Funding Shift Ends HIV/AIDS Service

By Cindy Hadish, Reporter

IOWA CITY, Iowa – About 50 people living with HIV/AIDS in southeast Iowa will have a new service provider after MECCA announced it will discontinue its case management and housing assistance services.

The decision comes as federal funding is reduced for Iowa and as the state's focus shifts to medical treatment to reduce the transmission of HIV.

MECCA, which provides substance abuse and behavioral health services at its regional office in Iowa City, has offered HIV assistance since 2004 through the Iowa Center for AIDS Resources and Education program, known as ICARE.

Treatment for problem gamblers and other MECCA programs will continue, vice president Shannon Wagner said, and the ICARE name could potentially continue under a new provider.

MECCA will end its affiliation with ICARE on March 31, 2013, so that services can smoothly transition to that new provider, Wagner said.

The Iowa Department of Public Health has a competitive bid process under way for the contract, which had been $230, 071 this year.

About 70 percent passed through to clients for rent, transportation and other needs, with the remainder covering one staff position and overhead costs. Wagner said MECCA is hoping to retain that staff person.

Randy Mayer, chief of the bureau of HIV, STD, and hepatitis at the state health department, said Iowa lost $407,000 this year in federal HIV/AIDS prevention funding and will lose another $180,000 in 2013.

Previously, funding had been at $1.6 million annually, so the state could lose up to 55 percent in prevention funding, Mayer said.

He noted that prevention will shift from testing and education to reducing clients' viral loads, so they are less apt to transmit HIV to others.

"We have no other choice," Mayer said of the change, but added that there is room for improvement in ensuring that clients are receiving medical care. "I'm actually hopeful if we do invest resources in that, we will have an impact on decreasing transmissions in the state."

At the same time, Mayer said he is concerned that without the outreach programs, Iowa will have more difficulty getting people tested for HIV and into early treatment to reduce transmission.

An estimated 3,000 people are living with HIV/AIDS in Iowa, with 2,300 of those formally diagnosed.

The National HIV/AIDS Strategy is shifting federal prevention funds to areas of the country with higher HIV/AIDS cases, leaving less for states like Iowa.
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