HIV/AIDS budgets cut to fund smallpox vaccinations

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com March 11 2003 1:00 AM ET

State and local health officials have cut funding for HIV/AIDS prevention, prenatal care, and tuberculosis tracking programs to provide funding and staffing for smallpox vaccination programs, The Washington Post reports. According to a National Association of County and City Health Officials report, about half of the 539 health departments surveyed had cut services to established programs to inoculate 500,000 first-response health care workers against smallpox. Many clinics have completely eliminated HIV/AIDS prevention programs and sexually transmitted disease treatment services in order to divert the funds for the vaccination program.

Health officials in Seattle say the reallocated money has slowed the city's fight against a new syphilis epidemic among gay and bisexual men. "We would have been on this faster and more effectively if I could have put a critical mass of infectious-disease people on this rather than on smallpox," said Alonzo Plough, director of the Seattle and King County Public Health Department.

Health officials are even more concerned about the possible financial impact of the second phase of President Bush's smallpox program, which will begin later this year. Up to 10 million police, fire, and rescue workers are set to receive smallpox vaccinations during that phase of the program.