Florida HIV cases up, but federal funding remains unchanged
Although the number of new HIV cases has increased 21% in Florida during the past few years and the number of people living with HIV/AIDS has steadily climbed, state and federal funding is being curtailed in some areas and remains unchanged in others, leading to severe financial problems for many Florida AIDS agencies, the Miami Herald reports. In 2002, the state received more than $227 million in federal grants to help cover the medical expenses of uninsured and underinsured HIV-positive people, with $172 million specifically earmarked for antiretroviral drugs and another $70 million going to medical services in six metropolitan areas around the state. And while Florida is expected to receive an additional $121 million in 2003, most of that will go toward prescription drug programs, leaving other services either flat-funded or facing budget cuts.
State lawmakers also are considering a proposal to eliminate Florida's Medically Needy Program, which provides Medicaid services for about 26,000 people who earn too much money to directly qualify for Medicaid. About 1,200 program participants are HIV-positive. Adding those people to already overburdened HIV/AIDS programs in the state will create a financial disaster, say AIDS activists. With the prospect of more HIV cases and no increases in funding, many agencies around the state are considering capping enrollment or creating waiting lists for their programs.
Especially hard hit will be programs that provide housing services for HIV-positive adults and their families, the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reports. Federal housing grants in Broward and Miami-Dade counties will be cut this year and flat-funded in Palm Beach County, despite rising HIV infection rates in all three counties. Miami-Dade County is expected to lose about $2 million in funds, with about $1.5 million cut from housing funds for Broward County. New HIV infection rates are up 44% in Palm Beach County, 30% in Broward County, and 18% in Miami-Dade County. But federal housing funds are based on the number of AIDS diagnoses, not HIV infections, and AIDS cases actually dropped in Florida in 2002, mostly due to successful antiretroviral treatment programs. HIV/AIDS agencies say that the cuts will result in additions to the "hundreds" already on subsidized housing waiting lists and will increase the likelihood that HIV-positive people will become homeless.