6.06.2007

Puerto Rico's Mismanagement of AIDS Funding Threatens Lives

While Puerto Rico has the 5th largest AIDS cases in the U.S. states and terroritories, the government there has continually mismanaged millions in funds earmarked to fight and treat the devastating disease.

In Puerto Rico’s AIDS Care in Disarray Over Funds, NYTimes health reporter Erik Eckholm exposes the current dysfunction, waste and shear imcompetence in the Puerto Rico AIDS program which is literally resulting in the deaths of scores of island residents.

Although Puerto Rico's mismanagement of AIDS funding has been well documented now for at least a decade, successive Puerto Rico and U.S. governments have failed to act to correct the problems.

In sharp rebukes to the Puerto Rico Health Department and the City of San Jan, federal officials have put the AIDS grants under unusually tight review and even threatened to halt some federal money. Because of disorganization, the officials say, the island has often failed to spend all its Ryan White aid, losing access to $6.5 million over the last five years.

Adding questions, in December the F.B.I. raided four San Juan Health Department offices, seizing 400 boxes of documents in a criminal investigation into possible misuse of Ryan White grants.

With an exploding AIDS/HIV problem and a demonstrated inability or will on the part of the Puerto Rico government to do what's right, isn't it time for U.S. AIDS funding be taken out of the hands of the Puerto Rico government and entrusted to a respected third party to administer?

Such a decision would cause a political storm among the island's political class. But so what! Aren't the lives of people with AIDS (and the future victims whose cases could have been prevented) more important?

Enough already!