California: Fresno County HIV/AIDS Clinic to Close Friday

Effective Friday, budget shortfalls are closing a Fresno County Health Department STD clinic that has been serving patients since the 1970s. The clinic's 65 HIV/AIDS patients will be referred to the Special Services Program of Community Medical Centers or private practice physicians. The site will continue to offer HIV testing and counseling.

Cutting the clinic's $523,527 in annual expenses is an effort to plug a $5 million hole in the health department's $64.8 million budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, county officials said.

Neighboring Kings County also will close its HIV clinic June 30.

The Fresno clinic last year saw 805 new and 938 returning family planning patients. It reported 430 new and 545 return visits for STD care.

"This is not going to be a good thing for slowing down the STD epidemic of chlamydia in this community," said Kevin Hamilton, deputy chief of programs at Clinica Sierra Vista, which sponsors community health centers in Fresno.

Hamilton noted that the county already has high rates of gonorrhea and the second-highest chlamydia rate in the state.

Planned Parenthood Mar Monte is expected to absorb many of the clinic's family planning patients. Planned Parenthood also has two Fresno clinics that can provide STD testing.