- FCN Editorial – Black women v. AIDS (12-19-2004)
- Genocide of Blacks continues in America (FCN, 12-22-2003)
- HIV/AIDS continues to challenge Black America (FCN, 12-14-2003)
WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) – Debra Holmes* has enough to worry about. She found out recently that she is HIV-positive. How she contracted it is the number one question, and she doesn’t have an answer. What she doesn’t need is to now worry about where she can get health care.
In the middle of an epidemic, with infections steadily going up particularly in the Black community, this Act had its budget reduced from its FY 2004 appropriation of $2.04 billion to its current appropriation of $1.7 billion, according to an HHS press release.
In the city with the highest per capita HIV/AIDS infection rate in the United States, with Black women leading the infection rate, AIDS service providers are upset with the D.C. government for de-funding their programs and putting countless numbers of patients at risk.
“What are they doing?” she asked The Final Call. “I don’t understand. Don’t they know we need this. This is about life and death. HIV is nothing to play with.”
According to Dr. Abdul Alim Muhammad, medical director of the Abundant Life Clinic, “There is a de facto suspension of HIV/AIDS services in the District that was done without explanation.”
“We thought, at first, it was just us, but other agencies around the city that were providing services were de-funded or stipulated not to provide services until a new contract was signed.”
He further explained that, “What this means is that D.C. has no agencies offering AIDS services. People literally have no where to go. We told clients we would continue serving them. The staff still comes to work and the patients have agreed to pay what they can. This whole decision process needs to be investigated,” he contended.
The service providers met March 14 with Dr. Gregg Pane, D.C. director of the Department of Health, to express their discontent with the new way the city is doing business in the HIV/AIDS Administration. The meeting hosted the most prominent AIDS agencies in the city, including the Whitman Walker Clinic, Us Helping Us, Damien Ministries and the Women’s Collective.
“There were over 40 agencies there and it was a big mess,” explained Michael Muhammad, executive director of the Abundant Life Clinic. “The agencies voiced their outrage and concern over the suspension of funding, mismanagement of funds, late invoicing procedures and the excessive bureaucracy. Everyone across the city is serving patients out of their own funds and many have had to lay off staff.”
The Washington Blade reported March 11 that the D.C. HIV/AIDS Administration cut nearly $3 million in AIDS service and prevention programs this year–after more than $3 million in funds from its budget last year went unspent. This was reported by D.C. Councilmember David Catania (I-At-Large) at a March 3 hearing.
“While we were crying for additional funds because of increasing lab fees, the D.C. government returned $3 million back to the government. We ran out of lab fees and the government told us they didn’t have any more money, but they had $3 million to give back.”
The Ryan White Care Act funds care and support programs for low-income HIV-positive Americans. It was passed in 1990, reauthorized in 1996, and again in 2000 for a five-year period. In the middle of an epidemic, with infections steadily going up particularly in the Black community, this Act had its budget reduced from its FY 2004 appropriation of $2.04 billion to its current appropriation of $1.7 billion, according to an HHS press release.
HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt announced March 2 that 174 grants, worth nearly $1.7 billion, to help all 50 states, nine U.S. territories, 51 cities hit hard by HIV/AIDS, and 64 community-based organizations provide essential services to low-income residents living with HIV/AIDS. The Fiscal Year 2005 grants support the delivery of primary medical care, prescription drugs and support services.
“These grants continue our domestic commitment to caring for Americans who are living with HIV/AIDS,” Mr. Leavitt said. “The states, territories and cities will use these funds to provide people living with HIV/AIDS the healthcare services, medications and counseling they need to live longer, healthier lives.”
The problem is you can’t serve more people with less money. The D.C. service providers are fighting these service cuts every step of the way. City Council hearings are planned, as well as protests and letter writing campaigns.
“It doesn’t make any sense. In the middle of an epidemic, services are cut and money is sent back. But we do have a new baseball team and plans for a new baseball stadium,” Dr. Alim stated.
*Name has been changed.