Back HIV Policy & Advocacy Gov. Schwarzenegger Slashes California Funding for HIV Prevention and Treatment Monitoring

Gov. Schwarzenegger Slashes California Funding for HIV Prevention and Treatment Monitoring

On July 28, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger used a line-item veto to slash the state's health and human services budget, including funds for HIV prevention, counseling and testing, therapeutic monitoring, and housing for people with HIV. Advocates warn that the cuts could be life-threatening and could lead to an increase in new HIV infections.

After wrangling for months over the state budget -- complete with a series of failed ballot initiatives to raise and re-allocate revenue -- legislators finally agreed to a compromise budget that included deep cuts, but preserved funding for HIV prevention and care, children's health, education, and other priorities.

But using a line-item veto, Schwarzenegger this week overruled the lawmakers, pushing forward his own agenda of austerity. Facing a $24 billion deficit at a time when state revenues are in steep decline due to the recession and real estate bust, the governor claims that the May election was a mandate for the state to live within its means without raising taxes.

Some legislators plan to challenge Schwarzenegger's cuts -- which total nearly $500 million -- as not being within the governor's scope of authority. "This is not the last word," said Senate President pro tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento).

Added to HIV funding cuts already approved by the legislature, Schwarzenegger's reductions bring the total loss for the State Office of AIDS to $85 billion -- more than half its former budget.

Along with HIV funding, Schwarzenegger also cut money for the Healthy Families health insurance program for low-income children, child welfare services, primary and higher education, help for victims of domestic violence, services (including home care) for elderly and disabled people, and funding for state parks.

While funding for antiretroviral therapy through the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) was preserved, the governor cut money for therapeutic monitoring for low- and moderate-income patients. While treatment without monitoring may offer acceptable outcomes in developing countries, regular viral load and CD4 cell testing are considered an essential aspect of medical management in industrialized countries, and are included in federal government HIV treatment guidelines.

Advocates for people with AIDS widely decried the cuts, claiming they put lives at risk and will lead to more new infections.

Mark Cloutier, executive director of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, called the cuts "reckless public policy," adding, "By wiping out all state funding for HIV prevention and testing, we risk a serious setback in the hard-won progress we've made against the AIDS epidemic in California."

"These cuts are both fiscally short-sighted and immoral, given the grave human cost," said Equality California executive director Geoff Kors. "More people will contract HIV and some will die from AIDS earlier or have a harder time managing their disease because we are not investing in early intervention, testing or counseling."

"The Governor's heartless act is not only deadly, but guaranteed to cost California taxpayers millions more in the future," stated AIDS Healthcare Foundation president Michael Weinstein. "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."

7/31/09

Sources

W Buchanan. California AIDS Cuts, Governor signs $84.5 billion spending plan. San Francisco Chronicle. July 29, 2009.

M Bajko. Advocates fear spike in HIV due to CA budget cuts. Bay Area Reporter. July 30, 2009.

San FRancicso AIDS Foundation. San Francisco AIDS Foundation Decries Governor's Added Cuts to Health Services. Media announcement. July 28, 2009.

Equality California. Equality California Calls Governor's Veto of Critical AIDS Funding Shortsighted, Immoral. Media announcement. July 28, 2009.

AIDS Healthcare Foundation. Deadly Cuts Will Cripple HIV Testing & Prevention Efforts, Endanger Public Health and Cost California Taxpayers Infinitely More in the Future. Media announcement. July 28, 2009.