AIDS groups and some local officials in New York City are criticizing Mayor Michael Bloomberg's 2004 budget proposal to privatize jobs at the HIV/AIDS Services Administration, a city agency that serves about 31,000 people with HIV/AIDS, Gay City News reports. The budget also calls for cuts of $5 million for HIV-prevention programs targeting communities of color, the permanent elimination of 29 case manager positions at HASA, and moving the Mayor's Office of AIDS Policy to the health department. Deeper cuts also could be proposed later if the amount of federal and state dollars for HIV/AIDS services is smaller than expected. In that case, 400 additional HASA jobs would be eliminated to save about $18.8 million, while AIDS housing contracts would be slashed by $4.8 million, ending assistance to about 4,000 clients.
Members of the New York city council and AIDS activists blasted Bloomberg's proposed budget. "It's clear the mayor has proposed to do things that he cannot do without the city council's approval and without changes in Local Law 49," the 1997 measure that created HASA, said councilwoman Christine Quinn. "That is not going to happen." AIDS activists are organizing a protest march for April 30 that will travel from Brooklyn, across the Brooklyn Bridge, and to City Hall in lower Manhattan. Organizers hope as many as 5,000 people will participate in the protest.