May 30, 2008
CUTS & THE CITY
AIDS cuts from all over the place
(photo credit: flickr.com/photos/alsokaizen/2471871893/)
City council members and AIDS advocates were outraged when New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene commissioner Thomas Frieden announced $1.3 million in proposed cuts to HIV/AIDS funding in the 2009 executive budget. Announced at Tuesday's testimony before the City Council, this is part of Mayor Bloomberg's recent demand that department trim three percent of its budget, on top of a five percent requested for reduction in January. The DOH is also cutting jobs through attrition, which will cut back on the DOH's services.
"We can't afford to cut funding for HIV/AIDS when we still haven't reached all of the people contracting HIV," council member Letitia James said. New infections among men who have sex with men under age 30 has increased by 33 percent during the past six years in New York City.
The HIV/AIDS cuts—$839,040 from city tax levy, and the rest a result of lost state matching dollars—include slashing the contracts of five community-based organizations that provide anti-stigma and behavioral intervention campaigns. The city will also cancel five of the 27 CBO HIV/AIDS service contracts as DOH evaluates "the types of activities they conduct and the effectiveness of these activities," Frieden said in his testimony. The DOH has not released the names of the CBOs with contracts on the chopping block.
The city will also stop distributing rapid testing kits to Beth Israel, Bronx Lebanon, St. Luke's, New York Presbyterian and SUNY Downstate hospitals. This relatively tiny $13,000 cut undermines the city's campaign to encourage testing. One out of four people with HIV/AIDS in New York City remains undiagnosed. "In light of the fact that the city wants everybody tested, this is an atrocious move," said Housing Works New York City policy analyst terri smith-caronia.
The HIV/AIDS funding slash is part of the three percent across-the-board cuts Mayor Michael Bloomberg recommended to the city, on top of the five percent cuts he asked for in January.
The DOH will make up for the state's two percent budget cuts with city tax levy, but that's little help since the city will still be at a net loss of AIDS dollars, particularly with Ryan White funds slashed in recent years.
And unlike in San Francisco, where Mayor Gavin Newsom nixed a $3 million cut to AIDS care, Bloomberg isn't expected to show the same compassion. According to James, the Council will have to find other revenue in the budget to make up for these cuts for which there's a "constellation of blame" to go around, she said.
"Bloomberg said he recognizes this is a crisis, but we are facing cuts at the federal level, the state level, and the city level," James said. "The Council has to work together with advocates to find the dollars to replace AIDS funding."
The Update will keep you informed of the back-and-forth city budget battle as it unfolds.