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Cuts force reductions in AIDS program

By JIM ROSS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 13, 2002

INVERNESS -- The state estimates that about 60 Citrus residents have full-blown AIDS or have tested positive for HIV.

Some of the AIDS patients receive help from a Medicaid program called Project AIDS Care. It provides case management, homemaker assistance and related services with one goal in mind: allowing patients to remain in their homes instead of seeking more expensive care in a nursing home or hospital.

Now Project AIDS Care is about to change significantly.

As part of their effort to trim $1-billion from the state budget, lawmakers recently announced they had cut $10-million from Project AIDS Care during the next year. That's 43 percent of the program's funding.

What will Projects AIDS Care look like after the cuts? People who administer the program, and work with the patients who benefit from it, still aren't sure, although early proposals called for elimination of five in-home services -- physical therapy, housekeeping, health assessment, pest control and therapeutic massage -- and significant reductions in in-home meal service and case management.

No matter where the cuts come, advocates predict the government will wind up paying a huge bill, anyway. Some patients will deteriorate and wind up needing Medicaid assistance to pay for a nursing home; others will need assistance from other government programs.

"The cost shifting will happen again," said Karen Klubertanz, a planning manager with the North Central Florida Health Planning Council in Gainesville.

Drew McCarthy, who is Florida AIDS Action's director of government affairs, said his agency will work with the Legislature to restore the funding altogether or at least limit the cut to $5-million.

For support

The Citrus County Health Department sponsors an HIV Support and Information Group that is designed to provide support and education to individuals who have HIV, have a loved one with HIV, are professional caregivers or want information about the disease. The group meets monthly at the Health Department, 3700 W Sovereign Path, Lecanto. For information, call Dorothy Libretto, R.N., at 527-0068, ext. 237.

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