California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on Monday proposed $2 billion in midyear spending cuts, including a proposal to limit enrollment in the state's AIDS Drug Assistance Program that provides anti-HIV medications to low-income, HIV-positive state residents, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. According to the proposal, new ADAP clients would be placed on a waiting list beginning January 1. Capping enrollment would result in at least 720 HIV-positive Californians being denied antiretroviral drugs from January 1 to June 30, with hundreds more being denied access in the following months, according to the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
Schwarzenegger's announcement to cap ADAP enrollment came just days after SFAF asked him to boost ADAP spending by $45 million to cover a growing caseload and inadequate federal support for the program. Sixteen state ADAP programs already have waiting lists or other access restrictions, according to the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors. California ADAP would be the largest program to enact restrictions if Schwarzenegger's proposal is approved by state lawmakers.
SFAF called the proposed spending cuts "inhumane and counterproductive to sound public health." "The ability of low-income people living with HIV and AIDS to access this program is a matter of life and death," said SFAF state and local affairs director Dana Van Gorder in a press statement. "If Gov. Schwarzenegger's proposal is enacted, many individuals will become sick and some people will die because they are denied access to life-saving medications." Other AIDS organizations, including Project Inform and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, also were sharply critical of the proposed ADAP enrollment cap.
Health and welfare programs took the brunt of Schwarzenegger's proposed $2 billion in spending cuts, including decreasing payments to doctors who care for the poor, slashing funding for recreational programs for disabled children, and entirely eliminating certain types of home care for the elderly. Lawmakers reportedly responded coolly to the governor's proposed cuts. "I don't see a lot of this happening," state Senate president pro tem John Burton, a Democrat, told the Chronicle.