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New Mexico governor's office provides stopgap AIDS funding

New Mexico governor's office provides stopgap AIDS funding

New Mexico governor Bill Richardson has said his office will provide $250,000 to the state's AIDS program to serve as a stopgap while the health department looks for alternative funding sources to keep the program afloat. The money comes from federal funds allocated to New Mexico in 2003 as part of a program to help states in budget crunches. New Mexico's AIDS program faces a projected shortfall of $1.6 million for this budget year and $2.8 million for the next budget year. Health secretary Patricia Montoya has been considering closing enrollment in the program and cutting direct services. Montoya said on Friday that she would delay such decisions "as long as we can" and instead intends to trim administrative and overhead costs. According to state officials, the federal funding that pays for 63% of the program has remained relatively flat for three years even as the cost of drugs and health care for HIV patients has increased significantly. The department receives its federal money in April and typically does not spend it until the state budget begins on July 1, according to spokeswoman Beth Velasquez. This year the agency already has dipped into the federal funds to cover program costs. The AIDS program has served 1,497 clients over the past year and almost 1,000 are enrolled in it. "The medications that we're taking are working. It's keeping us alive, but it's also costing a lot of money to do that," says Steve Garrett, executive director of the advocacy group New Mexico Poz Coalition. (AP)

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