Statement from amfAR on Tennessee’s Rejection of Federal Funds for HIV Services
amfAR urges the Tennessee Department of Health to continue accepting critical available HIV federal funding for the benefit of communities across the state.
The Tennessee Department of Health abruptly rejected the use of available federal funds for HIV prevention services. This decision is short-sighted and undermines the state’s public health and response to HIV while limiting community access to critical services.
Among the programs that will be affected by the Tennessee Department of Health’s rejection of U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) funding are HIV prevention and surveillance activities, as well as the federal Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic (EHE) initiative. The EHE is a program launched by President Donald Trump that targets funds to designated HIV/AIDS “hotspots” within the U.S. with the goal of ending the HIV epidemic by 2030. Should other states follow suit, the likelihood of achieving this goal will be greatly reduced.
This decision should be reversed considering that:
- Shelby County, which includes Memphis, is among 50 counties nationwide with the highest rates of HIV infection where EHE efforts can make a difference;
- Rejecting the funds will likely dismantle the state’s HIV surveillance infrastructure, eliminating an essential public health tool and increasing the risk of future outbreaks;
- Restricting access to HIV prevention and testing could lead to increased rates of HIV infection, greater healthcare expenses and sicker communities.
The Tennessee Department of Health should continue to support community-based organizations that have hard-won expertise in locating people at risk, getting them diagnosed or re-engaging them with care, and helping them navigate a complex health system. In addition to HIV, these same organizations have been at the forefront of the COVID-19, opioid, and flu crises. To undermine or lose this invaluable community resource will impact an already overstretched workforce and cripple the state’s ability to prepare for and fight future pandemics.
Among the community organizations that will be affected by the Tennessee Department of Health’s decision is Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi, Memphis and Knoxville. While Planned Parenthood is known for its provision of family planning services, it is also an important and trusted provider of HIV testing, counseling and prevention services, especially for populations at high risk of acquiring HIV.
amfAR strongly encourages the Tennessee Department of Health to carefully assess the likely public health consequences of its rejection of available federal funding for HIV services and to continue to accept critical funding that benefits communities across the state. We have come too far in addressing HIV as a nation to undercut our progress for short-term political gain.
Those concerned with this decision to reject available federal funding should contact Robertson Nash, Deputy Director of the Tennessee Department of Health at Robertson.Nash@tn.gov and express your disappointment with this decision.
amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, is one of the world’s leading nonprofit organizations dedicated to the support of AIDS research, HIV prevention, treatment education, and advocacy. Since 1985, amfAR has invested nearly $617 million in its programs and has awarded more than 3,500 grants to research teams worldwide.