AS CDC Prepares to Release Alarming New HIV Rates; Governor Should Cut Bureaucracy, Corporate Loopholes
LOS ANGELES, Jan. 10 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) today urged California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to reconsider and reverse $11 million of proposed budget cuts in AIDS services that will reduce and threaten vital lifesaving care and services for Californians living with HIV/AIDS as he seeks to close a $14 billion deficit in the state budget. Late last year, the Governor asked state department and program heads to submit proposed 2008 budgets which included across the board cuts of ten percent. AHF is urging the governor to instead seek budget cost savings by cutting bureaucracy and eliminating corporate loopholes rather than by cutting critical public health services, particularly those for Californians living with HIV/AIDS.
"Cutting crucial California AIDS services at the same time the Centers for Disease Control is preparing to release new nationwide data showing a stark increase in HIV cases in the US -- figures many expect to be up to 50% or more higher than the previous CDC estimate of 40,000 new HIV cases per year -- is a very poor budget and public health strategy," said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "California will ultimately pay more in health care costs in the long run if it adopts such ill-timed AIDS cuts, and we urge the Governor and Legislature to quickly restore this public health funding. The Governor should instead seek cost savings by reducing bureaucracy and eliminating the abundance of corporate and tax-avoidance loopholes in the state rather than try to balance the budget on the backs of California's most vulnerable citizens."
The Governor's 2008-09 budget for California's Department of Public Health (CDPH) is $3.1 billion, of which $368.9 million is from General Fund. Of all the offices and departments under the DPH, the State Office of AIDS receives the largest share of funding from the General Fund. The General Fund reduction proposed in the CDPH budget is $26 million (a bit less than 10%). This overall budget represents a $246.2 million decrease from the revised 2007-08 budget, including the $26 million General Fund reduction, of which $11 million is to come from AIDS services. Of this $11 million cut, $7 million is to come from the state's AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), which helps low-income Californians obtain lifesaving AIDS medicines. Officials at the State Office of AIDS said they plan to reduce the availability of drugs for co-morbidities and opportunistic infections through ADAP, yet retain a full formulary of antiretroviral treatments (ART).
"Instead of cutting drugs from the ADAP formulary, the Governor and state lawmakers should reduce reimbursements to drug companies and seriously pursue trying to purchase drugs for ADAP and other state programs at federal pricing levels such as those that the Department of Veterans Affairs has successfully negotiated with the industry. Those price savings alone could result in a 15% savings to the state," added AHF's Weinstein.
Another questionable cut in the AIDS budget comes in the state's Therapeutic Monitoring Program (TMP), which covers viral load, genotype and phenotype testing, tests which monitor to ensure that patients' AIDS medicines -- many of which California has paid for through programs like ADAP -- are actually working properly for the patient. In early 2007, AIDS advocates statewide lobbied to restore a previous $4 million budget cut to the program (redirected to supplement other gaps elsewhere in that state budget) and successfully restored the $4 million to the overall $8 million program.
"In the current proposed 2008 budget, state Department of AIDS officials announced a $300,000 cut to a baseline $4 million TMP budget -- conveniently negl