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Commentary & Opinion
New York State "Safety Net" for People Living With HIV/AIDS "Being Dismantled" by Funding Cuts, Opinion Piece Says

September 15, 2008

Although statistics that indicate declining new HIV infections among heterosexuals and injection drug users "are testament to aggressive prevention programs," the "trends also show an increase in infections" among men who have sex with men, especially MSM younger than age 30, Paula Silvestrone, executive director of AIDS Rochester, writes in a Rochester Democrat and Chronicle opinion piece. "We must make up lost ground in reaching this population since government refocused funds on other emerging populations -- almost forgetting that we have a whole new generation of men coming along having sex with men who are at high risk," Silvestrone adds.

"Add to this the fact that safety net services have rapidly been eroding for those who are disabled and/or in poverty" and "we are facing a certain increase in HIV cases," Silvestrone writes. She adds that when "people do not have a roof over their heads, food to feed their families and adequate employment, the last thing they think about is protecting themselves or others against HIV." In addition, federal funding "has been flat for seven years," according to Silvestrone, who adds that New York Gov. David Paterson (D)'s "red pen strikes indiscriminately, resulting in cuts of almost 9% in AIDS services." Although New York state has "built the best service system for people with AIDS in the nation," this "safety net is being dismantled in a haphazard way at a time when there are more people living with AIDS than ever in [the] state," Silvestrone writes.

Although the "cost of providing services is rapidly increasing, AIDS Rochester alone stands to lose $125,000 in state revenue this year," according to Silvestrone, who adds, "This unprecedented hit to our core funding is devastating." There is "nothing left to do but deeply cut prevention programs and services to people with HIV," Silvestrone writes, adding, "This is penny-wise and pound-foolish" because in the "end, this will cost our communities far more than these budget cuts and will cost people their lives" (Silvestrone, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, 9/15).

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