities and establish testing sites, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports (Frago, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 12/2).
The 19-member task force was formed in January by Gov. Mike Beebe (R) to examine HIV/AIDS among the state's minority populations and ways to strengthen HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment among blacks, Hispanics and other minorities in the state. The task force held a series of meetings in the state's four congressional districts to hear public comment on the issue, as well as to discuss HIV/AIDS incidence among minorities and the efficacy of current programs. The committee submitted a report of its findings and recommendations to Beebe, leadership in the state House and Senate, and Arkansas' Department of Health (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/17).
In the report, task force members said the money is needed to create counseling services and 15 HIV testing sites in black, Hispanic and other high-risk communities around the state. The report proposed an annual budget of $150,000 to hire two staff members to manage the services and to pay for overhead costs, such as office space, supplies and travel reimbursement. The task force said the testing and counseling sites would cost $975,000 annually. They also budgeted $225,000 annually for an HIV/AIDS awareness campaign.
In the past seven years, HIV/AIDS prevention efforts in the state have received $5,938 annually, according to Tere Roderick, head of HIV prevention for the state Health Department. "Our state has not addressed this issue," she said. Task force Co-Chair Rick Collins said that the state's tight budget might make it difficult for the state to allocate the requested money. But he added, "We're keeping our fingers crossed. We hope our state will step up to the plate" (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 12/2).