The state of Tennessee is cutting funding for HIV prevention, detection and treatment programs that are not affiliated with metro health departments as of May 31. Organizations across the state were officially notified on Wednesday.
In an email obtained by The Commercial Appeal, the United Way of Greater Nashville — which manages money given to the Tennessee Department of Health by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — told partner organizations that there will be a change to the HIV prevention program in the state.
TDH United Way reports that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Initiative to End the AIDS Epidemic in the United StatesFunding will expire May 31, 2023. TDH will use other state initiatives to support all HIV prevention and surveillance staff and activities in funded metro health departments and these contracts will be effective by June 1, 2023,” said Nicky Easley, director of the HIV Initiative. / AIDS for United Way in Greater Nashville.
In a separate email obtained by The Commercial Appeal, state epidemiologist John Dunn told affected organizations that the federally funded Ryan White program would not be affected.
USA Today-Tennessee reached out to the Tennessee Department of Health but did not receive an immediate response.
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According to TDH, the grant is from CDC fundsHIV Counseling, Testing and Referral, Referral and Counseling Services for HIV Partners, HIV Health Education and Risk Reduction Programs, HIV Prevention for Affected Individuals, Public Information Programs, Free HIV Hotline HIV/STD, capacity building programmes, quality assurance and evaluation component.”
Cuts of HIV funding to community organizations are likely to hit Shelby County the hardest, said Ashley Cofield, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and northern Mississippi.
“The withdrawal of the state health department from CDC funding for HIV prevention will affect the community organizations on the ground that are doing the preventive work necessary to end the HIV epidemic in Shelby County. people and their well-being at risk.”
Although funding will officially end May 31, the state health department has already removed Planned Parenthood from its website as a free condom distributor. According to the Internet archiving service The Wayback Machine, Planned Parenthood is listed as the condom distributor.
The CDC did not return a request for comment.
According to the federal agency, Shelby County is part of the Initiative to End the HIV Epidemic in the United States because it is one of 50 localities that account for more than half of all new HIV diagnoses nationwide.
Preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows 831 new HIV cases diagnosed across Tennessee in 2021, and 575 new cases diagnosed in the first nine months of 2022. AHEAD, which only tracks HIV-related data, includes a subset data for Shelby County. According to AHEAD, Shelby County saw 232 new HIV diagnoses in 2022.
All entities that track HIV data report an overall decrease in new diagnoses since the peak of the HIV and AIDS epidemic in the United States. This is largely due to programs in urban and rural communities that raise awareness about transmission risks, distribute preventative medicines, and provide access to regular testing.
It is unclear how much the HIV prevention landscape in Tennessee will be affected. After the May cutoff, the organizations that provided these resources will have to scramble to secure new avenues of funding.
Also Wednesday afternoon, US Rep. Steve Cohen announced a $1.2 million grant for an HIV/AIDS program that helps provide comprehensive care services to people living with HIV who do not have or are uninsured.
“The Ryan White AIDS Program in Shelby County has been successful in preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS and in providing treatment to patients in need,” said Cohen. “Funding this grant will help Shelby County provide care for people affected by HIV and AIDS. It will improve treatment outcomes for patients in Shelby County and ultimately save lives.”
Some of the community and healthcare organizations that will be affected include:
- AHS Alliance Healthcare Services, Memphis
- Praise Cathedral, Memphis
- Cherokee Health Systems, Statewide
- Choice Health Network, statewide
- Life Friends, Memphis
- OutMemphis, Memphis
- Planned Parenthood in Tennessee, North Mississippi, Memphis and Knoxville
- St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis.
Correspondent Frank Gluck contributed to this report.
Corinne S Kennedy covers healthcare, economic development, and real estate for The Commercial Appeal. It can be reached via email at Corinne.Kennedy@CommercialAppeal.com
Michaela Watts is a reporter at Trade Appeal covering access and equity issues. It can be accessed at firstname.lastname@example.org.