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Oklahoma will cut funding to some HIV testing sites

Oklahoma will cut funding to some HIV testing sites

Beginning in December, the Oklahoma health department will no longer give HIV antibody testing supplies or lab services to clinics that do not have a state contract. The change, the department said, is an effort to meet new federal guidelines and rectify years of inconsistent record-keeping. But the plan to end state support of up to 28 clinics concerns some AIDS activists. "By shutting down these test sites and limiting the number of places where people can get tested, I am worried we will see a decline in testing," said Janice Nichols of the AIDS Coalition of Tulsa. Clinics set to lose state support include four each in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa metro areas, plus clinics in Tahlequah, Idabel, Hugo, Durant, Madill, Muskogee, Mangum, and Weatherford. The department will continue to provide support for five HIV testing clinics: three in Oklahoma City and two in Tulsa. Bill Pierson, the health department's chief of HIV and sexually transmitted disease services, said the department is withdrawing its support from agencies with which it does not have contracts to meet funding guidelines established by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He said the department is not closing any testing sites, and individual agencies will determine whether to continue testing. According to their representatives, several of the affected agencies are seeking funding from other sources or working to partner with testing sites that still receive state support. Some agencies that formerly offered testing for free said they may begin charging. Tests cost about $30 each. (AP)

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