Schwarzenegger slashes AIDS funding in California budget crisis

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Gov. Arnold SchwarzeneggerAs many had feared, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger made dramatic cuts to AIDS-related services in an effort to make up for a $489 million shortfall in the final California budget.

Calling the revised budget “kind of like the good, the bad, and the ugly,” Schwarzenegger used line-item veto power to make steep cuts in child welfare, child healthcare, and programs for the elderly, in addition to HIV/AIDS services. Though the governor’s office cited an overall $52 million in cuts to HIV programs, the California Department of Public Health’s Office of AIDS estimated the total figure will likely climb as high as $80 to $85 million.

“There are no general funds remaining for care and support [this year],” Michelle Roland, chief of the Office of AIDS, said in a Tuesday conference call with care providers. Some care programs will receive only one-fifth the funding compared to the last year, she said.

Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation responded to the cuts.

“With a single stroke of his blue pencil, Governor Schwarzenegger has terminated the state’s AIDS programs and, along with it, the lives of some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens. The Governor’s heartless act is not only deadly, but guaranteed to cost California taxpayers millions more in the future. With HIV testing programs sidelined and the state’s ability to prevent new infections stymied, new infections in California will increase—each new infection can mean up to $600,000 dollars in lifetime health care costs. A 100% cut to the Therapeutic Monitoring Program is the definition of penny-wise and pound-foolish—with the ability to monitor the effectiveness of lifesaving AIDS drugs hampered, the state’s already cash-strapped AIDS Drug Assistance Program will only end up spending more for drugs.”

It’s a sad day in California. Thanks to cuts like these and other draconian measures taken in this economic free fall, California seems well on its way to becoming a third world country.

Post by ILO on 07/29/09 at 11:33 am