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Local HIV/AIDS Agencies Take Funding Hit

By Joyce Kryszak

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wbfo/local-wbfo-751863.mp3

Buffalo, NY – During his speech at the convention this week, former President Bill Clinton reaffirmed his commitment to the fight against AIDS and HIV. Local AIDS Community advocates say they will need all the extra help they can get in light of deep state funding cuts.

It was merely one sentence in a speech that touched on many issues. But local AIDS and HIV service providers say the spotlight on the disease couldn't come at a better time.

Last week, AIDS Community Services learned that additional state funding cuts will mean an eight and a half percent total decrease just this year. That's a roughly $120 thousand dollar hit to their budget.

And President George W. Bush has proposed a cut to medicaid reimbursements that would mean another hit. Christopher Voltz is director of marketing for AIDS Community Services. He said the federal cuts would be hard to absorb.

Voltz said they are hoping the measure will stall at least until after a new administration comes in. But if not, or if the next president pushes the cuts through, Voltz said it would likely mean staffing cuts. Ironically, the funding shortfalls come on the heals of news that new AIDS cases in the United States were under reported by forty percent. Voltz said it is clear that more, not less, needs to be done to halt the spread of the disease.

The agency said there are about 4,000 cases locally. AIDS Community Services is planning an event next month that will bring attention to the problem while also raising some money for services. Local community leaders will ride through town on a bicycle built for 30.

The fundraising scheme has been used in Canada, but it is the first time the bike will make an appearance in the United States. Colden Ray is coordinator of the event. She said ride sponsors are raising money and awareness.

The ride will take place in Buffalo on September 18. Anyone interested in signing up for the bike ride can call AIDS Community Services for more information.

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