More than 100 people participated in a rally on October 19 in Austin to protest planned cuts in the Texas state budget that will force several HIV/AIDS prevention groups to curtail services and others to fold, the Austin American-Statesman reports. The budget cuts are part of lawmakers' efforts to redirect money to HIV prevention programs focusing on communities hardest hit by AIDS, including minority communities and several urban areas. Several Central Texas groups--including Community Action, ALLGO Informe-VIDA, and United Way of the Greater Fort Hood Area--will receive no state funding for HIV prevention programs next year under the new allocation system.
Activists at the rally, held before the start of the 15th annual AIDS Walk Austin, said the budget reshuffling will cripple HIV prevention efforts in many parts of the state. They instead urge state lawmakers to allocate more tax money for prevention efforts throughout Texas and to spend an additional $34 million to help low-income residents get HIV antiretroviral medications through the state's AIDS Drug Assistance Program.
State senator Genzalo Barrientos said he would bring the requests to the legislature. "This is unacceptable," he said of the budget cuts. "This is cruel. It is imperative that services be available."