Nevada Mother-To-Child HIV Prevention Program Faces Funding Cuts
Nevada state officials recently announced plans to terminate funding for the University of Nevada School of Medicine's Nevada Care Program, which largely works to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission through targeted antiretroviral therapy, the AP/Nevada Appeal reports. According to the officials, Nevada faces a possible $1.2 million funding shortfall for HIV/AIDS-related programs in 2010. Therefore, the state Department of Health and Human Services decided to end the $350,000 Nevada Care Program because of a projected increase in clients and medication costs. According to the AP/Appeal, the Nevada Care Program was the most affected by funding cuts targeting six HIV/AIDS programs in southern Nevada.
According to the AP/Appeal, when the Nevada Care Program began providing MTCT prevention services in 2006, Clark County had four reported HIV cases among infants. However, since the program launched, the county has reported no new cases, although 40 infants have been born to HIV-positive women. Echezona Ezeanolue, director of the Nevada Care Program, said eliminating the program is "a life and death decision that will have consequences far greater than the state has obviously considered." He said, "These children, who would otherwise have a 98% chance to be born without the HIV virus, will more likely be born with the virus." According to Ezeanolue, the budget cuts will not affect the availability of antiretroviral drugs, but they will prevent the program from having office space or medical assistants.
To address the funding shortfall, David Gremse, head of the School of Medicine's pediatric program, recently sent a letter to Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) asking for assistance in securing funding to continue the Nevada Care Program. According to Gremse, eliminating funding for the program does not make financial sense. He wrote that by preventing MTCT for 40 infants, the program saved the state $12,124,000 over two years, based on the cost of providing health care for HIV-positive children. According to the AP/Appeal, Berkley has said that she is "hopeful that the financial resources will be found to keep this important program in place" (Harasim, AP/Nevada Appeal, 4/11).