Health Commissioner Refuses to Answer Reporters’ Questions on HIV Funds – Tennessee Lookout

Health Commissioner Ralph Alvarado received a hall pass in his first appearance before the Senate Health Committee, then questioned Wednesday about the state’s new policy to eliminate federal funding to nonprofits for HIV services. Dodged the reporters.

Alvarado, who came to Tennessee in December after serving in the Kentucky legislature and running for lieutenant governor, parodied Democratic Sen. Jeff Yarbrough’s statements, but the health department’s recent decision to pull federal funding found new Insight not provided.

The committee’s chairman, Republican Sen. Rusty Crowe of Kingsport, asked members to make Wednesday’s gathering an introductory moment and to avoid questions until Alvarado presents his budget on March 15.

But Yarbrough, D-Nashville, took the opportunity to question Alvarado about the “sudden” decision to stop flowing money to groups that have provided HIV services for decades with bipartisan support. Yarbrough said the decision came two days after Alvarado took office.

I’ve read media reports that say there are issues surrounding LGBT organizations or Planned Parenthood. … But why do we care who is helping Tennesseans not get AIDS and not transmit HIV?

—Sen. Jeff Yarbrough, D-Nashville

“I’m not sure whether this is a decision that you signed or inherited. But in any event it is a decision that will happen later that you will have to deal with and we will have to deal with,” Yarbrough said. Told.

Yarbrough said legislators on both sides of the aisle want to know how the state plans to move forward with HIV care and urged the commissioner to have a “comprehensive conversation” before March 15.

Alvarado did not shed any new light on the matter.

Echoing a letter he sent to nonprofit agencies a week earlier, Alvarado responded that current arrangements for HIV services were made by other administrations.

“This administration is examining areas where it can reduce reliance on federal funding and envision greater independence in that area. The state is determined now to assume direct financial and managerial responsibility for these services. for the best interest of Tennesseans is for the state,” Alvarado said.

He said the funding would last till May and then the state would take a different route. Alvarado said the new policy does not affect HIV treatment through the Ryan White Program.

“The state is investigating how to implement an effective program at the state level and will inform the community as soon as it is appropriate,” Alvarado said.

The new commissioner left the meeting room after the staff and reporters, but health department spokesman Dean Flehner shouted that no questions would be allowed because Alvarado had another meeting to attend.

Gov. Lee said last week that some nonprofit organizations would receive state funding to provide HIV services, but he also said they would target human traffickers, first responders and pregnant women, who are most likely to get HIV. Potential groups are not considered.

Yarbrough later refuted this, saying that neither the governor nor the commissioners had given enough information about the funding shift to legislators, the public or community providers. He called his decision “reckless”.

Yarbrough argues that the state will not be able to establish the same level of service as community-based organizations with a record of success.

“And, frankly, it puts people at risk,” he said.

HIV funding is to be directed primarily through the state’s six metropolitan health departments.

Gov. Lee said last week that some nonprofit organizations would receive state funding to provide HIV services, but he also said they would target human traffickers, first responders and pregnant women, who are most likely to get HIV. Potential groups are not considered.

The report shows the state targeting Planned Parenthood before notifying each nonprofit that it will end participation in the federal HIV program.

“I don’t know who this is targeting,” Yarbrough said Wednesday. “I’ve read media reports that say there are issues surrounding LGBT organizations or Planned Parenthood. … But why do we care about who is helping Tennesseans not get AIDS and not transmit HIV?” Used to be?

Tennessee State Sen. Jeff Yarbrough, D-Nashville: The decision to cut funding for HIV prevention and treatment is “reckless.” (Photo: John Partipilo)

Yarbrough argues that the state should seek broad access to HIV testing, for example, without handcuffing the groups that provide those services.

The Metro Nashville Health Department’s PrEP clinic, which provides confidential testing, counseling services and pre-exposure prophylaxis prescriptions, has 134 clients, according to spokesman Matthew Peters.

The department’s clinic manager had not received any notification this week about possible changes to funding for PrEP services.

Money funds Planned Parenthood free condom distribution and HIV testing. Planned Parenthood sent a letter saying that the United Way of Nashville, which administers CDC funds for the health department, told its colleague that “due to state politics,” the department has pulled Planned Parenthood from the program. Tried to remove the parent.

“We asked our attorneys to remind the state that they cannot target us because they disagree with our free speech right to oppose the state’s abortion ban. State response? They are going to stop participating in the entire federal program and defame us all,” the communication says.

The end of the program also affects Alliance Health Services in Memphis, Cathedral of Praise in Memphis, Cherokee Health Systems, Choice Health Network, Friends for Life in Memphis, OutMemphis and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.

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