NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) - Sequestration cuts could reduce the number of HIV tests available in Hampton Roads, which has the highest HIV infection rate in the Commonwealth.
During Tuesday's trip to Newport News, President Obama spoke about possible cuts to health screenings and vaccinations.
Hampton Roads has the highest HIV infection rate in the state. Local nonprofits are worried the disease will spread faster if funding is on the chopping block.
Shelley Taylor-Donahue, executive director of the Eastern Virginia Aids Network, says the situation is even more daunting than it appears, calling Norfolk "an STD capital."
Taylor-Donahue said if Congress can't fund the outreach work her organization does, the problem will get much worse.
"The clients are the ones who are going to get hit hardest, and that's my main concern," Taylor-Donahue said.
She said drastic cuts are on the minds of many, who wonder how the nonprofit could afford to stay open after sequestration.
"We're getting kicked on all sides," she said, listing all the different federal and state funding the nonprofit needs to operate.
But the most concerning of those is the $5 million Ryan White grant, which expires at the same time sequestration goes into effect. The nonprofit uses the majority of the Ryan White money for case management, medication co-pays, transportation and other preventative methods.
"If we have to stop those programs, we are going to end up with an epidemic," said Taylor-Donahue.
The cuts will affect staffing levels, too. More than 75 percent of Taylor-Donahues employees will be forced to take furloughs. Many of them are so dedicated to the cause, they're willing to work for free. But, even then, how long can a nonprofit really last after a series of such devastating cuts?
"Not very," said Taylor-Donahue. "I am hoping this can be resolved in the next 30 days."
According to the White House, sequestration would eliminate 8,400 HIV tests in Virginia. Funding for other vaccinations, such as the flu, tetanus and Hepatitis B, are also on the chopping block if Congress fails to reach a deal.
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