What’s next for HIV/AIDS services?

With drastic budget cuts looming, federally-funded HIV/AIDS treatment, prevention and education programs could be lost completely

Phyllis Guest
Taking Notes

On Dec. 15, four HIV/AIDS policy, planning and treatment groups offered a webinar entitled “Is No Deal a Good Deal? Deficit Reduction, HIV Services and What Comes Next.”

Experts from the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, AIDS United, Harvard Law School Center for Health Law & Policy Innovation and the Treatment Access Expansion Project took turns speaking about different aspects of the challenges HIV/AIDS service providers face in light of political realities in DC. They divided their presentation into four parts and used 50 illustrative slides.

Part 1 was the overview: Deficit Reduction and the Budget Control Act of 2011.

So why does the U.S. have a deficit when, as George W. Bush took over the White House in January 2001, the federal government had a surplus of more than $237 billion? The answer is a trifecta: Bush-era tax cuts (“It’s your money!”), war in Afghanistan (“Gotta get al-Qaida!”) and war in Iraq (“Weapons of mass destruction!”). Thus, in a single decade, we went from the largest surplus in U.S. history to the largest deficit.

The fiscal woods thicken here, so let’s just note that Congress has passed and the president has signed the Budget Control Act of 2011. The act pledges the federal government to sharply reduce the deficit over the next 10 years.

What will such deficit reduction mean for HIV/AIDS programs? According to the webinar presenters, if there is no agreement on revenue increases and the deficit reduction comes solely through spending cuts, it will severely impact three programs of interest to many of us: Ryan White, prevention funding and two so-called entitlements, Medicaid and Medicare.

­THEN AND NOW  |  When George W. Bush took over the White House in January 2001, the federal government had a budget surplus of more than $237 billion. In 2011, the deficit stands at $1.3 trillion.

­THEN AND NOW | When George W. Bush took over the White House in January 2001, the federal government had a budget surplus of more than $237 billion. In 2011, the deficit stands at $1.3 trillion.

A spending-cuts-only approach would affect the HIV/AIDS community in several ways. First, cutting prevention efforts would mean higher rates of infection, worse health outcomes and higher long-term health care costs.

Since Medicare and Medicaid help millions living with HIV/AIDS, cutting the former would likely cause more physicians to drop Medicare patients, and cutting federal funds for the latter would shift the cost to treat very low-income persons to the states. (Good luck with that, Texans.)

Cuts to general health care reform efforts would virtually assure higher costs going forward.

Still with me? Good.

So when the Congress and President Obama could not come to any fiscal agreement, they punted to the Super Committee. The Super Committee was tasked with recommending huge changes to taxes, entitlement programs (including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid) and discretionary spending (including Ryan White).

The SC came up with nothing. Nada. Zilch.

That means there will be no immediate spending cuts to entitlement programs. But automatic spending cuts  — sequestration — will kick in January 2013 for both defense and non-defense programs.

According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, without new revenues, domestic spending will drop from about 4.4 percent of Gross Domestic Product this year to about 2.7 percent in 2021. It will then be much lower than it has been since the end of WWII.

Looking at appropriations for the year we’re entering now, suffice it to say that the differences between what the HIV/AIDS research and health care community is seeking and what the Congress is proposing are huge.

Also, the community “vehemently” opposes two policy riders added by Republican members of Congress. The first bans the use of federal funds for syringe exchange programs. The second funds abstinence-only programs.

The webinar ended with a plea for advocacy. Here are the talking points the experts hope we will use:

• The Super Committee actually succeeded in one area: It prevented major cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and other essential programs.

• The president and Congress must stick to their promise to cut defense and non-defense spending equally; no caving to deep-pocketed militarists.

• New revenue is essential; without it, HIV/AIDS outreach, prevention, education and treatment programs are lost.

• Preventing new HIV/AIDS cases, providing early treatment for those who do get infected, and funding support services such as housing are not just humane; they are cost-effective.

HIV/AIDS is still running rampant, and no magic cure is in sight. Call, fax, email and snail mail every member of Congress as well as the president.

