Statement by Rebecca Haag, AIDS Action President & CEO on $2 million cut to HIV/AIDS line item in the Massachusetts House budget:
“The House budget released today is a short-sighted approach to the state’s investment in public health. Prevention and wellness programs are critical to long-term savings in health care. The state’s investment in HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention has paid off with a 59 percent reduction in new HIV diagnoses over the last 10 years, which will result in savings of more than $1.5 billion in health care costs.
“The fact is that care is prevention. Massachusetts has been successful in reducing new infections because we’ve invested heavily in connecting people with care. The combination of Medicaid and community-based services for people with HIV results in better health outcomes and lower viral loads. Low viral loads in people with HIV, in turn, make it less likely that HIV will be transmitted from one person to another. The state has also invested in robust, evidence-based behavioral interventions to help those vulnerable to infection keep themselves and their families safer. Together, these investments will help us end the epidemic.
“It would be sheer folly to step away from what is still a public health crisis in the black, Hispanic, and gay/bi communities. Blacks make up only 6% of the state’s population, but they comprise 28% of those living with HIV/AIDS in Massachusetts; Hispanics make up only 6% of the state’s population, but they comprise 25% of those living with HIV/AIDS in Massachusetts; and male-to-male sex and injection drug use are the leading reported exposure modes for HIV infection for those living with HIV/AIDS, accounting for 35% and 24% of all exposures, respectively. We need funding restored to end these disparities.
“Over the last decade, state funding for HIV treatment and prevention has declined about 25 percent. During the same period, the number of people living with HIV and AIDS has increased by 42 percent. Today, there are approximately 18,000 people living with HIV in Massachusetts. They are some of the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable citizens. With the cuts proposed this week, they are being asked to bear more than their fair share for solving the state’s fiscal crisis.
“Last July, President Obama released a National Strategy on HIV/AIDS which outlines ambitious, but achievable, goals toward ending the epidemic. Massachusetts has long been a national leader in implementing effective public health programs that succeed in reducing HIV transmission and increase the health of those already infected. So it is particularly disappointing that the Commonwealth is stepping back from its commitment—a commitment that has no doubt saved countless lives, and eased the burden that can come with a diagnosis of HIV for thousands more. We ask lawmakers to restore the $2 million in cuts to HIV treatment and prevention.”
About AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts
Founded in 1983, AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts , Inc. (AAC), is New England’s first and largest AIDS service organization. AAC’s mission is to stop the epidemic and related health inequities by eliminating new infections, maximizing healthier outcomes of those infected and at risk, and attacking the root causes of HIV/AIDS. AAC accomplishes this mission by providing services for men, women, and children living with AIDS and HIV; educating the public and health professionals about how to prevent HIV transmission in accordance with harm reduction principles; and advocating for fair and effective AIDS policy at the city, state, and federal levels. AAC also provides targeted outreach to those most vulnerable to HIV infection. In 2010, AAC merged with Cambridge Cares About AIDS to more efficiently deliver AIDS services in the Greater Boston area and expand its capacity for social justice work aimed at reducing the disparities among those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. AAC runs the only statewide AIDS/STD Hotline (1-800-235-2331) and Hepatitis Hotline (1-888-443-4372). All Hotlines offer multilingual support. Free and confidential rapid HIV testing and counseling, and clean needle exchange is also available. Learn more at http://www.aac.org/ .