Florida: Palm Bay Considers Leaving AIDS Effort in Hands of State

Palm Bay officials are considering allowing the state to continue administering a federal program that helps AIDS patients find housing. The program, Housing Opportunities for People with HIV/AIDS (HOPWA), is already in effect in Brevard County. The city has the option of overseeing the $350,000 in funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

At present, the state Department of Health, which contracts with project sponsors at the local level, administers Florida's program. Local sponsor United Way subcontracts with Project Response, Inc. to offer temporary rent, mortgage, and utilities assistance to HIV/AIDS patients.

Dr. Heidar Heshmati, Brevard County health director, said the county had 1,526 HIV/AIDS patients at the end of last year, of whom 51 percent live in the southern third of the county. He could not say how many live in Palm Bay.

"After researching the effectiveness of the HOPWA program, it has been determined that it would be more beneficial to allow the state to administer the program," said City Manager Lee Feldman. He noted that other cities, including Lakeland and Cape Coral, also defer to the state.