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Advocates Fear Rise in Rates as HIV/AIDS Funding is Slashed from California Budget

After a long and often contentious debate, Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed into law a California budget containing deeper cuts—nearly $500 million—to public programs than originally expected, including $52 million in cuts to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs.[1] The cuts went beyond the $30 million dollars of HIV/AIDS funding cuts originally negotiated by the Democratic-controlled legislature.[2]
The governor slashed state general funds for HIV prevention and treatment across the board, completely defunding most programs. Only two programs—the state’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program and their HIV/AIDS surveillance system, which itself took a $1 million dollar hit—will receive funding in the next fiscal year.[3] State funds for HIV housing, case management, and early intervention programs were completely zeroed out of the budget, while support for all HIV prevention programs, including those that target high-risk populations and HIV testing and counseling, was also eliminated.[4]
Despite the fact that federal funds help support some of these services, advocates called the cuts crippling.[5] In one example, groups working on HIV prevention and education will have just $6 million in federal funds to rely on, after more than $24 million state dollars were slashed from the state budget. Other initiatives, like the therapeutic monitoring program that enabled under-insured residents to get necessary lab tests to keep an eye on their illness progression, never received federal money and are now completely without funds.[6]
Advocates also said inflicting the cuts during an economic downturn, when public programs are most needed, was especially severe.. “In a time of great economic hardship, California is balancing its budget by eliminating services to its most vulnerable citizens,” Mark Cloutier, CEO of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, said.[7] “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,” he continued.[8]
Governor Schwarzenegger called the cuts necessary to balance the budget and create a $500 million dollar reserve to avoid similar situations, but also acknowledged the budget was “probably the toughest since I have been in office here.”[9]
“This budget is kind of like the good, the bad and the ugly… [It’s] ugly, when already we have cut so much, and then we had to make additional cuts,” said Governor Schwarzenegger.[10]
But advocates warn that the cuts will endanger lives, even if the governor deems them necessary. “If the ultimate goal is to save money, this budget fails even on that account,” Craig E. Thompson, AIDS Project Los Angeles Executive Director, said. “The state will pay dearly in healthcare costs as newly and needlessly infected Californians enter a system that is incapable of providing even basic care.”[11]
California, which has the second highest HIV rate after  New York, faces a $24 billion dollar budget shortfall over the next two years.[12]

[1] Wyatt Buchanan, “Governor signs $84.5 billion spending plan,” San Francisco Chronicle, 28 July 2009, accessed 9 September 2009, <>.

[2] San Francisco AIDS Foundation, “San Francisco AIDS Foundation Decries Governor’s Added Cuts to Health Services ,” Press Release, 28 July 2009, accessed 9 September 2009, <>; Jennifer Steinhauer, “California Budget Trimmed Further,” New York Times, 29 July 2009, accessed 9 September 2009, <>

3] Buchanan, “Governor signs $84.5 billion spending plan.”

[4] California Office of AIDS, “FY2009-10 Budget Implementation Plan,” 18 August 2009, accessed 9 September 2009, <>.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] San Francisco AIDS Foundation, “San Francisco AIDS Foundation Decries Governor’s Added Cuts.”

[8] Ibid.

[9] Michael Rothfeld and Shane Goldmacher, “Schwarzenegger cuts $500 million more as he signs budget,” Los Angeles Times, 29 July 2009, accessed 9 September 2009, <,0,7361988.story>.

[10] Ibid.

[11] AIDS Project Los Angeles, “APLA Condemns Destructive $85 million cut in State HIV/AIDS Programs,” Press Release 28 July 2009, accessed 9 September 2009, <>.

[12] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “California—2008 Profile,” accessed 7 September 2009, accessed 9 September 2009, <>; Steinhauer, “California Budget Trimmed Further.”