Texas Boots Planned Parenthood from HIV Program
Update, 7:34 p.m.:
Texas DSHS spokesperson Chris Van Deusen wrote in an email to the Observer that the agency has “the discretion to extend the contract and elected not to do so in this case.”
Texas just couldn’t end 2015 without one more jab at Planned Parenthood.
According to a press release from Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast (PPGC) in Houston, the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) did not renew the organization’s HIV Prevention Program funding for 2016. The program pays for HIV and STD education, counseling, screenings and other prevention services like condom distribution.
According to DSHS, more than 80,000 Texans are living with HIV, and in 2014, more than 4,000 Texans were newly diagnosed with the virus.
Funding for the HIV Prevention Program comes from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with Texas’ DSHS as the intermediary that funnels the money to community organizations. Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast received $600,000 to provide HIV screenings in the Houston area, including Harris, Galveston, Brazoria, Fort Bend and Montgomery counties.
According to the DSHS HIV Surveillance Report, 1,289 Harris County residents were diagnosed with HIV in 2014, the highest number of new cases that year across all 254 counties.
PPGC began providing HIV screenings 28 years ago and received a state grant to do so. The grant expires on December 31, 2015. Come January 1, 2016, the organization will no longer provide HIV screenings.
In a statement released today, PPGC CEO and president Melaney Linton called the news “devastating.”
“Our HIV Prevention Program team has tested tens of thousands of people in jails, bars, night clubs, college campuses and many other places across our service area,” she said. “The team helped people overcome their anxieties to get tested and learn their HIV status, and educated them on reducing their risk exposure.”
Requests for comment from DSHS and the CDC were not immediately returned.
Planned Parenthood officials said the organization will still provide STD testings at its health centers.
The announcement comes amid an ongoing effort by the state to exclude Planned Parenthood from the joint federal-state Medicaid program. Texas Planned Parenthood affiliates and 10 patients filed a lawsuit against the state in November, arguing that excluding the provider from Medicaid violates the federal Social Security Act, which allows Medicaid patients to choose their own provider. A judge is expected to hear the case in 2016.
This year, the Texas Legislature also excluded Planned Parenthood from the state Breast and Cervical Cancer Services program, which provides screenings and diagnostic treatment to low-income women. The move left the Waco area without a BCCS provider, despite a last-minute budget rider designed to ensure that any changes to the program wouldn’t leave regions of the state without a provider. Texas also booted Planned Parenthood from the Texas Women’s Health Program, which provides birth control, well woman exams and cancer screenings. A state study released this year found that TWHP has served thousands fewer women since the Planned Parenthood exclusion.
Correction, 3:30 p.m.: Our original piece misstated the duration of DSHS’ original HIV-related grant. The post has been corrected to amend the error.To support journalism like this, donate to the Texas Observer.