Monday, February 07, 2005

Bush Budget May Harm PWAs

The response to the President's budget is starting to trickle in. The consensus is likely to be that this budget will cause some real problems for people living with HIV/AIDS. Not only is the proposed increase ($10 million) too small to fit the need (NASTAD recommended an increase of $197 million for AIDS drug assistance programs), cuts in other places will negate any potential benefit.

"This budget does not reflect the concern President Bush showed during his State of the Union for HIV and AIDS care and prevention," said HRC Vice President of Policy David M. Smith. "Unfortunately, the President's actions do not match his words."

. . .

In addition, the Centers for Disease Control saw a $4 million cut to its budget for HIV/AIDS prevention and surveillance. At the same time, unproven non-science-based abstinence-only programs, which do not include education about how HIV/AIDS is transmitted, received $38 million in additional funding. A recent study at Texas A&M University showed that teenagers taking abstinence-only sex education programs endorsed by the President became increasingly sexually active, which is the exact opposite effect that the program is designed to have. "Programs which focus on abstinence as the sole means of preventing HIV/AIDS put our young people at tremendous risk," said Smith. "The President has repeatedly stated his commitment to combating the spread of HIV. We have to question that commitment when his ideology consistently outweighs sound scientific facts."

. . .

Despite the President's recognition that HIV/AIDS is a growing problem in communities of color, the Minority AIDS initiative was flat-funded. Also, $14 million was cut from the Housing for Persons Living With AIDS program, which helps people living with HIV/AIDS afford housing. Having stable living conditions increases the chances of strict adherence to drug regimens, which is necessary for fighting HIV/AIDS and also prevents the development of medication-resistant strains of the virus.

President Bush's budget also includes Medicaid cuts of at least $45 billion over the next 10 years. These cuts would greatly affect a program that is responsible for providing health care to 55 percent of all adults living with AIDS and 90 percent of all children the HRC said.

The good news is that Congress still has something to say about all of this. Letting your congressional representatives know what impact this budget would have on you and your community would be a good place to start. See Texas AIDS Network's "Who Represents Me?" to find out how to contact your representatives.

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