AIDS Action Responds to Massachusetts Senate Ways & Means Budget Proposal for FY 2013
BOSTON, May 16, 2012—Statement by Rebecca Haag, AIDS Action President & CEO on Recommended Funding of HIV/AIDS and Viral Hepatitis in Senate Budget:
“The budget released today by the Senate will result in cuts in services to people living with HIV/AIDS and viral hepatitis and is a short-sighted approach to investment in public health. In the past five years, state funding for HIV and viral hepatitis has been cut by $5 million. This has been exacerbated by a 25 percent cut in HIV prevention and education funding from the federal government.
“As HIV testing and counseling and prevention services have been cut—and in some instances eliminated—the state Department of Public Health now estimates that 10 percent of people living with a diagnosis of HIV or AIDS in Massachusetts are not getting their primary HIV health care needs met. Many of these programs also impact prevention efforts for viral hepatitis, which are funded through the HIV/AIDS line item.
“There are an estimated 100,000 people in Massachusetts living with viral hepatitis, which causes inflammation of the liver and can lead to cirrhosis and increased risk of liver cancer. Between 2002 and 2009, the rate of infection among teens and young adults has doubled, largely driven by the shared use of injection drug equipment.
“Since 1999, the state’s investment in HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention has paid off with a 54 percent reduction in new HIV diagnoses, which will save the state more than $2 billion in health care costs related to treating HIV. We urge lawmakers to fund HIV/AIDS and viral hepatitis at $33.35 million to begin restoring some of the vital programs that have been lost to budget cuts in recent years. Massachusetts is a national leader in the care and prevention of HIV. It’s the only state that has seen reductions in rates of new diagnoses across every population. The health outcomes of people living with HIV/AIDS in Massachusetts are also much better than most. But these gains are threatened without continued investment in education, prevention, outreach, and direct services.”
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.