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Policy & Politics
San Francisco Health Dept. Proposes Reducing Some HIV/AIDS Services as Part of Potential $25 Million Cut in FY 2005-2006 Budget

March 29, 2005

San Francisco Department of Public Health officials on Friday proposed as much as $25 million in budget cuts for fiscal year 2005-2006, including cuts in funding for services for people living with HIV/AIDS, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Although the health department's $1 billion budget is expected to increase by $33 million in FY 2005-2006, inflation, new regulations and fixed costs will require officials to make budget cuts, according to the Chronicle. San Francisco Director of Public Health Dr. Mitch Katz proposed two tiers of budget cuts: an initial $14.7 million cut and a second $10 million cut to be implemented only if Mayor Gavin Newsom (D) determines it is necessary to close the city's $102 million budget deficit. As part of the initial reduction, case management for HIV/AIDS patients would be cut and more HIV-positive people would have to pay out of pocket for their prescription drugs. Cuts contingent on the status of the city's budget deficit include potential layoffs of public health nurses who provide in-home treatment of patients with chronic illnesses, such as HIV/AIDS; the complete closure of one neighborhood health center; and the reduction by one day per week of the services of other neighborhood health centers.

"This is very difficult for us," Katz said, adding, "We understand the fragile nature of our integrated service delivery system and fully appreciate how reductions in service in one setting will put pressure elsewhere in our system of care." Michael Lyon -- a health advocate with the group the People's Budget, which advocates for public services and potential tax increases to pay for them -- said that the health budget proposed on Friday might not be adopted by the city Health Commission, the mayor's office and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, but the outlook for the final budget is "not optimistic," according to the Chronicle. "There is a lot restored each year, but each year it gets worse," Lyon said, adding, "They threaten to chop off your head, but they chop off your arm instead. The problem is that after a while, you run out of arms" (Gordon, San Francisco Chronicle, 3/26).

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