Work with other activists. Think of other things to do, and do them all. Jan. 2 is not too soon to begin.

Phyllis Guest is a longtime activist on political and LGBT issues and is a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. Send comments to editor@dallasvoice.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 23, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

NMAC: Lobby Congress for AIDS funding

The National Minority AIDS Council has designated next Tuesday, April 5, as “National Call-in Day to Support Funding for Domestic HIV/AIDS Programs,” and is asking everyone to call congressional leaders that day and ask them not to cut funding for those programs in the fiscal year 2011 budget.

An NMAC press release distributed today notes that Congress is negotiating a final FY 2011 budget right now, and that budget could come up for a vote next week. The short-term FY 2011 funding for federal programs runs out next Friday, April 8, and during negotiations for a final budget, domestic programs that support health care and other services for people with HIV/AIDS are at risk of being cut.

For more information, go to the NMAC website here, or call 202-483-NMAC.

—  admin

Local Briefs

Toast to Life set for Feb. 26

Resource Center Dallas holds its 13th annual Pride Pharmacy Toast To Life gala fundraiser Saturday, Feb. 26, to benefit the center’s HIV/AIDS programs and services. Event tickets are $100 and VIP tickets including a private reception are $150.

The event, “Cirque De La Vie,” will be held at FIG-Fashion Industry Gallery, 1807 Ross Ave.

Pride Pharmacy Toast To Life features food from some of Dallas’ most prominent chefs and restaurants, along with wines and other beverages. There is also a silent auction and entertainment.

This year’s silent auction items include: a “chef’s dinner” for 10 at Truluck’s, including private dining and wine and valued at $5,000; a weeklong vacation in Provincetown, including a stay in a private rent house and air transportation on American Airlines; a “Gayribbean Cruise” for two; jewelry from Neiman Marcus; assorted travel packages and gift certificates, and one-of-a-kind art from well-known local artists.

Pride Pharmacy Toast To Life is presented by Pride Pharmacy and sponsored in part by Dr. Christopher A. Salerno and John F. Dixon, Eric V. Culbertson and David W. Carlson, AA.com/rainbow, FIG-Fashion Industry Gallery, Pinky’s Valet, Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS, EMD Serono, Go-Lite Digital Advertising, Bravo! Entertainment, Total 360 Interiors, Artifex Art and Framing, Christopher J. Vesy, M.D. & Allan E. Roller, Chuck MarLett and Jim Vasilas, Steve S. Rayl & Scot Presley, Steven M. Pounders, M.D., and Jimmy O’Reilly, the United Court of the Lone Star Empire, BOLD Entertainment — Brandon Olds, and Dr. David Lee and Casey Wilcox. Tickets and sponsor information is available online at ToastToLife.org.

DFW Pug Rescue holding Pet Walk

DFW Pug Rescue Club holds its first annual Pet Walk and Adoption Event from 9 a.mm. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 26, at Villages of Bear Creek, 1509 Bear Creek Parkway in Euless.

The event will feature a pet walk, an unleashed dog park, pugs looking for adoption and more. Pre-registration for the Pug Love Fun Run is $20; registration is $25 the day of the event.

Registration fees include a t-shirt, and all proceeds will go directly to the DFWPRC.

Chamber seeks auction donations

The North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce is looking for donations of items for its 6th anniversary gala dinner and silent auction.

Items donated for the auction must have a value of at least $250 and must be ready for pick up by March 15. Donated items must also be accompanied by all the necessary information.

Individual tickets prior through Feb. 28 are $55, and tables of 10 are $550. For more information, contact the chamber at 214-821-4528.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

Deaths • 08.20.10

Jerry Day, 56, died at his home in Dallas on July 30.

Day was born Oct. 15, 1953, and was a native of Indiana. He had lived in the Dallas area for the past 18 years.

He loved his job working in the ladies’ shoe department at Neiman-Marcus. He also loved to cook, and he loved animals, especially his cat Spaz and his dog Harley.

Memorial donations can be maid to Resource Center Dallas’ AIDS programs.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 20, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens