Damn it man! What else can be said after just reporting in March 2015 that HIV that has already progressed to full-blown AIDS is on the rise in Atlanta, Georgia. The complaint from medical professionals a mere three months ago was that the state lacked funding for testing. Welp. Here we are today and reports at WABE say $8.7 million of unused funding was returned to the CDC. What happened?
Documents obtained by WABE show that since 2012, the CDC has awarded Fulton County grants totaling nearly $20 million to fund its HIV-prevention efforts.
In the first two years of the program, Fulton County spent about half of the money. Last year, the county health department did a little better, spending more than half.
But what it didn’t spend, it had to give back — some $8.7 million.
“The fact that we have millions of dollars of funds to address this problem that have gone unspent is something that should be a concern for a lot of folks,” Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, said.
Graham, who is also a member of Fulton County’s newly-formed Taskforce on HIV/AIDS, has pressed the health department’s director about the county’s lack of prevention spending.
Dr. Patrice Harris, director of health services for Fulton County, said the spending problems “absolutely concern” her. As the grant’s principal investigator, Harris is responsible for executing Fulton County’s HIV prevention strategy.
So why hasn’t the money been spent?
Harris said there many reasons, including the grant’s funding cycle, the amount of time needed to hire and train personnel, turnover and county bureaucracy. Plus, because the CDC requires Fulton County to contract with various community-based non-profits, ensuring their compliance can slow things down, she said.
“It’s certainly money that’s not spent going to work toward HIV prevention, and we need every dollar we can get,” said Harris. She noted the county is eligible to apply to get some of the unspent money back, a process called “carry-over.”
But that amount doesn’t begin to cover the county’s loss, and some close to the process said on background the money only replaces new funds the CDC would otherwise grant.
Dr. Harris, meanwhile, remained firm that her department is committed to fixing its spending issues. In April, she convened what she called a “turn-around” meeting, where various stakeholders offered their ideas on how to mend the problem.
She also said she’s certain the county will spend all of its grant money this year, barring what she called “unforeseen personnel problems.”