June 24, 2003
San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown will cut $2 million from HIV/AIDS services paid for by the general fund unless city supervisors act. The cuts make up .042 percent of the entire $4.7 billion budget, .1 percent of the approximately $2 billion the city plans to spend on payroll alone, or .68 percent of the $298 million the city's police department will spend this year. "It really isn't a great deal of money in the larger context of the budget," said Dana Van Gorder of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
The money, however, pays for programs like SFAF's information hotline, counseling for HIV-positive people at the AIDS Health Project, the entire volunteer program at Shanti, and almost all of the back-to-work programs at Positive Resource Center. The biggest hit, more than $400,000, would be to Shanti's volunteer program. Executive Director Hywel Sims said that if the cuts go through, Shanti would have to lay off five staff members who coordinate the organization's 150 volunteers. Sims said that they help 1,200 clients with shopping and cleaning, and give emotional support to the often homebound HIV patients.
A $383,000 cut to AIDS Health Project would nix all the funding for its group therapy programs for HIV-positive people. Positive Resource Center would lose $140,000 it uses to help HIV-positive people go back to work. "We get people off of GA [general assistance]. We make them taxpayers. They get living wage jobs," Positive Resource Center Executive Director Brett Andrews said. Other proposed cuts would eliminate some of the housing subsidies for HIV-positive people administered by SFAF.
The proposed cuts are all in programs that are administered by the San Francisco Department of Public Health and are part of a $20 million package of cuts to the department's budget. Of that, approximately $5.2 million would be cut from substance abuse programs citywide, including programs to deal with methamphetamine use in the gay community.