Texas state officials announced Monday they will no longer fund Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast’s HIV prevention program, which has provided more than 138,000 HIV tests over the past three decades.
The state has funded the program for the past 18 years, according to a statement from Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast (PPGC).
The decision cuts off nearly $600,000 in annual federal funding for HIV testing and counseling, condom distribution, and referrals for new patients, as the Texas Tribune reported. The program’s team tested people all over the state, in jails, nightclubs, and college campuses.
“It is a truly sad moment for health care in Texas,” Melaney Linton, president and CEO of PPGC, said in a statement. “We didn’t wait for people to get tested—we reached out and immersed ourselves in the communities we serve and made sure we were accessible and available for people.”
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As of Tuesday, state health officials had not responded to questions from local media about the reason for the cut, saying only they would “be working with local health departments to ensure those services will continue,” as Houston Public Media reported.
The health department’s move is the latest in an ongoing campaign to deprive Planned Parenthood of taxpayer funding.
Republican lawmakers announced in the fall they were banning Planned Parenthood from participating in the state’s Medicaid program, which funds a wide range of health services for low-income men and women. To justify the ban, lawmakers cited widely discredited undercover videos released this summer by an anti-choice front group called the Center for Medical Progress. GOP-led investigations have failed to produce evidence that Planned Parenthood broke the law, and the organization has continued to receive federal and state money, according to the Tribune. Planned Parenthood is fighting the threat to suspend Medicaid funding in court.
Texas Republicans also removed Planned Parenthood from a federal grant this year that provides funding for Pap smears and breast exams for low-income and uninsured women.
The decision to end the HIV prevention program comes as Indiana grapples with an outbreak that began in 2014. The state scrambled “to erect pop-up clinics” in the wake of the epidemic because a number of Planned Parenthood clinics in the state, which offered HIV testing and information, were forced to close in recent years “in large part due to funding cuts to the state’s public health infrastructure,” as the Huffington Post reported.
Planned Parenthood officials say they are devastated that the HIV prevention program in Texas will no longer be able to continue its work in the community.
“Public health is riding on this decision and it seems very obvious that the state is willing to play politics with thousands of people’s health, once again,” Rochelle Tafolla, a spokesperson for PPGC, told Houston Public Media.