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Monday, May 25, 2009

California’s AIDS Funding Cuts would be, ‘Catastrophic,’ says AHF

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the nation’s largest non-profit HIV/AIDS healthcare provider, today criticized California state officials for planning draconian budget cuts that will jeopardize the public health by eliminating all funding for AIDS care and treatment from the state’s General Fund. The state action came on the heels of Tuesday’s state election where five ballot measures to address the state’s burgeoning budget deficit were voted down and; as a result, in response to the $21 billion and growing deficit now facing California.

The fact remains that AIDS is a communicable disease. California’s slash and burn approach to eliminating funding for the care and treatment of those afflicted by this public health epidemic is totally wrong-headed. As a result of its actions, the state could actually end up killing many poor Californians living with HIV/AIDS,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “In addition, these draconian cuts—$170 million in total from the General Fund—will also trigger $322 million in additional lost matching federal and private AIDS dollars. The state is destroying a crucial public health safety net by decimating over $400 million in AIDS treatment, care and support services. And in the end, the state will still be responsible for the care of many of these patients who will end up seek far more costly care in overloaded emergency units throughout the state. These cuts would be catastrophic if they are implemented.”

Governor Schwarzenegger’s budget proposal wipes out $170 million that the Legislature appropriated for General Fund-supported AIDS programs, including $96 million for the jointly funded state/federal AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) which serves over 35,000 low income Californians. The state currently gets $88 million in matching ADAP federal funds; however, in order to receive these matching funds, California must meet a ‘maintenance of effort’ requirement, and by cutting all state ADAP funding, the state fails this requirement and will lose out on the $88 million in matching federal dollars.

The state’s elimination of all ADAP funding will also mean a loss in rebates from drug manufacturers who sell AIDS drugs to the state. These rebates add millions of dollars to a special ADAP fund. This rebate fund has had as much as $233 million in at one point, money which also goes toward AIDS services. If the state halts all drug purchases for ADAP, this additional funding stream for AIDS treatment, care and services also dries up. The state’s action will trigger a huge across the board loss of funding—a significant portion of which isn’t even state money—for the care of some of its most vulnerable citizens living with HIV/AIDS.

The Governor’s proposal also cuts the entire $8 million budget of the Therapeutic Monitoring Program (TMP). TMP provides diagnostic assay testing to help determine the efficacy of an individual's AIDS drug treatment protocol. The HIV Diagnostic Assay Program had been threatened in 2004 with an 87% cut, but Governor Schwarzenegger interceded at that time and restored most of the funding for this crucial AIDS testing program in his 2005 budget.

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