PHILADELPHIA (NNPA) - Hundreds of people living with HIV/AIDS and their supporters are protesting $2 million in cuts to the Pennsylvania state budget for HIV prevention. They are protesting Gov. Ed Rendell's office, demanding that the money be restored.
More than halfway through this fiscal year, state money for HIV prevention was slashed by $1.7 million, more than one-third of the year's prevention budget.
The cuts left HIV prevention providers scrambling to find money to continue providing HIV testing, education and outreach.
The recent decision to cut funds for next fiscal year by $2 million will affect small agencies that do community-based outreach.
"Eliminating funding for HIV prevention services at a time when the CDC has verified 56,000 new infections last year in the U.S. is not only insensitive and ludicrous, but it goes against promoting good public health in Pennsylvania. In fact, these cuts will deny the general public the right to honest, accurate HIV prevention messages," said Waheedah Shabazz-El, an HIV positive member of ACT UP Philadelphia.
"We cannot just sit by and allow this to happen."
According to ACT UP, a 2006 study estimated that for each HIV infection prevented, $355,000 is saved in money spent providing medical care. The organization is concerned that the $2 million cut to Philadelphia's prevention funding would lead to 7,971 persons not receiving HIV testing, 3,984 people not receiving HIV prevention health education and risk reduction services and the loss of 24 full-time jobs.