Mass. Budget Cuts Disproportionately Affect Women’s, Girls’ Access to HIV/AIDS, Reproductive Health Services
Recent cuts to Massachusetts state programs and services are disproportionately affecting women's and girls' access to reproductive health care and HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, according to a study released Tuesday by the Massachusetts Commission of the Status of Women, the AP/Boston Globe reports (AP/Boston Globe, 12/8). The 90-page report, titled "Real Cuts -- Real People -- Real Pain: The Effects of the Fiscal Crisis on Women and Girls in Massachusetts," was prepared by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center. The report examines access to education, job training, child and health care and other government services and the effects of cuts to such services on women and girls in the state (MCSW release, 12/7). The report found that women, who are more likely than men to use or benefit from state programs, "felt the brunt of the [state's] fiscal crisis," according to the AP/Globe (AP/Boston Globe, 12/8).
Reproductive Health Services
According to the report, funding for women's reproductive health services has been cut "significantly" since fiscal year 2001. In FY 2003, state funding for family planning programs was reduced by 20%, or $1.2 million. In FY 2004, there was an additional 42% funding reduction to the programs. Although funding for family planning services was returned to just below FY 2003 levels for FY 2005, a 25% reduction since FY 2001 remained when rates were adjusted for inflation. Funding for teen pregnancy programs was cut "even more dramatically," according to the report. Although teen pregnancy programs began in FY 2001 with $6 million in funding, the programs lost more than $5 million in state funding between FY 2001 and FY 2005. Family planning outreach services were reduced by $1 million, thereby "eliminating the supports that get high-risk women into prenatal care at the earliest part of their pregnancies," according to the report. MCSW also estimates that more than 16,000 women and adolescents will lose access to screening for sexually transmitted diseases, breast or cervical cancers and other reproductive health services because of the funding cuts. In addition, many communities in the state will not have access to programs addressing teen pregnancy through outreach, education or direct services, the report says.
Since 2001, funding for infectious disease programs in Massachusetts -- including the HIV/AIDS Bureau and Hepatitis C Program in the state's Department of Public Health and housing programs for people living with HIV/AIDS -- has "dropped dramatically," according to the report. Between FY 2001 and FY 2005, funding for these programs decreased from $60 million to $38.2 million -- a decrease of nearly 36%. Although funding levels for these programs were increased through a FY 2005 supplemental budget, funding still is only at 67% of its previous level before the fiscal crisis. The cuts have resulted in "dramatic reductions" in HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment services, including the loss of case management and transportation services for "thousands" living with the disease in the state. Without such "essential supports," women living with HIV/AIDS are "less likely to take appropriate care of themselves and are more likely to spread the infection," according to the report. Funding for 10,000 HIV tests also was eliminated in FY 2003, while funding for an additional 6,000 tests was cut in FY 2004. Screenings and prevention services for HIV, hepatitis C and other STDs in state correctional facilities also were cut in FY 2003, and the AIDS Bureau in FY 2004 eliminated programs for women recovering from addiction and for women with substance-use problems who also are at high risk of infection (MCSW report, 12/7).
"In many cases, the state's efforts to provide economic security, expand opportunity and protect the well-being of women and girls have been directly harmed by budget cuts," Lianne Cook of MCSW said (AP/Boston Globe, 12/8). "This report identifies many instances in which the lives of women in Massachusetts could be improved," MCSW Executive Director Linda Brantley said, adding, "The commission hopes that this report will give legislators, public policy makers, advocates, women's organizations and others who deal with the constituencies outlined in the report, hard data and a tool they can use to improve the status of women in Massachusetts" (MCSW release, 12/7).