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NYC budget crunch clashes with rising AIDS cost

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Despite a budget crunch, New York City might have to increase funding for programs to help AIDS patients as its cost-cutting efforts have floundered and the state or federal governments could slice spending, a new report said on Tuesday.

New York City has one of the nation's largest populations of people living with AIDS -- 66,398 patients in 2009, the most recent data available.

The increase in this population has slowed from its 1990s spike to an average of about 1,669 new patients a year, according to the report by the Independent Budget Office. But the city has little control over the number of patients because doctors determine whether someone has AIDS.

Further, the city's cash crunch is far from unique.

New York State faces future deficits that run in the multibillions of dollars while the federal government is struggling to cut its own deficit.

The city will contribute about half of the total of $225 million earmarked for assisting AIDS patients with housing, health and homemaker services, and the like in the current budget, the report said.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a political independent, has failed repeatedly to curb the costs of caring for AIDS patients. Legal requirements Bloomberg could not overturn set the number of caseload managers, and the City Council, led by Democrats, repeatedly restored his cuts, the report said.

AIDS patients, who lived an average of just over 109 months in 2008, also get the benefit of other public assistance, such as Medicaid, the federal-state plan for the poor, elderly and disabled, and the federal food stamp program, for example.

In November, Bloomberg did not propose any new cuts for the HIV/AIDS programs, the report said.

"This may reflect that the city's efforts to find savings in the HIV/AIDS Services Administration are not likely to get any easier in the future," it added.

SOURCE: http://bit.ly/t7KYPm Independent Budget Office, November 29, 2011.

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