Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Letter from Milk and Alice

Dear Mayor Lee and Board of Supervisors,

We are writing on behalf of the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club and the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club to ask you to fully fund HIV/AIDS services for San Francisco in the budget for the coming fiscal year. We ask that you find local General Fund dollars to replace the lost federal funds for San Francisco. 

As you know, the LGBT community has borne the brunt of the HIV epidemic in San Francisco since the beginning. Our two clubs have lost countless members to this disease and many of our members are currently living with HIV. Gay and bisexual men and transgender women have been particularly hard hit. This is an issue of utmost importance to us, and we ask that you prioritize filling these federal funding gaps as you put together your budget. We pledge to help you with this in any way that we can.

There are more people living with HIV in San Francisco now that at any point in the epidemic. And yet our HIV budget is shrinking. San  Francisco is facing major cuts in the federal funds that we depend on to reduce the spread of the disease and to take care of San Franciscans living with the virus. Ryan White funding has decreased over the years from $37.5 million in 2001 to $20.8 for 2012, a decrease of about 45%. This year we are facing:
·         A 20% cut, or $4.7 million reduction to the Ryan White grant for San Francisco, which would result in the loss of medical care, food, dental care, hospice care, mental health services, legal services, home health care, and other essential programs;
·         A 20% cut, or $3.1 million (the first installment of a 50% cut over five years) in HIV prevention funds from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC); and
·         The loss of $500,000 in services for young people with HIV at Larkin Street Youth Services because of a change in federal funding priorities.

If those funds are not replaced, San Francisco may see an increase in new HIV transmissions and a decrease in access to life-saving services for people living with HIV/AIDS, potentially leading to a preventable increase in deaths. We call on you to do everything you can to help avoid those outcomes. We understand that the city is facing economic challenges and that the budget is tight. If we do not replace these grants, however, we will face higher public health costs down the road: increased transmissions, expensive emergency room access and hospitalizations. It is more cost-effective to invest in prevention and care now.

Thank you for all of your work on behalf of the LGBT communities and we offer our help in building political support for a budget that replaces these funds. We look forward to working with you on this.

Martha Knutzen and Reese Aaron Isbell, Co-Chairs of the Alice B Tolkas LGBT Democratic Club.
Anna Conda/ Glendon Hyde
President, Harvey Milk Club

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