Words: Steve Brown
A LA LGBT centre has been forced to reduce free access to STI testing and treatments following funding cutbacks.
The Los Angeles LGBT Center, which provides services to West Hollywood residents, announced that a cutback in services in coming via an email – which was obtained by WEHOville – and revealed there was a dispute with Los Angeles County over funding.
Darrel Cumming, the Center’s chief of staff, said: “It is with a great deal of regret that I inform you that within the next week, due to broken promises about appropriate funding by the County of Los Angeles, the Center will be forced to reduce access to our free sexually transmitted disease (STD) services at both McDonald/Wright facility and at Center WeHo.
“After more than a year of conversation with the County and after repeated promises made, we now have learned that the County will not pay the costs of testing and treatment services for all the work we are doing.
“Last fiscal year alone, the Center was forced to redirect more than $1.1 million from other programs and services to cover the costs that the County now refuses to pay.
“Since then, we have continued to incur significant financial losses because we have been told that a solution would be forthcoming. It has not and it appears now that it will not.”
Cummings promised the Center would be organising plans to put pressure on Los Angeles County to restore funding.
In LA, more than 85,500 STI cases were reported in 2016 and the figure has been increasing year on year and 40 per cent of West Hollywood residents are said to be gay men.
In a Health Department report, it reads: “A disproportionate number of STI cases occur among men who have sex with men (MSM), African American women, and transgender persons.”
Cumming added: “Our staff in the Community Health Programs have been doing an amazing job reaching those at risk for STD’s, which includes HIV, for testing and treatment.
“The LGBT Center provided testing during more than 25,000 client visits. One result of this effort is that last year we diagnosed and treated 22 per cent of all syphilis cases in L.A. County, thereby reducing the spread of this infection.
“Clearly, the Center is a critical partner in helping the County fulfil its mission and obligation. We are doing our part, but regrettably, the County and Department of Public Health are not.
“Their failure to fund the services we have provided and the unwillingness to fund them appropriately into the future has brought us to a very unfortunate position where the Center is forced to amend the availability of our services at a time when our community needs us the most.
“As all of you are being notified of this, so are our clients who have used these services.
“We will be letting them know of this problem and providing contact information for key County people who have the power to make this right.
“In the coming days, you will start to see media reports and related materials at Center locations about this issue as we roll out a series of advocacy and mobilization actions that will engage clients, volunteers, staff, and donors.
“ As part of these actions, we will be mobilizing with our community partners to attend the Board of Supervisors meeting next Tuesday, Nov. 13.
“We will keep you posted about all these activities and how you can get involved.”