Home Local News Gov. Bill Lee makes cuts to HIV prevention –  Democrats say: ‘heartless,’ ‘irresponsible’

Gov. Bill Lee makes cuts to HIV prevention –  Democrats say: ‘heartless,’ ‘irresponsible’

by PRIDE Newsdesk
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Democratic leaders criticized a decision by Gov. Bill Lee’s health department to cut off federal funding for community-based HIV prevention, detection and treatment programs, calling it “heartless” and “irresponsible.”

The Memphis Commercial Appeal reported Lee’s Tennessee Department of Health informed nonprofit agencies and organizations that it will no longer distribute CDC funding to HIV prevention programs that are not affiliated with metro health departments. The funding is scheduled to end May 31, the report said, with no apparent reason for the cessation.

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. John Ray Clemmons of Nashville said the decision is the latest instance of the governor turning his back on vulnerable Tennesseans.

“The Lee administration’s unilateral decision to cut funding to HIV prevention, detection and treatment programs is only the latest example of his alarming lack of concern for Tennesseans’ health and well-being,” Clemmons said. “It is difficult for those of us who have personally experienced a loved one suffering and ultimately dying from this horrible virus to view this decision as anything less than a heartless act and offensive. It’s beyond the pale.

“Multiple programs that serve communities across this state will be directly impacted by this callous decision, leaving them scrambling for funding to provide much-needed healthcare services. Why Bill Lee and his allies on the extreme right are so hell-bent on denying Tennesseans access to vital healthcare services is something I will never understand, and it weighs heavily on me and my Democratic colleagues every day.”

Sen. London Lamar, D-Memphis, chairwoman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, said this extreme decision will help HIV spread and cause more Tennesseans to die prematurely.

“The administration’s irresponsible decision to reject federal funding for community-based HIV/AIDS prevention endangers the lives of Tennesseans,” Lamar said. “Our state has made steady progress against this incurable disease thanks to these exact public health efforts.

“There’s nothing pro-life about punishing people who are living HIV and enabling this virus to spread undetected,” Lamar said.

In 2020, there were 18,207 people living with HIV in Tennessee, according to AIDSVu, a project of Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health.

Of the people living with HIV, 54% are Black and 35% are White. About three-quarters (76%) of Tennesseans who are living with HIV are male, the research shows.

CDC research shows that HIV diagnoses have declined over time. The agency says one of its core strategies for eliminating the disease is “reducing HIV-related health disparities by improving access to prevention and care services for all Americans.”

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