Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Dear Friends,

I know that we all share a deep commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS and to ensuring quality care and services for those impacted by this pandemic, so I wanted to let you know personally about the devastating State funding cuts to HIV/AIDS programs and services.

Yesterday, Governor Schwarzenegger line-item vetoed close to $52 million in funding to the State Office of AIDS. These funds support HIV/AIDS education and prevention, therapeutic monitoring/viral load testing, HIV testing, early intervention services, home and community-based care and housing.

Although Californians living with HIV/AIDS will still have access to lifesaving medications under the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), these cuts will make it extraordinarily difficult to determine whether the medications are working (viral load testing), or even if someone is positive and might need to begin medications (HIV testing). The cuts also devastate one of the most promising intervention systems -- early intervention services for those newly diagnosed -- and eliminate all of the few remaining prevention opportunities.

While we all know the state budget is more than a mess, and we knew some HIV/AIDS funding cuts were likely, the depth and scope of the Governor’s cuts are unfathomable.

Throughout our state, we are still sorting out exactly what these numbers will mean following the Governor’s unexpected decimation of so many systems of care, including those for people living with HIV/AIDS and for children from low-income families. Options are unclear but are frantically being researched.

It’s taken more than 25 years to build up the programs and services for people living with HIV/AIDS in our state. No victory came easy, and many spent their last days and breaths advocating for compassion, for care and for adequate funding. With all of our efforts, it is still true that every 9 ½ minutes someone in the United States is infected with HIV and 1 out of 5 of those people who are infected DO NOT KNOW they are infected.

Governor Schwarzenegger’s blue-pen frenzy dismantles a system of care that had become a model, not only for other states, but internationally. A model that has helped keep people alive and provided a quality of life that people with HIV/AIDS didn’t have just a few years ago. We’re not just taking apart a safety net, we’re destroying the system of care itself, and ensuring that the most vulnerable won’t have access to the care and treatment they need.

While we are still figuring out the exact financial implications of these cuts to services in our region, it is clear that losing this funding will be devastating. Please know that we will keep you informed the moment we have more specific details.

Given our mutual and profound commitment to helping those impacted by HIV/AIDS, many of you are asking what you do to help. We will likely have many calls to action in the next few weeks as the reality of these cuts begins to directly affect San Diego area programs and services.

But today, I hope you will do one thing -- please sign up for AIDS Walk San Diego and send a note to your friends asking them to contribute to your efforts in the wake of this tremendous loss of resources. Right now, in the face of this blow, I believe it so important to show people living with HIV/AIDS that we care deeply and that will continue to fight for them. We will continue to stand up for them -- and we will walk, always by their sides, as we face the challenges of this ongoing pandemic together.

AIDS Walk San Diego is a program of The Center.

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