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Monday, January 2, 2012 - 9:44am

State Cutting HIV Prevention Staff

Federal funding cuts mean the state likely will have to reduce the number of HIV/AIDS prevention workers this month.

The state is losing nearly $4 million in federal support for prevention programs, so the Georgia Department of Public Health has told 20 people in health districts around the state that their jobs will probably end this month.

The money is not leaving Georgia; it will instead go to metropolitan Atlanta because the Centers for Disease Control is focusing funding on major urban areas with concentrations of HIV.

Still, health officials are worried the cuts will hurt prevention efforts, especially outside of metropolitan areas.

“When we have cuts like this, there seems to always be a somewhat disproportionate impact on those rural areas and that really troubles us,” said Patrick O’Neal, director of the health protection division in the Public Health Department.

O’Neal said two of the people whose jobs will be cut are nurses who also monitor other infectious diseases in their area.

“Eliminating those positions not only is going to be a real problem in terms of HIV prevention efforts, but it also is going to pose a real challenge to the district to identify outbreaks of anything else that may be occurring,” O’Neal said.

He said the state has been able to shift at least one worker into another job focused on prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, and state and local officials are trying to save other jobs too.

More than 40,000 Georgians were living with HIV or AIDS as of 2009, the latest data available. Two-thirds of them are in metro Atlanta.