Recent changes to the state's allocation of AIDS prevention-program funding has raised the ire of youth advocates around Minnesota. Dr. Gary Remafedi, director of the University of Minnesota's Youth and AIDS Projects, says that a plan adopted by the Commissioner of Health's Task Force on HIV and STD Prevention will result in youth programs losing nearly 60 percent of their funding. "This will have disastrous consequences," he predicts. "Studies have proven that risky behaviors are best averted before they've begun, and that adolescents carry learned behaviors into adulthood."
As this article went to press in mid-December, Remafedi and other youth advocates were planning to protest the proposed changes at an upcoming meeting of the health task force.
Michael Kaplan, the task force's co-chair, agrees with Remafedi's conclusion, but says that the issue here is one of equity. "We need to ensure that all groups are getting access to funding," he says. Disbursements have traditionally been determined by efficiency rather than need, he contends, and that has resulted in some populations receiving a disproportionate share of the money. "It used to be that whichever agencies applied that had the best capacity to serve, they were awarded funding," says Kaplan. "There were no guarantees that the hardest hit population would get help." So while youth programs were getting 40 percent of available funding, he says, the hardest hit population -- gay men of color -- was receiving substantially less.
"This is politics masquerading as science," counters Remafedi. "The bottom line is that they're taking from youth and giving it to adults. They're targeting prevention dollars to a problem that's already happened. If this were about HIV care services, that would be a different equation. But this is about prevention, and [youth] is the population most likely to profit."