Connecticut may receive funds to fight AIDS

New federal funding may soon find its way to New Haven in an effort to continue the fight against HIV/AIDS.

The U.S. Senate on Monday approved to increase federal funding by millions of dollars for Connecticut and New Haven HIV/AIDS services. The U.S. House of Representatives will vote on the funding later this week, Allison Preiss, a spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd, wrote in an e-mail Wednesday.

If approved, the bill would benefit many state medical providers and family-focused health centers by restoring funds lost in 2006, federal and state government officials said.

New Haven Health Department Director William Quinn said both his department and HIV/AIDS patients will be fortunate to receive the funding.

“The people who receive this service are people who have no other means,” Quinn said. “Our system would collapse if they didn’t get any treatment through health centers and organizations.”

The funding comes from the 1990 Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act. When Congress reauthorized the Ryan White legislation in 2006, it led to dramatic cuts — up to $3 million — in funding for Connecticut, said Chris Andresen, acting section chief of the AIDS and Chronic Disease Division at the state’s Department of Public Health. Andresen said state officials made up for the deficit.

“But they would not have been able to continue to make up for all the lost funds,” he added.

Over the last few months, state officials have been struggling to balance their budget, which currently suffers from an over-$8 billion deficit.

Quinn said he sees the federal funding increase as a relief for all the parties involved.

“I think it’s great,” Quinn said. “We have had to ask the state to provide for three years worth of funds, so this is money that is needed.”

The New Haven Health Department allocated Ryan White funds to public health organizations across New Haven and Fairfield counties. The funding provides for HIV/AIDS medical care and treatment, as well as other resources for HIV/AIDS patients and their family members, such as mental and housing services.

One of the organizations that receives Ryan White funding is AIDS Project New Haven. Its executive director, Christopher Cole, said that although the group did not see a decrease in funding due to the 2006 cuts, the new federal funding would allow the city to respond better to the HIV/AIDS epidemic on a domestic level and help the city to avoid a public health “disaster.”

But Cole said HIV/AIDS organizations across the city could still use more funding.

“The need for it in New Haven is great,” Cole said. “But we do the best with what we have.”

Justin Berk ’10, co-director of AIDS Walk New Haven, said that considering Connecticut’s budget deficit, he fears the state might reallocate funds away from HIV/AIDS services. The Ryan White funding is an important resource that should not be decreased, Berk said.

“By under-funding, you are assuming AIDS is not an important issue,” he said.

In 2004, more than 1,000 people lived with AIDS in New Haven, Quinn said. He added that the statistic has remained stable.

The Associated Press contributed

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