The Pacific Pride Foundation announced it will be cutting its case management program for people with HIV and the two countywide food pantries they use to obtain healthy meals once a week free of charge. The two programs combined cost $920,000 a year; of Santa Barbara’s 500 HIV patients, about 200 are signed up. No date has been set for the cessation of these services; the plan is for Santa Barbara County Public Health to take over Pacific Pride’s caseload as seamlessly as possible. Given that Pacific Pride employs four case workers and one nurse, it’s expected Public Health will need to hire new employees.
HIV centers throughout the United States have been struggling financially in recent years. For Pacific Pride, the trouble started in 2009 when its federal funding — through the Office of AIDS — was cut by $700,000. Subsequent years were marked by smaller but consistent cuts, as well, said Pacific Pride Executive Director Colette Schabram, while the price of doing business increased. Going into this year, Pacific Pride was staring at a $200,000 shortfall for the two programs. On top of that, the Office of AIDS sharply shifted its funding priorities, declaring prevention and early treatment most urgent. And with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, more people previously uninsured are now covered. In this new context, organizations like Pacific Pride are no longer considered the most direct source of info about new HIV patients; traditional doctors are.
Since 2012, the number of new HIV cases jumped around from 17 to 8 to 15. No numbers for 2015 are available. Schabram said there’s been a spike in HIV cases among people ages 18-24. Pacific Pride, she said, will still be involved in education and prevention efforts, citing the availability of drugs known as “pre-exposure prophylactics” that prevent the spread of HIV 90-95 percent of the time when infected individuals engage in unprotected sex.