California AIDS Advocates Demand that Governor Schwarzenegger Not Cut Funds for State AIDS Drug Assistance Program

In the lead-up to World AIDS Day, activists held a press conference at San Francisco City Hall demanding that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger ensure full funding for California's AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP). ADAPs receive both federal and state contributions. Historically, California has been among the most generous states, but the ongoing financial crisis could result in a "a life and death crisis" for thousands of people who rely on the program, according to Dana Van Gorder of Project Inform.

Below is a statement from Project Inform summarizing the press conference and the issues behind it.

AIDS advocates call on Governor to fully fund California's AIDS Drug Assistance Program

San Francisco, CA -- November 30, 2009 -- HIV/AIDS advocates held a press conference and visibility event today to demand that Governor Schwarzenegger fully fund California's lifesaving AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP). This program, funded by the federal and state government, provides essential anti-HIV medications to low-income people who are uninsured or underinsured. Currently, more than 34,000 depend on the state's ADAP to stay healthy and productive.

"If Governor Schwarzenegger fails to provide full funding for California's AIDS Drug Assistance Program, thousands of low-income people with HIV will lose access to lifesaving medications," said Dana Van Gorder, Executive Director. "These changes most certainly will cost HIV-positive people their health, and even their lives."

Advocates estimate that the state's ADAP faces a shortfall of approximately $100 million for fiscal year 2010 -2011. Failure to close the shortfall follows the Governor's elimination of $85 million in state funding for other vital HIV/AIDS services earlier this year. It also comes at a time when President Obama has committed to renewing the nation's fight against the domestic HIV epidemic through the creation of a National AIDS Strategy.

"Governor Schwarzenegger must ensure that ADAP continues to serve the low-income uninsured and underinsured Californians who depend on it. The massive $85 million cut in HIV services, including testing, counseling, prevention, early intervention and home and community-based care has crippled the fight against HIV in California and runs counter to President Obama's desire to increase the number of people who know their HIV status and enter care," said Anne Donnelly, Director of Health Care Policy. "Furthermore, while Congress finalizes legislation to expand health care and treatment to uninsured Americans, the Governor plans to take lifesaving medication out of the hands of the most vulnerable in California. This inhumane and shortsighted proposal must be stopped immediately."

Speakers at the press conference included several HIV positive individuals who depend on ADAP and spoke about the importance of the program:

'Five years ago, I was told that I had full blown AIDS," said Jason Villalobos, ADAP recipient. "Without this program, I would never have lived to see my 30th birthday. ADAP was the foot in the door between life and death."

Project Inform calls on the State Legislature's LGBT Caucus to work with all decision makers, including the Governor, the State Legislature, and members of the California congressional delegation to devise a plan to avoid this pending crisis.

12/4/09

Sources

Project Inform. AIDS advocates call on Governor to fully fund California's AIDS Drug Assistance Program. November 30, 2009.

S Hemmelgarn. AIDS advocates worry
drug program will be cut. Bay Area Reporter. December 3, 2009.