August 24, 2011
Word that approximately one-quarter of federal HIV prevention money to Massachusetts will be cut has state AIDS service organizations (ASOs) making urgent pleas to donors.
Earlier this month, the state Department of Public Health notified agencies of the impending cut. CDC is taking money from Massachusetts and other states with lower HIV infection rates and redirecting it to states where rates are increasing, particularly in the South.
That strategy has angered the leaders of many ASOs, who fear the reversal of their hard-won progress toward reducing new infections and sustaining lower rates. In Massachusetts, a tight community of ASOs has helped drive down infection rates by more than 50 percent during the past decade.
Tapestry Health, an ASO serving the western part of the state, said it is likely facing a rationing of many of its core services such as a needle exchange for IV drug users. "We have asked supporters to be in touch with the CDC specifically ... to see if there was a way to relook at this," said Leslie Laurie, president and founder of Tapestry. "We also have a 'donate' button on this [e-mailed] newsletter, but we said maybe what we will have to do is go back to bake sales."
Rebecca Haag, president and CEO of AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts, said a $150,000 cut in federal aid is more than half what the agency receives to run the state's only HIV hotline. "There is no way private fundraising will totally make up the loss, and I don't want to deceive people," she said, adding that the phone service will likely shut down.