New York mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposal to merge the Mayor's Office on AIDS Policy Coordination and the city's HIV Planning Council into a single entity under the umbrella of the city health department continues to draw criticism from AIDS advocates, Newsday reports. The planning council, which is made up of 45 community AIDS workers and advocates, currently has control over how the city's $100 million annual federal AIDS grants are spent. Some council members say merging the council with the Mayor's Office on AIDS Policy Coordination will prevent the community from having input into how city AIDS funds are allocated.
The council delivered a letter of protest Monday to the mayor, saying that the merger "reduces an office that is supposed to aggressively represent the voices of the New York City AIDS community to an impotent and tongue-tied entity within the health department." The group also demanded that the council's $1 million policy budget not be used by the health department for anything other than AIDS planning.
The merger is part of Bloomberg's efforts to trim $600 million from the city's budget. Merging the two offices in the health department would save about $1 million a year. The proposal comes less than one month after the federal Department of Health and Human Services awarded the city $14 million less in federal funds than for the previous year. Some city officials, including members of the city council, have blamed the health department for the reduction because of what they say was a poorly prepared funding proposal that was filed late. The planning council is investigating why the funds were lost but say merging the two groups could hamper that effort. "How can you hold someone accountable for something if you're going to be working for them?" asked Fatima Prioleau, cochairwoman of the planning council.