Health & Science

Texas Health Officials Remove Houston Planned Parenthood From HIV Grant

State officials give no reason for cutting Houston affiliate from federally-funded grant

Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, based in Houston, has been participating in the grant for 27 years, according to spokeswoman Rochelle Tafolla.

The CDC-funded grant is called the Comprehensive HIV Prevention Project, and Texas received $13,212,813 in 2015.

Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast got $618,227 of that, and the money helped pay for eight staff members who focus on risk-reduction counseling, HIV tests, and condom distribution.

No state funds are involved in the grant, although the state selects some of the groups that receive the money and distribute it.

Tafolla says Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast has performed more than 140,000 HIV tests in the Greater Houston region. The workers spend much of their time outside of Planned Parenthood clinics, finding people wherever they are.

“We are on university campuses, in bars, in correction facilities, in treatment facilities and many, many places to get HIV testing to people so they know their status,” Tafolla said.

State health officials confirmed the decision to remove Planned Parenthood from the grant, but would not explain why. They declined requests for an on-record interview.

In an emailed statement, the Department of State Health Services said, “DSHS elected not to extend its contract with Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast. We will be working with local health departments to ensure those services will continue.”

Tafolla says she believes the removal is part of an ongoing political attack against Planned Parenthood.

Earlier this year, the state also removed Planned Parenthood from a different CDC grant that pays for pap smears and breast exams for poor, uninsured women. Texas officials have also threatened to remove Planned Parenthood as a general Medicaid provider.

“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,” Tafolla said.  

Seven Democratic members of Congress from Texas have appealed to federal health officials to take a closer look at the state’s decision.

Over 80,000 Texans are known to be living with HIV, according to DSHS statistics. An additional 18,000 Texans are estimated to be living with HIV but unaware of their infection.

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