Adams administration reverses proposal to cut Health Department’s HIV/AIDS budget

Mayor Eric Adams and New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan (middle).
Mayor Eric Adams and New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan (middle).
Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office

The Adams administration is reversing course on its proposal to slash millions of dollars in HIV/AIDS funding from the city Health Department in the upcoming budget, Gay City News has learned.

Multiple sources close to budget negotiations say the mayor is fully restoring the $5.3 million for HIV/AIDS services in the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s budget, representing a major victory for non-profit service providers and advocates who sounded the alarm about how the cuts would have had a detrimental impact on critically important programs, including one intended to help people living with HIV adhere to their medications. 

Sources told Gay City News on June 26 that the funding was reinstated by pulling from a shared pot of money between the mayor’s office and the City Council, which grilled the administration about the issue during a May 13 hearing at City Hall. In a May 20 letter, the Council’s LGBTQIA+ Caucus ripped the cuts as “unnecessary” and “dangerous to the health and well-being of New Yorkers living with HIV and AIDS.”

“From day one, our administration has been laser focused on ensuring New Yorkers, especially our LGBTQ+ community, have access to culturally sensitive and confidential health care services,” an Adams administration spokesperson told Gay City News. “That’s why as states across the nation continue their onslaught of attacks on our LGBTQ+ neighbors, we signed an executive order protecting gender-affirming care in New York City. While we cannot comment on ongoing budget negotiations, we remain committed to upholding our legacy as the birth of Stonewall and serving as a safe haven for all seeking care, and we are confident that we will deliver an on-time, balanced budget that invests in the LGBTQ+ community.”

A Council source said restoring the funding was a priority for Speaker Adrienne Adams of Queens and Finance Chair Justin Brannan of Brooklyn. Out lesbian Queens Councilmember Lynn Schulman, the chair of the Health Committee, acknowledged to Gay City News on the afternoon of June 26 that there had been “positive discussions,” but indicated that nothing was finalized as of that time. Sources close to the budget, though, say it is a done deal. 

However, Jason Cianciotto, a spokesperson for the HIV/AIDS service non-profit GMHC, told Gay City News the reversal does not, to his knowledge, restore funding to a workforce development program at GMHC known as RISE, which is covered through other city agencies outside of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The RISE program, Cianciotto said, is part of a $400,000 contract that pays a handful of staffers, and he said it would not be possible for GMHC to come up with the money to replace that contract if it is, indeed, cut.

Other organizations that were facing cuts in the upcoming budget included Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, which is geared towards serving LGBTQ clients, and Planned Parenthood, which also delivers HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment services in the city and would have seen a 12% drop in funding.

Out Queens Councilmember Tiffany Cabán, who is co-chair of the LGBTQIA+ Caucus, told Gay City News by phone on June 27 that the Council is “feeling really good about the progress,” particularly when it comes to the restoration of the HIV/AIDS funding in the Health Department’s budget. But she also stressed that the Council is still working to reverse other potential cuts — including to senior centers as well as funding for homeless youth services.

“I think we could have a just budget that delivers for New Yorkers,” Cabán told Gay City News. “I think it unfortunately requires a different mayor than we have today.”

Cabán denounced what she described as disproportionate funding for police at the expense of agencies such as New York City Human Resources Administration, which she said has lost so many employees that it takes three or four months for her office to get responses from them on pressing cases.

“We have got to keep pushing,” Cabán said. “In my capacity as chair of the LGBTQIA+ Caucus, we are constantly talking about what is needed to support the queer community across the city, across every intersection — whether it’s socio-economic status, race, religion, or zip code. When we deliver for that community, we’re actually delivering for communities across the board.”

The proposed cuts sparked further concern about the fight for LGBTQ and sexual health at a time when the city has witnessed a rise in mpox cases this year and an increase in sexually transmitted infections in recent years. Community-based providers play a critical role for LGBTQ New Yorkers who rely on and trust them for services, from HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment to mpox vaccines. 

Advocates called out the proposed cuts on the steps of City Hall on June 11 and there was another demonstration at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn on June 23. Among other groups, ACT UP also called on the city to restore the funds. 

The 2025 budget is due by June 30, which is Pride Sunday.

This story was updated on June 27 to include comments provided by Queens Councilmember Tiffany Cabán.