Massachusetts AIDS Advocates Seek Increased State Budget
Massachusetts AIDS advocates are disappointed with Gov.
Paul Cellucci's (R) line-item AIDS budget for fiscal year 2002, which they fear "reflects a new political reality that obscures real needs of Massachusetts residents suffering the ravages of the pandemic," the Worcester
Telegram & Gazette reports. Cellucci's budget calls for an approximately $20,000 cut in AIDS spending from the current level of $51,136,334. AIDS Action Committee, a Boston-based group, and the lobbying group Project ABLE asked the governor for $54.1 million in the budget.
Hepatitis C funding would also decrease from $2.75 million to $2.145 million; Project ABLE had asked for $3.75 million. The administration said that to save costs it "lumped" in the hepatitis C line-item with other diseases, but advocates feel that move may jeopardize programs for health care worker education and training already established by the Department of Public Health. Funding for AIDS
housing would also be cut by $35,000. But the budget provides a $1.5 million increase for substance abuse programs and calls for $3.8 million in additional HIV Medicaid expansion, one area where the administration and activists are "in agreement," according to the Telegram & Gazette. Mary Ann Hart of Project ABLE praised the proposed Medicaid expansion, but said that the housing cuts would make it harder to find affordable shelter for clients. "AIDS deaths are down because of treatment, but the number of new infections is the same. Education and prevention are still very important. People are living longer and its expensive," she said (Nangle, Worcester Telegram & Gazette, 3/12).
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