San Francisco city and community leaders called on Mayor Ed Lee Wednesday to find money in the city’s budget for local HIV and AIDS programs that are set to lose about nearly $8 million in federal funding later this year.
Supervisors Scott Wiener, David Campos and Christina Olague were among a few dozen people who gathered outside City Hall this morning to talk about the problems facing the city’s programs to help people with HIV and AIDS.
The $7.8 million in funding for care and prevention services from the Ryan White Care Act and the Centers for Disease Control will expire at the end of the fiscal year on June 30, forcing the city to try to make up the deficit, Wiener said.
He called the need for funding “one of the most important public health issues that we face as a city” and said that the rally was held to make sure “that San Francisco maintains its 30-year commitment to those living with HIV/AIDS and those at risk for the disease.”
The city was ground zero for the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the U.S. in the 1980s and was the first local jurisdiction with a comprehensive response to the crisis. More than 15,000 people are currently living with HIV or AIDS in San Francisco, according to city officials.
Campos, who along with Wiener and Olague comprise the three LGBT members of the Board of Supervisors, said “San Francisco has been a model for the rest of the country in how HIV patients should be treated.”
He said, “We can’t move backwards … restoring these funds has to be a top priority for the city. We don’t have much room here, every single cent that we’re trying to restore is a cent that’s going to save lives.”
Lee, who has to present his proposal for next year’s budget by June 1, said at an unrelated event today that the cuts to federal HIV/AIDS funding is unfortunate because “our own budget is very sensitive,” with a deficit of about $170 million currently projected for the new fiscal year.
“Obviously it puts a lot of pressure on our budget, but we also care a lot about the people who are defenseless in these programs,” he said. “We’re going to do our best to figure it out.”
Lance Toma, executive director of the city’s Asian and Pacific Islander Wellness Center, said at today’s rally that losing the funding will have a dramatic effect on the city’s network of nonprofits and programs to assist the population of people living with HIV or AIDS.
“Without this network, HIV will be a death sentence for our most vulnerable residents,” Toma said. “It will be the 1980s all over again, and it’ll be our fault.”
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News