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Local organizations could be affected by federal HIV/AIDS funding cuts

Posted at 6:04 PM, Sep 25, 2018

Millions of dollars in federal funding for HIV and AIDS programs could be shifted elsewhere as the U.S. government looks for ways to cover the growing cost of immigrant children in custody.

In San Luis Obispo County, an uptick in HIV diagnoses has the county’s public health department concerned.

Seven new cases of HIV have been reported in the past three months.

“It’s alarming that it affects such a diverse group of people over such a broad age range and it’s affecting young people in particular and that is a concern,” explained Rick Rosen, Deputy Health Officer for the SLO County Public Health Department.

Rosen says it’s too soon to consider this increase a new trend, but the county’s health department is advocating for people to continue to protect themselves and educate themselves to break down the stigmas still associated with the virus.

“There is some complacency around it because treatment has been fairly effective for HIV and AIDS. I think many people tend not to think about it as much,” Rosen said.

Supporting those with HIV and AIDS is something that’s important to nonprofit organizations like the Access Support Network.

“We provide supportive services for individuals living with HIV and Hep C. Some of those services include help with accessing medical care, insurance programs, and we provide a food pantry,” said Rita Turner, HIV Health Educator for the Access Support Network in San Luis Obispo.

A new report is now causing concern for groups like ASN and causing them to question how they’ll be able to continue offering those services. The Trump administration is reportedly looking at cutting over $5 million in funding from the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program, a system of care that reaches close to 52 percent of all of the people diagnosed with HIV in the U.S. That includes the newly-diagnosed people in San Luis Obispo County.

The money cut from this program would go to help cover the rising costs of undocumented children in custody.

“Our biggest concern is clearly that this administration is valuing the detainment of children and families over healthcare and people having access to health care that they need,” Turner said.

She believes the decrease in funding for HIV/AIDS support could lead to a major outbreak of the virus due to lack of access to medications.

“Treatment is prevention, meaning that individuals who are on HIV medications can’t transmit it to other people. So when people lose that access to their medical care, that could potentially put individuals in the community at risk because they don’t have that type of prevention,” Turner said.

If you’d like more information on how to access help for HIV or AIDS testing you’re asked to contact ASN or the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department.