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      Officials try to figure out options for HIV/AIDS funding

      According the S.C. HIV/AIDS Council, one in five new reported HIV/AIDS cases in the state are among people under 25 years old.

      In a flood of vetoes by Governor Mark Sanford, money for HIV prevention and prescription assistance for AIDS patients was eliminated.

      It will result in people being infected unnecessarily, says executive director Bambi Gaddist of the South Carolina HIV/AIDS Council. It will impact the economic structure of hospitals that will be forced to treat people who come into their facility sick without insurance.

      Gaddist warned local leaders Monday of the possible implications of the $1 million cut to Project F.A.I.T.H -- an initiative to help prevent the spread of the HIV. All money was also removed from the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP).

      With 800 new cases a year in South Carolina, we can ill afford to just treat, said Gaddist.

      Meeting for the first time, members of the Richland County Legislative Delegation, Richland County Council and Columbia City Council discussed what to do in the wake of $50 million in state cuts.

      I think most people are not aware that Columbia in many ways leads the country in HIV infections. We are number one in the nation for heterosexual transmission of the disease, said Rep. Joe Neal.

      Neal admits the budget cuts has resulted in a long list of problems, but he says tackling HIV/AIDS should be the community's first priority.

      A task force will be created in the coming weeks with the goal of trying to figure out options for the funding of HIV/AIDS programs.