The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) will not renew $1.5 million in HIV/AIDS grants with the Cleveland Department of Public Health after the city failed to meet the requirements to be eligible for continued funding.
ODH says it is seeking another local public health department to give the grants that go toward HIV and AIDS prevention, treatment, testing and education. ODH Communications Director Russ Kennedy says the state is in the process of re-bidding and plans to have a new local service provider in place by Feb. 1, so there is no gap in providing services. The grant provides funding for HIV and AIDS prevention, education, testing and treatment programs in Cuyahoga, Lake, Geauga, Lorain, Medina and Ashtabula counties.
Kennedy says CDPH’s average score of 54 percent was well below the required 70 percent to be eligible for continued funding.
“In addition to that, despite abundant technical assistance provided by the Ohio Department of Health, Cleveland Department of Public Health did not satisfy a plan of correction either,” Kennedy said.
The city had performance deficiencies and in February was placed on a plan to correct those issues, Kennedy said. The problems include failing to meet contract deadlines, not filling staff vacancies by a deadline established in the plan, and having below-standard performance measures. CDPH also failed to connect newly diagnosed people with partner services within 30 days of the confirmed HIV-positive test date.
MetroHealth provided some of those partner services under the grant. Dr. Ann Avery, who specializes in infectious disease at MetroHealth, said HIV/AIDS testing is available at all the region’s hospitals, but the grant provides funding to establish strategies for reaching vulnerable populations that typically don't interact with health systems.
While Avery says she thinks the grants will continue with a different service provider, she emphasized the need for continued funding for testing, treatment and education so health systems can work collaboratively.
"There's a huge need for education because right now there is so much stigma and fear, despite the fact that there's amazing progress in the medical field to treat patients living with HIV," she said.
ODH emailed CDPH on Dec. 3 with written explanation of why the grants weren't renewed, which Kennedy forwarded to ideastream. According to the email, ODH and CDPH representatives discussed on Nov. 26 a plan to extend the grant period to allow a smooth transition to a new grant recipient.
The city did not respond to a request for comment.