Advocates called Tuesday on Los Angeles County officials to do more to reach those with HIV/AIDS who are not receiving care.
Dozens of activists representing the AIDS Healthcare Foundation appeared before the Board of Supervisors wearing red T-shirts with the number 24,000. That total — also appearing on billboards around Los Angeles — represents the estimated number of county residents who are not receiving medical care to treat their HIV status, according to the AHF.
More than 40 percent of that total are residents who don’t realize they are infected with HIV.
At issue today was the board’s vote to renew contracts with HIV/AIDS care providers and a proposed cut in funding to AHF and other healthcare providers.
Former Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl spoke in support of AHF.
“We have 24,000 who need to be touched … so that they can get the services they need,” Rosendahl told the board.
Rosendahl, an openly gay politician, lost his partner to AIDS in 1995.
County officials said funding under the federal Ryan White HIV/AIDS program, authorized in 1990 to provide a safety net for HIV/AIDS patients, was not being cut overall.
“There’s been a misunderstanding — there’s not going to be a cut in funding,” Supervisor Michael Antonovich said.
But funding for outpatient care specifically was cut by about $4.5 million, or 30 percent, to reflect the fact that many HIV/AIDS patients had migrated to Medi-Cal, Medicaid and private insurance under the Affordable Care Act, public health officials said.
Those residents no longer need “last resort” Ryan White dollars to pay for primary care, said Cynthia Harding, interim director of the Department of Public Health. In addition to paying for primary care, healthcare providers contracting with the county provide mental health care related to living HIV/AIDS, legal services and help accessing public assistance programs.
But some advocates said the county should maintain funding at the current level for outpatient services because so many people remain untreated.
Mario Perez, director of the Office of AIDS Programs and Policy, said the county has “one of the most aggressive HIV case finding programs in the country.”
The county is home to an estimated 58,000 people living with HIV/AIDS, many of whom live in poverty, according to a 2014 county application for federal funding under the Ryan White program.
If there is a surge in new patients, the county can adjust contracts, Perez said.
“We totally agree that every HIV-positive person should be linked … to care,” Harding told the board.
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl suggested that some of the Ryan White funding should be used to “find and sign up those in need.”
The board’s vote was unanimous to renew the contracts along with the proposed cuts.
— City News Service