Federal funding to provide services for low-income people with HIV and AIDS in Los Angeles County will be cut by more than 8% compared with last year, county health officials said Monday.
The cut of $3.3 million comes as the number of people with HIV continues to rise, along with the costs of caring for them.
The funds are part of $595 million in grants distributed under the Ryan White CARE Act to 51 local governments nationwide. For the last two years, allocations to Los Angeles County have risen, while dropping sharply in New York and other East Coast metropolitan areas.
Last year, for example, funds to New York City were slashed by $15 million, while Los Angeles County received a $2-million increase, for a total of almost $40 million. This year, the trend reversed, said Gunter Freehill, spokesman for the county Office of AIDS Programs and Policy. “I was concerned about this exact phenomenon last year,” Freehill said. “Last year paid off for us,” and this one did not, he said.
Like Los Angeles, 39 other eligible metropolitan areas saw their Ryan White funding reduced Monday when Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson announced this year’s grants. The cuts ranged from 3% to 14%.
One reason Los Angeles is at a disadvantage is that federal funding is partially determined by the number of full-blown AIDS cases, said Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. Those numbers have slowed in recent years even though the number of people with the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS has risen.
Tying funding to AIDS is an outdated approach now that more HIV-infected people survive longer without developing AIDS, Weinstein said. Still, he added, people with HIV require long-term treatment.
About 1,500 to 2,000 people are infected each year in Los Angeles County, according to health officials.
Given the state’s budget crisis and the increase in the cost of drugs, the reduced federal funding may create significant hardships for people with HIV and AIDS, Weinstein said.
“The most immediate and pressing concern is access to medical care,” he said. “We had already presented to the county the need for 1,000 more treatment slots every year for indigent patients seeking care. That was going to be a struggle without this cut.”