Statement on Governor’s Proposed Budget Cuts
Statement by Rebecca Haag, AIDS Action President & CEO, on $2M cut to HIV/AIDS line item in Governor’s budget:
“The governor’s budget released today reflects what we all know: Times are tough. But this is a short-sighted approach to the state’s investment in public health. Prevention and wellness programs are critical to long-term savings in health care. The state’s investment in HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention has paid off with a 50 percent reduction in new HIV diagnoses over the last 10 years, which has resulted in millions of dollars saved in health care costs. But if we undercut the infrastructure of programs supporting public health, we will not be able to sustain a model of care that effectively manages chronic diseases like HIV, diabetes, and asthma, all of which account for a disproportionate share of health care costs.
“It would be sheer folly to step away from what is still a public health crisis in the black, Hispanic, and gay/bi communities. Blacks make up only 6% of the state’s population, but they comprise 28% of those living with HIV/AIDS in Massachusetts and are 11 times more likely to be HIV positive than white residents; Hispanics make up only 6% of the state’s population, but they comprise 25% of those living with HIV/AIDS in Massachusetts and are nine times more likely to be HIV positive than white residents; and male-to-male sex and injection drug use are the leading reported exposure modes for HIV infection for those living with HIV/AIDS, accounting for 35% and 24% of all exposures, respectively. We need funding restored to meet these challenges.
“Over the last decade, state funding for HIV treatment and prevention has declined about 25 percent. During the same period, the number of people living with HIV and AIDS has increased by 42 percent. Today, there are approximately 18,000 people living with HIV in Massachusetts. They are some of the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable citizens. With the cuts proposed this week, they are being asked to bear more than their fair share for solving the state’s fiscal crisis.
“Last July, President Obama released a National Strategy on HIV/AIDS which outlines ambitious, but achievable, goals toward ending the epidemic. Massachusetts has long been a national leader in implementing effective public health programs that succeed in reducing HIV transmission and increase the health of those already infected. So it is particularly disappointing that the Commonwealth is stepping back from its commitment—a commitment that has no doubt saved countless lives, and eased the burden that can come with a diagnosis of HIV for thousands more. We ask lawmakers to restore the $2 million in cuts to HIV treatment and prevention.”
AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts is the state’s leading provider of prevention and wellness services for people vulnerable to HIV infection. It provides services to one in six people in Massachusetts living with an HIV diagnosis. These services include HIV counseling and testing; needle exchange; mental health counseling; housing assistance; and legal services. AIDS Action works to prevent new HIV infections, support those affected by HIV, and tackle the root causes of HIV/AIDS by educating the public and health professionals about HIV prevention and care; and advocating for fair and effective HIV/AIDS policy at the city, state, and federal levels. Founded in 1983, AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts is New England’s first and largest AIDS service organization. Learn more at www.aac.org.