Schwarzenegger cuts funding for HIV/AIDS programs

By Andrew Ojeda

January 5, 2010

In 2007, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that California had the highest number of AIDS infections in the United States.

Notwithstanding, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently issued a line-item veto to cut $52 million dollars in HIV/AIDS funding from the state budget. The California Department of Public Health's Office of AIDS estimated that cuts will reach $80 to $85 million. Schwarzenegger called this decision, "the good, the bad and the ugly." Schwarzenegger believed this cut would help to alleviate the $489 million deficit in the final state budget. But what cost is Schwarzenegger willing to pay in order to balance the budget?

Schwarzenegger's decision was ugly and far from good. It caused all HIV/AIDS prevention programs in California to either close or suffer destructive cuts. The AIDS Foundation's budget for prevention and testing funds was decreased from $2.9 million to approximately $513,000. The Santa Cruz AIDS Project Drop-In-Center lost the $300,000 it needed to fund its program, which forced the center to close down. The Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center shut down their AIDS Clearinghouse due to a lack of funds. Closer to home, the Inland AIDS Project in Riverside-one of three offices in the Inland Empire-will no longer offer Ryan White Care services to patients (the Ryan White CARE ACT provides services to low-income, uninsured or underinsured persons who contract HIV/AIDS). Michelle Roland, Chief of the Office of AIDS, reported that HIV/AIDS programs will only receive one-fifth of the funding they got last year. These are just a few examples of the destruction caused by Schwarzenegger's cuts.

Phil Curtis, the director of government affairs for AIDS Project Los Angeles, stated that: "This is a public health disaster for the state of California." Indeed, funding cuts will result in disastrous effects, such as death.

What will happen when AIDS patients cannot receive the antiretroviral medication they need to live? When the HIV positive, traumatized teenager can no longer receive psychological counseling, how will he or she gain support to combat this deadly virus? When HIV/AIDS programs close down, how will those infected even know about this deadly virus? Cutting funds will only make the disease invisible, which will increase the incidences of HIV/AIDS infections. Cuts will eliminate the testing, counseling and drugs that patients receive to treat HIV/AIDS. In turn, patients will lose the help that is keeping them alive. Sadly, with the governor's funding acts, many of these predications have already become a reality.

By cutting funding, you cut life.Schwarzenegger is willing to risk the lives of countless Californians in order to balance the budget.

So what can UCR students do? Write or call to complain about these cuts. Only with a collective voice can we make change. Write or tell your personal story: How have you been affected by HIV/AIDS? Do you have family or friends that have contracted or died from this deadly virus? Remember to use the personal as a springboard for critical change.