Those working to combat the spread of HIV in San Francisco say that if The City does not restore millions of dollars in federal cuts they would lose ground in the fight against the disease.
Since the HIV epidemic began in the 1980s, San Francisco has developed a system of care with the Department of Public Health and nonprofit groups. The system relies on federal funding to offer prevention services and ensure people are tested and properly treated.
But the federal funding continues to decrease, forcing The City to backfill those cuts using local tax revenue to preserve the existing system.
As of December 2011, there were 15,489 people living with AIDS in San Francisco. Cases diagnosed annually peaked in 1992 at 2,330. In 2011, there were 392 newly diagnosed cases.
“The funding cuts have the consequence of taking us backward at this very moment when we can actually in San Francisco see an AIDS-free generation,” said Lance Toma, executive director of the Asian and Pacific Islander Wellness Center. “This is within reach for us.”
Toma was among those gathered at a Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee hearing Wednesday to call on city officials to backfill the federal cuts. The hearing was called by supervisors Scott Wiener and David Campos, who said they are working with Mayor Ed Lee to restore funding.
The City experienced a $7.2 million HIV-related reduction in federal funding for the current fiscal year, and local tax revenue had to make up that loss. For the upcoming two fiscal years, The City had been looking at federal cuts of $9.5 million and $10.3 million until it budgeted $5.1 million for each year. That leaves shortfalls of $4.4 million and $5.2 million.
The shortfalls are expected to worsen by at least $1.3 million each year due to the March 1 federal budget cuts known as sequestration.
The funding cuts come at a challenging time fiscally for The City. While it is facing a budget deficit of $126 million next fiscal year, the Department of Public Health alone is asking to fill a $45 million hole for the current fiscal year. And in five years, the total San Francisco budget deficit is expected to grow to $487 million.
The mayor must submit a balanced budget to the Board of Supervisors for review and adoption by June 3.