Shelby County leaders announce new coalition to combat state’s rejection of federal HIV prevention funding
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - On Wednesday, Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris and Shelby County Health Director Dr. Michelle Taylor announced the formation of the HIV Equity Coalition, or HIVE Coalition.
The coalition comes in light of the State of Tennessee’s recent rejection of federal funds for HIV care and prevention.
The HIVE Coalition will engage area stakeholders to discuss the current problems facing people with HIV and how Governor Bill Lee, the State of Tennessee, and Health Commissioner Ralph Alvarado’s refusal to accept nearly $10 million in federal funds for HIV care and prevention will impact patients and vulnerable populations.
The HIVE Coalition will also discuss ways for the community and local officials to help support organizations following the state’s decision as the HIV epidemic still impacts Tennessee and Shelby County.
Mayor Harris says the CDC has specifically targeted Shelby County in its Ending HIV Initiative because it is one of 50 areas in the country that account for more than half of new HIV cases annually.
According to HIV.gov, 1.2 million people in the United States have HIV and 13 percent are unaware they are infected.
Mayor Harris says funds that provide care for people living with HIV and prevention, like HIV testing, are crucial to stopping the spread of the disease that kills hundreds of Tennesseans every year.
According to the mayor, significant and vital work by organizations in Shelby County like Hope House, Friends for Life, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and Regional One Health are at risk due to the state’s decision. Mayor Harris says they along with many other organizations will have to deal with the dilemma of either finding other funding resources, closing programs and other operations, or expecting an influx of people seeking care or preventative care for HIV.
“HIV is nowhere near eradicated in Shelby County or in the State of Tennessee,” said Mayor Harris. “Shelby County has one of the highest incidence rates of new HIV cases in the country and the South accounts for more than half of all new HIV cases in the United States. The State of Tennessee’s rejection of CDC funds for HIV care and prevention puts Tennesseans at risk for a deadly disease, shows little compassion for people living with HIV, and leaves community organizations unable to serve countless men, women, and children.”
“Shelby County Health Department (SCHD) works to combat the HIV epidemic in our region by providing care to HIV/AIDS patients through the Ryan White Program and prevention services through the Health Department’s Sexual Health program,” said Dr. Taylor. “Our existing HIV testing and prevention community partners extend the Health Department’s reach where testing is most needed. Interruptions in these programs could put thousands in our community at risk.”
To view the entire release from the Shelby County Mayor’s Office, click here.
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