AIDS Issues Update Blog

Dispatches from the fight against homelessness and AIDS

Press Conference and Rally Outside Governor’s Office

Posted by Elizabeth Koke , February 24, 2017

Press Conference and Rally Outside Governor’s Office

photo: Gay City News. Jaron Benjamin of Housing Works (L) with Guillermo Chacon of LCOA

On Thursday, February 23, Housing Works joined with 100 HIV and health advocates including representatives from GMHC, VOCAL-NY, BOOM! Health, NBLCA, Amida Care, Exponents, and Latino Commission on AIDS, for a press conference and rally outside of Governor Cuomo’s New York City office to demand that the Governor and Legislature restore $22 million in cuts to NYC public health programs in this year’s final New York State budget. The burden of these cuts would hit the City’s newly launched Sexual Health Clinics as well as its successful Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic (ETE) initiative, which achieved an 8.3% decrease in new HIV diagnoses in 2015.

The cuts will also affect a number of other critical NYC health services, including Zika virus initiatives, anti-smoking campaigns, flu vaccinations, communicable disease oversight, drinking water testing, asthma counseling, and drug overdose prevention efforts.

The Governor’s Executive Budget proposed a change in the Article 6 formula that will reduce reimbursement for local government public health spending in NYC by 7%. The End AIDS NY 2020 Community Coalition estimates that this will result in an $11 million cut to the City health budget this year, and $22 million over two years, with the majority of these cuts falling on City ETE and STD Programs. The NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) estimates an even higher annual loss of $32.5 million to essential public health programs. The Article 6 cut will directly and dramatically impede Ending the AIDS Epidemic efforts, especially given that NYC accounts for roughly 80% of the annual new HIV infections statewide.

On February 1st, the End AIDS NY 2020 Community Coalition sent a letter to Governor Cuomo, signed by some 80 community-based organizations, to express concern and ask that these critical investments be reinstated in the budget amendments. As of the release of the 30-day budget amendments late last week, this funding has not been restored. The Coalition and allied NYC health advocates are now calling on the Legislature to work with the Governor’s Office to restore this funding and to ensure that the Ending the AIDS Epidemic plan continues to receive the support it needs for New York to succeed in ending AIDS as an epidemic by 2020.

This NYC-specific cut is based on the assumption that the City can directly access other forms of federal funding including from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). However, federal funds are not fungible and are likely to decrease under the new administration. A repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), for example, will rescind the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which is 13% of the CDC’s budget.

“It is never good policy to assume localities can simply fill a hole created in the State budget with other sources of revenue,” said Charles King, President and CEO of Housing Works to Gay City News. “It is incredibly bad policy when the local investment has been made to carry out the Governor’s own initiative. The 2015 data reveals that our ETE current efforts are working, with new HIV diagnoses in NYC at below 2,500, its lowest in history, but keeping that momentum to push the AIDS epidemic beyond the tipping point depends on these additional investments. The Governor and the Legislature ought to reverse this unforced error.”

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