From health care funding to anti-discrimination laws, public policy plays a key role in the fight against HIV/AIDS. That’s why AIDS Action maintains a strong advocacy presence at the local, state, and federal levels. Our public policy work is especially important on Beacon Hill, where decisions are routinely made that impact the lives of people at risk for and already living with HIV/AIDS here in Massachusetts.
We wanted to give you a brief update on some important legislative efforts currently underway:
The 2012 State Budget
The state legislature is in the final days of coming up with a budget proposal to send to Governor Patrick for fiscal year 2012, which begins on July 1st. Over the last few months, the House and Senate passed their own versions of the budget, and now a small committee of state representatives and senators is hammering out a compromise. Millions of dollars in funding for HIV prevention and care hangs in the balance, as the House voted to increase HIV funding by $500,000, while the Senate voted to cut it by $2 million.
Deborah Silva, our Director of Public Policy, has been meeting with lawmakers and their staffs to educate them on the need for increased funding, and we are hopeful that the final proposal from the legislature will provide at least the same amount of funding from 2011. By our own estimate, the state’s modest investments in HIV programs over the last decade helped save over $1.6 billion in health care costs by reducing new infections by 59%.
We may need your help in convincing the governor to keep any increases in HIV funding that come out of the legislature. You can sign up for our Cyber Action alerts to stay up to date on the 2012 budget and more.
Transgender Lobby Day and Equal Rights Bill
In Massachusetts, a person can still be fired from a job or denied housing simply because they are transgender. And in a recent national survey, 58 percent of Massachusetts respondents reported experiencing verbal harassment or mistreatment in public spaces like hotels, restaurants, buses, airports and government agencies because they are transgender.
AIDS Action is involved in passing the Transgender Equal Rights Bill because we know that prejudice and discrimination directly impact a person’s health. Transgender people suffer high rates of unemployment, poverty, homelessness, and violence, all of which put them at increased risk for STDs and HIV. We operate the program TransCEND , by and for transgender women, precisely because of the incredible need for peer support and HIV prevention and care within this community. By prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression, we will make it easier for transgender people to live safe and healthy lives.
You can join in this effort by attending Transgender Equal Rights Lobby Day on Thursday, June 23 from 1pm-3pm at the State House. For more information, visit http://www.masstpc.org/ . Can’t attend, but want to help? Check out these resources for taking action from the MTPC.
Massachusetts is once again considering legislation to provide for safe access to medical marijuana. Lena Asmar, AIDS Action’s Director of Clinical and Support Services, will be testifying at a hearing on this bill (Senate Bill 1161 / House Bill 615) on Tuesday, June 28th at the State House. Medical marijuana has been proven effective for people living with HIV/AIDS specifically to increase appetite and manage nausea, which helps prevent wasting syndrome, and to manage pain resulting from neuropathy (nerve damage commonly experienced by people with HIV).
This particular bill would:
Establish effective legal protection for seriously ill patients who use marijuana under the recommendation of their doctor.
Limit the conditions for which medical marijuana can be recommended.
Create a highly regulated dispensary system.
Not change existing statutes regarding recreational use of marijuana.