Volunteers From Virginia HIV/AIDS Group Lobby Legislators to Increase HIV Prevention, Education Funds
About 60 volunteers from Virginia Organizations Responding to AIDS on Wednesday lobbied state lawmakers to allocate additional funds for increased HIV prevention and education in the state, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.
The volunteers asked legislators to support a budget amendment, sponsored by Del. John O'Bannon (R) and Sen. Henry Marsh (D), that would allocate $250,000 in each of the next two fiscal years for HIV programs targeted at people ages 25 and younger. The volunteers also asked legislators to support an amendment, sponsored by O'Bannon and Sen. Ralph Northam (D), that aims to prevent the use of methamphetamine, which can make people more likely to engage in risky behavior, according to the Times-Dispatch. In addition, the volunteers discussed housing support for people living with HIV/AIDS with the lawmakers.
Dennis Buie, an outreach specialist with the Minority Health Consortium Inc., said the response from legislators was better than expected. "It seems like the people we talked to wanted to help," Buie said. "One way or another Virginia is going to be spending money," Juan Pierce, executive director of MHC, said, adding, "Either you are going to spend the money to treat" people living with HIV/AIDS or "you are going to spend the money to prevent" the spread of the virus.
According to 2007 statistics from the state Department of Health, about 19,000 people are living with HIV/AIDS in Virginia, 73% of whom are men. About 11,600 of all HIV-positive people in the state are black, the Times-Dispatch reports (Smith, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 1/31).