AIDS Rises in Brooklyn, Federal Funding Drops

The non-profit Brooklyn Men Konnect provides material and support against HIV/AIDS. According to Brooklyn Bureau, “for the first half of 2011, Brooklyn led the city, with 495 or 28 percent of new HIV diagnoses.” (Photo by Pearl Gabel/Brooklyn Bureau)

The number of new HIV infections have nearly been cut in half in a decade, but the demographics of the new cases is changing and so is the availability of federal funding for clinics in Brooklyn, which registered the largest number of new HIV cases, reports Gerard Flynn for Brooklyn Bureau.

The latest data from [the Department of Health and Mental Hygene, DOHMH] shows that while rates of new HIV infections have almost halved in ten years, for the first time more than half of new HIV infections were among [men who have sex with men, MSMs], with young men under 30. Gender, race and age shape today’s HIV crisis in the city. 93 percent of new HIV/AIDS diagnoses among females were in black or Hispanic women. The city has seen a steady decline since 2001 in new diagnoses for older gay men, but the figures have been rising over the decade among the young. MSMs newly diagnosed and older than 30 were mostly white, while almost 80 percent of newly diagnosed young people were black or Hispanic.

Data from the DOHMH indicates that Bedford Stuyvesant and Crown Heights is “one of four epicenters in the city and the focal point for the disease in the borough.” Nearly 7,000 residents in the area have HIV/AIDS.

Dr. Jeffrey Birnbaum has been running HEAT/FACES, a network of HIV/AIDS clinics in Brooklyn, for over two decades. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) told the doctor that a major grant from the Ryan White Care Act’s Part-D Program would terminate after 23 years. Part-D focuses on services for children, women and families. His network has been the largest recipient of the grant in the borough, with close to $1.7 million out of the $2.1 million given to all of Brooklyn.

The cuts meant shedding 20 members of staff, including, nurses, a doctor and case managers at each of the eight sites, which served more than 1,100 HIV/AIDS patients. Brooklyn’s “HIV community has been hurt in irreparable ways,” Dr. Birnbaum says.

The grant last year was “recompeted,” a HRSA spokesperson, Martin Kramer says. Since then the grant for the entire borough of Brooklyn was cut 83 percent, with Kings County Hospital Center remaining its sole awardee, receiving $350,000 for the current fiscal year to treat low-income women, children, infants and youth.

Ivy Gamble-Cobb of the Family Center in Brooklyn, which lost its Part-D grant – that provided $750,000 in funding last year – had to close its HIV program. Gamble-Cobb explains that the loss in money is because of a rerouting of funding to the South.

She says an emerging HIV/AIDS crisis in the American south is forcing the federal government to reroute funds from New York, though the HRSA spokesperson would not confirm this, except to say that “for the first time 19 new locations across the United States received Part D funding.” According to Centers for Disease Control (CDC) statistics, New York is only one of eight major urban centers of HIV/AIDS in the United States. Cities in southern states make up the bulk.

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