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

Local Briefs

KNON bringing Hightower to Dallas

KNON 89.3 FM, Dallas’ Community radio station presents national radio commentator, writer, public speaker and author Jim Hightower in a speaking engagement and dinner on Saturday, March 26, at Historic Sons of Hermann Hall, 3414 Elm St. Dinner will be catered by Cajun Alligator Café.

Dinner begins at 6 p.m. Hightower’s speech, followed by a question-and-answer session, begins at 8 p.m. For dinner and the speech, admission is $25. Admission for the speech and Q&A session only is $10. Tickets are available at Forever Young Records in Grand Prairie, Bill’s Records in Dallas and on KNON’s website, KNON.org, via PayPal.

For more information call 214-828-9500, ext. 222 or go online to KNON.org.

Ramirez named to national board

Ruben Ramirez, community health programs manager for Resource Center Dallas, has been named to the national board of cultural experts for the Mpowerment Project.

It is a program developed by the University of California-San Francisco’s Center for AIDS Prevention Studies.

Ramirez is attending his first meeting of the board this week in California.

In his job at the center, Ramirez works with program staff to create, develop and enhance innovative primary and secondary HIV prevention programs, syphilis elimination initiatives, and other efforts relating to sexually transmitted diseases. The programs target gay/bisexual men, other men who have sex with men, African-American, Latino and other at-risk populations.

The Mpowerment Project is an evidence-based, community-level HIV prevention intervention for young gay/bisexual men ages 18 to 29. CAPS developed Mpowerment, and it collaborates with organizations around the country to understand how it is being implemented in diverse communities.

Ramirez has been involved in HIV/AIDS prevention efforts since the 1990s, first in the Austin area and later with the Center. He earned an associate’s degree from the Community College of the Air Force, and both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Texas-Austin.

GAIN presents real estate program

Resource Center Dallas’ GAIN program will hold a program titled “Keeping it ‘Real’ in Today’s ‘Senior’ Real Estate Market — finding out the truth about your real estate options” on Thursday, March 24, at 6:30 p.m. at the resource center, 2701 Reagan.

Realtor Ed Abenante with Keller Williams Realty, Ron Watterson with Prime Lending and Alan Hopper with RE/MAX Associates will attend to discuss issues including how and when to sell, downsizing and reverse mortgages.

The event is free and open to the public.

Women’s History Month program set

Resource Center Dallas’ Phil Johnson Historic Archives & Research Library and JEWEL women’s group will honor Women’s History Month by hosting a talk  titled “Honoring and Preserving Women’s History: The Centrality of Labor and Feminist Activism,” presented by Clark A. Pomerleau, history professor at the University of North Texas. The lecture will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 26 at the center, 2701 Reagan Street in Dallas.

Pomerleau is an assistant professor for U.S. women’s and gender history at University of North Texas. He specializes in sexuality studies, 20th century social movements and alternative education.

The event is free and open to the public.

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

—  John Wright

Local Briefs

Valentine’s dance set for GSAs

LULAC Rainbow Council is partnering with Youth First Texas to host “Love Conquers All Ball,” a special Valentine’s weekend dance for gay straight alliances in Dallas and Collin counties.

The “Love Conquers All Ball,” will be held Saturday, Feb. 12, from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. GSA students, Youth First Texas members and LGBTQ teens ages 14 to 18, are invited. Chaperones will check I.D. at the door. A $2 donation will be requested and donations will go toward The Trevor Project, the leading national organization focused on crisis and suicide prevention efforts among LGBTQ youth. For information, call 214-879-0400.

TREE staging LGBT awareness week

Trinity River Equality in Education presents “a week celebrating the LGBTQA community at TCC [Tarrant Community College] Trinity River Campus” Feb. 14-17.

On Monday, Feb. 14, there will be a tree dedication ceremony at Trinity River Plaza, on the patio across from the bookstore, at 12:30 p.m., an on Wednesday, Feb. 16, English faculty and Justin Brumit present a discussion of William B. Turner’s A Genealogy of Queer Theory ay noon in TREF 1402.

On Thursday, Feb. 17, there will be a TREE panel discussion, “A Conversation About LGBTQA Youth in our Community,” from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the Action Suite, fourth floor TR. Also on Thursday, there will be a reception featuring the LGBTQA artists participating in the Synergy Art Show, at 5:30 p.m. in the TR Art Gallery, TREF 1311.

Ongoing exhibits include a LGBTQA books and film display in the library, TREF, 2302; and the Gay Straight Alliance’s poster display at the TR Campus.

For more information contact the Student Life Center at 817-515-1197.

TWCOD holding open rehearsals

The Women’s Chorus of Dallas will hold open rehearsals for women interested in joining the chorus on Monday, Feb. 14, and Monday, Feb. 21, at 7 p.m. both nights. Interested singers are invited to sit in on a rehearsal, meet with members of the chorus and learn more about becoming a member.

Prior experience or the ability to read music is not a requirement for membership. Regular season rehearsals are held every Monday from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Sammons Center for the Arts, 3630 Harry Hines Blvd. Members are expected to attend every rehearsal. The chorus performs a season of three concerts annually, and this season will perform at the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre at the AT&T Performing Arts Center as well as a special concert at the Texas Discovery Gardens.

To sign up for one of the open rehearsals, call 214-520-7828 or e-mail at twcdoffice@twcd.org.

GAIN holding Valentine’s social

GAIN, a program of Resource Center Dallas that provides learning, social and entertainment opportunities for LGBT seniors, will hold its second annual Valentine’s Social Thursday, Feb. 17, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Good Eats Restaurant, 3888 Oak Lawn Ave. The event will include heavy hors d’ouevres and a cash bar.

For more information, call 214-528-0144 or e-mail gain@rcdallas.org.

TDWCC holds February meeting

The next general meeting of Texas Democratic Women of Collin County will be Monday, Feb. 28, at 6:45 p.m. at the Preston Ridge Campus of Collin College, 9700 Wade Blvd. in Frisco, in Founders Hall, Shawnee Room F148.

The agenda includes planning for the upcoming Legislative Lobby Days, with members presenting information about the state legislative agenda and issues that are important to TDWCC.

The goal is for members to commit to attend one Lobby Day this legislative session.

Political appearances

Rep. Jessica Ferrar of Houston will appear at a fundraiser for Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats at the home of Mark Sadlek and Steve Habgood in Kessler Park on Saturday, Feb. 12.

Farrar is the newly elected House Democratic Leader and wrote House Bill 604, which would repeal Texas’ sodomy law eight years after the U.S. Supreme Court declared it illegal.

Information on her appearance is available at their website DallasSYD.org.

Dallas mayoral candidate David Kunkle is the guest speaker at Stonewall Democrats of Dallas monthly meeting on Feb. 15 at 6:30 p.m. at Ojeda’s Restaurant, 4617 Maple Avenue. Kunkle is the former Dallas Police Chief.

Dallas City Councilwoman Angela Hunt will speak at the LULAC 4871 Dallas Rainbow Council meeting at Havana’s, 4006 Cedar Springs Road. Hunt decided this week to run for reelection to her current council seat rather than seek the office of mayor.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 11, 2011.

—  John Wright