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L.A. Increases HIV Program Funding by 24%

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Photo by jonrawlinson via Flickr

Photo by jonrawlinson via Flickr
Thanks to the state, which eliminated 100%--about $82 million--of funds for AIDS programs last summer, addressing HIV prevention, testing, counseling and education has become a tougher battle to fight at the local level.

For example, L.A. County lost $11 million, almost half of its funding. Those funds served over 65,000 people in Los Angeles County with over 55 percent of them residing in the City of Los Angeles.

Los Angeles on the other hand has not depended on state funding for its AIDS Coordinator Office, which plays more of a watch dog role, looking for gaps in funding and emphasizing regular testing for everyone. "We look for innovative new programs and for ways to leverage partnerships," explained Stephen Simon, the director of the office.

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The office with its $885,000 in funding got a major boost today when the city council voted to increase funding by 24%, or about $200,000. “The state’s decision to completely eliminate funding sends the wrong message to the public regarding the need and urgency to get tested,” said Councilmember Herb Wesson, who spearheaded the increase. “The threat of HIV/AIDS, particularly in our community, continues to be a serious problem. Expanding our own city’s HIV Testing Initiative with these additional funds is something we can’t afford not to do.”

That initiative is to expand routine testing in Los Angeles through community service providers. While routine testing goes against an old-school health sector trend of focusing on targeted populations, L.A. is siding with a 2006 CDC recommendation that people aged 13 to 64 be tested annually, said Simon. By 2011, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa wants at least one million people to be tested.

L.A. AIDS Office also works on policy, intergovernmental affairs, education and funds small innovative research projects.