The state of Texas has axed funding for an HIV prevention programme – with almost no warning.
Until now, the US state had administered $600,000 of federal CDC funding with the aim of tackling HIV and reducing transmission rates.
For nearly 30 years, sexual and reproductive health clinic Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast has received the funding – which paid for condom distribution, HIV testing, counselling, and HIV referral services.
However, this week state officials in Texas took the decision to axe the contract with no warning whatsoever – as the current agreement expires on December 31.
A letter from the Texas Department of State Health Services confirmed: “There will be no further renewals of this contract.”
It comes amid the heavy politicisation of Planned Parenthood by anti-abortion activists and Republican lawmakers nationwide, Activists have vowed to cut off all funding to abortion providers, and have also made allegations of fraud and ‘harvesting baby organs’ by Planned Parenthood – both of which are strongly disputed.
Proponents of Planned Parenthood insist that defending the right to choose an abortion is just a small part of the work carried out PP – which is the sole provider of vital sexual health and reproductive services in some areas.
A statement from Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast said: “It is a truly sad moment for health care in Texas.
“For nearly three decades, the state provided funding for our excellent community outreach, prevention, and education that included providing thousands with free testing.
“Our HIV Prevention Program team has tested tens of thousands of people in jails, bars, nightclubs, college campuses and many other places across our service area.
“We didn’t wait for people to get tested – we reached out and immersed ourselves in the communities we serve and made sure we were accessible and available for people.”
It is unclear if the funding will be reallocated.
Carrie William of the Texas Department of State Health Services insisted: “The array of HIV prevention services ranging from health education to outreach to testing is unchanged.
“Those services will be delivered to communities across Texas — including the Harris County area — as they have in the past.”
But PPGC spokeswoman Rochelle Tafollao told the Texas Tribune: “I don’t know who else is going to fill that gap, and I don’t know if anyone can, frankly.
“Every time the state cuts these programs in an attempt to score political points … the true victims here are tens of thousands of women and men who no longer have access to health care that they need.”