Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations
Massachusetts AIDS Advocates Call for Restoration of Prevention, Treatment Funds in State Budget
Massachusetts AIDS advocates at a rally at the State House in Boston yesterday called on lawmakers to restore $3 million in HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment funds eliminated in January by Gov. Mitt Romney (R), the Associated Press reports. The cuts, which "dip into" HIV/AIDS prevention, home care, transportation and education services, angered many advocates, who over the past 15 months have seen AIDS funding fall from $51.1 million to $35.8 million, a 30% decline, according to the Associated Press. During the same period, the incidence of HIV and AIDS cases has risen 6% in the state, according to Project ABLE, a statewide coalition of AIDS service providers, advocates and people with HIV/AIDS (Peter, Associated Press, 3/5). Last year's funding cuts resulted in the administration of 5,000 fewer HIV tests in 2002 than in the previous year, according to Mary Ann Hart of Project ABLE, who said that thousands of people in the state who are HIV-positive do not know their status. Hart added that even fewer HIV tests would be offered this year as a result of budget cuts. Although funding for AIDS-related drugs was not eliminated, Hart said that some of the programs affected by the budget cuts are ones that help HIV-positive patients adhere to complex drug regimens (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/3). "This is a public health disaster and even if you're not interested in the lives, in the dignity of the people who are suffering, you've got to be interested in the numbers," state Sen. Jarrett Barrios (D) said. Advocates at the rally cheered for Christine Ferguson, the new state health commissioner, despite the governor's decision to cut funding. "We have a job to do and we have to do it with whatever resources we get," Ferguson said. Advocates said that they will continue to lobby legislators to restore the funding, even if it would require a tax increase. The rally and lobbying efforts seemed to have "some impact" on the governor's administration, according to the Associated Press. Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey (R) said, "I told them quite honestly that we have had to make some tough choices in this budget, between the delivery of direct services and funding for prevention, but that perhaps their case had some merit" (Associated Press, 3/5).
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