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L.A. County to Receive a Bigger AIDS Grant

March 21, 2003|Daren Briscoe | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles County will get $2 million more than it received from the federal government last year to care for people with HIV and AIDS, while assistance to some other major cities is being cut.

The money, distributed under the Ryan White CARE Act, is part of $600 million in grants to help local governments provide for low-income residents with HIV and AIDS.

Though the shares of funding for New York and San Francisco will decrease, Los Angeles County's allotment amounts to a 5.5% increase, boosting the county's federal grant to nearly $40 million.

Some of the assistance is tied directly to the AIDS and HIV population. Because the numbers in L.A. County increased last year at a slower rate than in years past -- to an estimated 16,700 people -- those funds decreased slightly.

But the county received a greater share of competitive supplemental funds, which were awarded on the basis of a demonstration of severe need.

Gunter Freehill, spokesman for the county Office of AIDS Policy and Programs, said officials stressed the increasing complexity of services required for people living with HIV and AIDS and the county's high percentage of cases among gay and bisexual men.

"Eighty five to 88% of the AIDS cases in the county are among men," Freehill said, and fewer services are available in the county to men with HIV, "which places an additional burden on our health-care services."

He added that the county has a persistent problem with people who seek treatment after their health problems have become severe, increasing the need for the services they require.

One of the nation's largest AIDS organizations used the grant announcement to call for the county to spend less on administrative functions and more on patient care.

"The county should be commended for putting a lot of money into medical care, but it's not going to provide for more medical visits or substance abuse treatment," said Clint Trout, associate director of federal government affairs for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

Trout said that, in its federal grant application, the county cut the percentage of aid dedicated to outpatient medical care and substance abuse services and increased the amount slated for administrative services.

Funding for all programs would have grown, had the county gotten the entire $50 million it requested, Trout said, but would increase only for administrative services under the $40-million allotment.

"Now that they have the award, they need to make sure the money is going to services and not to bureaucratic functions," he said.

Genevieve Clavreul, a commissioner on the county's Commission on HIV Health Services and a frequent critic of the county and the Office of AIDS Policy and Programs, said she was confident that the money would be spent appropriately.

"To me the wording is very clear," Clavreul said.

"That doesn't mean we don't have to be careful, but people like myself can make a lot of noise if it doesn't go to the right people."

Nationally, spending under the Ryan White Care Act rose less than 1% this year. New York City lost $13.9 million, cutting its grant to $103.9 million.

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Times staff writer Charles Ornstein contributed to this report.

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