PLoS By Category | Recent PLoS Articles

Science Policy

Estimating the Impact of State Budget Cuts and Redirection of Prevention Resources on the HIV Epidemic in 59 California Local Health Departments
Published: Friday, March 08, 2013
Author: Feng Lin et al.

by Feng Lin, Arielle Lasry, Stephanie L. Sansom, Richard J. Wolitski


In the wake of a national economic downturn, the state of California, in 2009–2010, implemented budget cuts that eliminated state funding of HIV prevention and testing. To mitigate the effect of these cuts remaining federal funds were redirected. This analysis estimates the impact of these budget cuts and reallocation of resources on HIV transmission and associated HIV treatment costs.

Methods and Findings

We estimated the effect of the budget cuts and reallocation for California county health departments (excluding Los Angeles and San Francisco) on the number of individuals living with or at-risk for HIV who received HIV prevention services. We used a Bernoulli model to estimate the number of new infections that would occur each year as a result of the changes, and assigned lifetime treatment costs to those new infections. We explored the effect of redirecting federal funds to more cost-effective programs, as well as the potential effect of allocating funds proportionately by transmission category. We estimated that cutting HIV prevention resulted in 55 new infections that were associated with $20 million in lifetime treatment costs. The redirection of federal funds to more cost-effective programs averted 15 HIV infections. If HIV prevention funding were allocated proportionately to transmission categories, we estimated that HIV infections could be reduced below the number that occurred annually before the state budget cuts.


Reducing funding for HIV prevention may result in short-term savings at the expense of additional HIV infections and increased HIV treatment costs. Existing HIV prevention funds would likely have a greater impact on the epidemic if they were allocated to the more cost-effective programs and the populations most likely to acquire and transmit the infection.