Monday, July 10, 2006

DSHS LAR hearing, 2008-2009 appropriations (EIR 4)

Continued from previous two posts . . .

The Department's fourth ranked Exceptional Item Request is for HIV/STD Prevention, Surveillance, and Screening Activities. The amount requested is $4,300,000 for each year of the biennium ($8.6 million total).

From the Department's budget justification:

At the end of 2004, there were an estimated 52,600 persons living with HIV/AIDS in the State of Texas. More than 4,000 Texans were diagnosed with HIV in 2004. Of these, 34 percent of men and 63 percent of women were African American. Federal funding for HIV services, prevention and surveillance in Texas has continued to decline for the past three years. This funding request will allow DSHS to track and document changes in the epidemic which will allow local community planning groups to identify risk groups and choose prevention methods that have proven effective with the population. In addition, HIV service planning would allow local providers to identify how to prioritize and effectively use funds to address the medical needs of persons with HIV/AIDS living in their community. Improved STD screening will allow the laboratory to upgrade technology that would improve the sensitivity of the equipment from the current 70% to 90% for diagnosing Chlamydia and Gonnorhea. Moving to the amplified testing will improve Chlamydia detection by identifying an additional 1,500 cases per year.

No unusual discussion by DSHS Advisory Council members occurred in relation to this item, the matter of priorities and relative worth having already been addressed in relation to the previous EIR for HIV medications. Texas AIDS Network offered public comment on all three EIRs and made a point of noting that the Department had not requested funds for services or prevention since at least 1991. We also emphasized the cuts in federal funds over the past three or four years and the effect that these have had on HIV services in Texas.

Texas AIDS Network will support this Exceptional Item Request. We recommend that concerned members of the Texas HIV/AIDS community address this request with their state representatives and senators. If possible, community members should consider making this item the subject of a third visit with legislators. Usable talking points can be found in the budget justification. The Network will be preparing additional materials for these district visits in the coming weeks.

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