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Dallas to cut $325K for HIV/AIDS
  By John Wright News Editor
Jun 4, 2009 - 7:52:34 PM
Proposal would eliminate funding that's been in place for decades
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Faced with a $190 million budget shortfall, the city of Dallas is proposing to eliminate all current funding for HIV/AIDS education, outreach and prevention.
Karen Rayzer, director of the city's Environmental and Health Services department, said the City Manager's Office is proposing to cut $325,000 from the general fund that currently goes to agencies such as AIDS Interfaith Network, Resource Center Dallas and Dallas County Health and Human Services.
Representatives from the agencies said much of the funding has been in place for decades.
Rayzer said the funding currently allows the agencies to serve 20,200 clients a year, mostly low-income people and minorities.
"Part of the discussion that the city manager had with the council was whether the city was going to be in the business of health and human services," Rayzer said. "As the economy gets better again, there may be the opportunity to reintroduce some of these programs back in, but I can't promise that."
Although it's unlikely the HIV/AIDS funding will be restored to this year's budget, Rayzer added: "If the community doesn't speak, you don't stand a snowball's chance. If the community speaks, you might get a chance."
The council will receive the proposed budget in August, and the cuts would take effect in October.
Rayzer said the proposed cuts include more than $100,000 for two programs serving minorities and low-income people at AIDS Interfaith;
$75,000 for a program serving Latinos at the Resource Center; $44,000 for an epidemiologist at Dallas County Health and Human Services; $58,500 for a program serving minorities at UT Southwestern Medical Center; and $44,000 for a program serving minority adolescents at the Urban League of Greater Dallas.
Steven Pace, executive director of AIN, said the funding cuts proposed by the city would reduce the agency's total budget by more than 7 percent, and would affect four AIN employees.
"This is a primary piece of what we've been providing under outreach and prevention," Pace said of the two programs. "The city has a huge reality to deal with, and we recognize that, but I hate that it has to come down to not funding something as vital as HIV.
"When you think about the money that goes into road building and so on, I just think there may be other things that could be cut or delayed," Pace said.
Bret Camp, associate executive director at Resource Center Dallas, noted that funding for the Latino HIV/AIDS program was targeted for cuts last year but the money was reinstated late in the city's budget process.
"With the increase in HIV infection rates, especially among the Latino population, this is just not a time to be decreasing prevention funding,"
Camp said. "An ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure. By spending a smaller amount on prevention, it will save them a huge amount on treatment.
"I didn't want to have to go through this again this year, but it looks like we're going to have to," Camp added. "The economy is hitting everywhere."
Zachary Thompson, director of Dallas County Health and Human Services, said the $44,000 the city plans to cut from his agency funds one of three employees who prepare its annual HIV/AIDS surveillance report. Data from the surveillance report are forwarded to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and used as the basis for allocating federal HIV/AIDS monies.
Thompson said he's resigned to the fact that the city funding will be lost and is hoping to replace it with money from the Texas Department of State Health Services.
"That data is critical for our programs here in Dallas County," Thompson said. "I'm just not going to risk missing any type of data because we don't have enough manpower."
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