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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
February 4, 2005

AIDS groups want Ohio to divert abstinence-only funds

Columbus--Ohio AIDS service organizations are coming together to fight what they believe will be cuts to the Ohio Department of Health budget that could result in a 25% reduction in money for care.

Leaders of the groups say they want the state to move money away from �abstinence only� sex education to care and drug programs for people with AIDS. They will be meeting in Cleveland February 10 to discuss strategy to advocate for their programs.

The groups have sent written proposals to Ohio Department of Health director Dr. Nick Baird and have publicized their effort to get the �abstinence only� funds redirected.

But health department spokesperson Lee Yoakum said their proposal is �not something anyone is aware of or discussing at this time� and that the expected cuts will not be as large as the activists believe.

The cuts would result from an anticipated $5 billion shortfall in the overall state budget during fiscal year 2006, which begins July 1.

A health department worker, who asked not to be named, said that staff have been told to create budgets with 25% cuts in anticipation of the shortfall.

Yoakum denies this.

The AIDS groups want Baird to shift nearly $500,000 of state money away from abstinence-only sex education. That money brings in another $2.1 million in federal funding for the program.

However, the federal government does not care who puts up the matching funds. So, said AIDS Taskforce of Cleveland director Earl Pike, the non-profit organizations who actually do the abstinence-only programs should produce the matching funds, as they do in 11 other states.

Pike said that AIDS service organizations currently provide matching funds for their federally funded programs.

Federal Ryan White Title II funds, on the other hand, require the matching funds to be put up by the state government.

During fiscal year 2005, $7 million went from the state treasury to AIDS care and prevention services.

Of that money, $5.5 million brought in another $16.7 million in federal Title II funds which paid for drugs, care, monthly Medicaid �spend downs� and emergencies for 7,500 clients.

The rest went to attract federal prevention funds from the Centers for Disease Control.

The AIDS organizationss are most worried about the funds available for care and drugs because only state funds can be used to help clients meet their Medicaid eligibility requirements, ensuring funding for their care. According to Pike, the biggest impact will be felt in case management and drug programs, possibly causing waiting lists.

Additionally, the Ohio Department of Health expects a ten percent increase in clients next year.



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