HIV/AIDS Programs Could Face More Than $1 billion in Funding Cuts

Bad news surfaces for HIV/AIDS activists, even as word spreads about two HIV-infected patients being cured in Boston.

Every slice of good news seems to come with an unwanted extra slice of bad news these days, it seems.

Though Boston scientists today reported having (possibly) cured two HIV-positive men through bone-marrow transplants, there remains a dark shadow looming just on the horizon for HIV/AIDS activists. Courtesy of the members of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, a still-to-be-voted-on spending bill in the Senate could cut HIV/AIDS services across the country by, according to the AIDS Institute, $1.1 billion — yes, billion with a “B.” Impacted HIV/AIDS programs fall under the categories of medical case management, primary medical care, testing services and, sadly, research.

Kevin Burns, executive director of ActionAIDS, says the impact could be “devastating.”

“The sequestration alone has already had a huge impact, in the sense that we’re doing less testing, and most AIDS organizations have had to lay off staff, especially in outreach and counseling,” says Burns. “It’s hard to imagine at this stage of the process what a $1.1 billion cut would do, because that’s an across-the-board cut to services. … In Philadelphia, we’ve had a 5 percent decrease already to our Ryan White awards — and we actually fared better than a lot of other EMAs.”

Burns insists that level funding “would be a miracle” at this point, and encourages those concerned (which should be all of you) to dial in or write a letter to their senators. (Phone numbers for Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware senators are listed below.)

For a sense of perspective, a 2011 Philadelphia Department of Public Health report found that that HIV diagnoses among those who engage in male-to-male sex have remained level for the past six years in the city, with a majority of HIV/AIDS cases among males being found in gay men. Total HIV/AIDS cases reported in Philadelphia stand at 19,157, according to the data. And of course, it’s also no secret that HIV diagnoses are on the rise among those in the age range of 13 to 24 — they make up more than half of all undiagnosed HIV cases in the country, as reported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“I really think people need to wake up and take action here — we can’t afford to wait around until after the Senate passes this,” says Burns. “Now is not the time to stop this fight.”

Pennsylvania

  • The Office of Sen. Bob Casey: 202-224-6324
  • The Office of Sen. Pat Toomey: 202-224-4254

New Jersey

  • The Office of Sen. Robert Menendez: 202-224-4744
  • The Office of Sen. Jeffrey Chiesa: 202-224-2730

Delaware

  • The Office of Sen. Tom Carper: 202-224-2441
  • The Office of Sen. Christopher Coons: 202-224-5042

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