Minnesota Republicans are attempting to strip all state funding from the Minnesota AIDS Project, the largest AIDS service organization in the state, because they object to the content of the agency's HIV prevention programs and publications, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. A committee of the Minnesota house has approved a version of the state health department budget that includes an amendment by state representative Tom Emmer that strips MAP of all state funding and bans state funding for any HIV prevention program, Web site, pamphlet, or other outreach messages that contain "sexually explicit images or language." The measure would eliminate about $425,000 in MAP funding, about 10% of the agency's annual budget. Emmer told the Star Tribune he introduced the amendment because he was "shocked and disgusted" by language on a MAP Web site, called Pride Alive, that provides health and HIV prevention information to gay and bisexual men.
The bill now advances to the full house.
MAP executive director Lorraine Teel says the Pride Alive program is privately funded and receives no state money, a fact she says is stated directly on the program's Web site. The state funding eliminated by Emmer's amendment is used by MAP for the state AIDS hotline, HIV antibody testing clinics, and prevention outreach programs, according to Teel. Agency officials also say the language Emmer finds upsetting is appropriate for the target audience.
The state health department agrees that the language is appropriate. "There is a role for language that may be jarring for some people and which is appropriately targeted to specific risk groups. But we don't pay for that," state health commissioner Aggie Leitheiser told the Star Tribune. Leitheiser says the health department is working with members of the legislature to clarify the meaning of sexually explicit language and to reiterate the department's support of MAP's HIV outreach.