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Funding cuts lead
to elimination of Minnesota AIDS hotline

Funding cuts lead
to elimination of Minnesota AIDS hotline

The Minnesota Department of Health last week eliminated funding for Minnesota AIDS Project's AIDSLine, a telephone hotline that provides testing referrals and information for HIV-positive or at-risk people. AIDSLine had been receiving $135,000 annually from the department.

"There are questions that many people don't feel comfortable taking to their family doctor, clergy, family, or even sexual partner," said Lorraine Teel, MAP's executive director.

MAP officials said they feel under attack by the department, noting its decision last year to cap funding for some prevention programs had a disproportionate impact on MAP. That followed efforts by some conservative state representatives to completely defund MAP.

"It's unconscionable," said state senator Scott Dibble, who added that he would present legislation to restore MAP's funding.

The health department's decision was "absolutely not" politically motivated, said Kip Beardsley, its director of sexually transmitted disease programs. Rather, the cut followed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's reduction of about $200,000 in state STD funding, he said. The department is channeling funds to behavioral change programs targeting those most at risk for HIV, especially people of color, gay and bisexual men, and injection drug users, Beardsley said.

"As a result of this process, we realized that both the STD and HIV hotlines were not as directly responsible for meeting the needs of those populations that are most disproportionately impacted," said Beardsley. "It was a difficult decision, but we had to prioritize." (AP)

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