Advocates in Massachusetts Request $6M Increase in Funding for HIV/AIDS Services
Some advocates in Massachusetts are lobbying to increase funding for HIV/AIDS services in the state by at least $6 million, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette reports. Project ABLE -- which stands for AIDS Budget Legislative Effort -- is requesting $2 million for outreach services aimed at minority groups disproportionately affected by the virus; $2 million for education, prevention and treatment services for groups that have had an increase in HIV prevalence; and $2 million to support agencies providing such services.
According to the Telegram & Gazette, Gov. Deval Patrick (D) increased funding for HIV/AIDS programs in the Department of Public Health budget from $36.9 million to $37.1 million in his fiscal year 2009 proposal. Project ABLE said Patrick's increase is "level-funded" and not enough to treat people already living with HIV/AIDS, as well as the 1,000 people newly diagnosed with HIV annually in the state.
Some lawmakers in Massachusetts have said that they will consider the request but cautioned that the budget will be tight this year. Joseph McKee, executive director of AIDS Project Worcester, said it would cost more in the long run if lawmakers do not approve the increase because it is more expensive to provide treatment than to prevent the spread of the virus. The cost of HIV/AIDS -- including drugs, emergency department visits, extended hospital stays and unemployment -- "taxes the system," McKee said, adding that it is three to four times more expensive to treat the disease than to prevent it.
Donna Rheaume, a spokesperson with the health department, said Patrick is committed to funding HIV/AIDS and other public health issues. She added that the department is "committed to ensuring that we have an effective and aggressive HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment agenda."
State lawmakers are soon expected to hold hearings on FY 2009 budget proposals, the Telegram & Gazette reports (Sutner, Worcester Telegram & Gazette, 2/9).