NYS Budget Cuts Brokered on the Backs of Community Providers
HIV/AIDS Services Cut as Epidemic Rages
UPSTATE, NY (09/17/2008)(readMedia)-- While Governor David Paterson and the New York State legislature are patting themselves on the back for the recent additional $411 million in budget cuts, they have implemented the most devastating cuts in funding for HIV/AIDS services in the 26 years of the epidemic according to Michele McClave, Executive Director of the AIDS Council of Northeastern New York. McClave acknowledges the State's financial turmoil and argues that the burden of the budget cuts was unevenly distributed to local community service providers and small non-profits. In fact, some of the largest budget items did not see any cuts.
After stagnant funding for HIV/AIDS services for the past 12 years, the legislature cut more than $2 million in HIV/AIDS funding in the initial budget approved earlier this year. With the recent budget cuts, an additional 6% was stripped, further crippling community providers already operating on depleted budgets and struggling with increasing caseloads and increases costs.
Furthermore, the budget cuts come at a time when the Centers for Disease Control has increased its projection of new HIV infections by 40 percent (from 40,000 to 56,000 cases annually) and New York State continues to lead the country in cases of HIV/AIDS. Even with New York City taken out of the equation, Upstate New York still ranks in the top 10 areas with the highest number of AIDS cases in the US. In fact, the Capital Region experienced a 10% increase in HIV positive diagnoses in the past year.
According to McClave, what might seem like a small budget cut on paper can be devastating to organizations on the front-line of the fight against HIV/AIDS. McClave questions the haphazard manner in which the budget cuts were conducted: "Cuts were made to programs least able to afford them in a slash and burn style. Despite the State having data available, there was no analysis or prioritization of programs that are the most effective." One such program that will be impacted is the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, which allows working people to access essential medications. McClave argues that cuts in HIV/AIDS funding will ultimately cost the State more money and result in more HIV infections, fewer people getting treatment, longer hospitalizations and infected persons turning to hospital emergency rooms for care.
Cutting such critical services at a time when more resources must be dedicated to combat HIV/AIDS is not only counterintuitive, but also detrimental to thousands of New York State residents. "We can agree that in tough economic times, it is important to work towards a balanced budget," said McClave. "However, that budget should not be disproportionally brokered on the backs of local providers that work tirelessly every day to support our community's most disenfranchised members."
The AIDS Council of Northeastern New York is the largest organization dedicated solely to providing HIV/AIDS support services, prevention, HIV testing and outreach in their 15 county region with 6 offices in Albany, Glens Falls, Hudson, Plattsburgh, Schenectady and Troy. The AIDS Council touches the lives of over 900 HIV positive people, tests more than 2,000 people for HIV and STDs each year and reaches thousands with effective HIV prevention interventions. Visit www.aidscouncil.org for complete information on AIDS Council programs and services.
Michele McClave, Executive Director of the AIDS Council of Northeastern New York, is available for interview, question or comment.