California groups plan to fight AIDS budget cuts
State lawmakers and AIDS advocates in California are planning to fight governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's planned cuts in AIDS spending in his fiscal 2004-2005 budget proposal, reports the Bay Area Reporter. More than 300 activists protested on January 19 outside the State Building in San Francisco, and additional protests are planned in other cities.
Schwarzenegger proposed a 2% cut in AIDS funding as part of his efforts to trim $15 billion in deficits from the budget, which would reduce AIDS spending in the state by $6.6 million. He also proposed a 10% cut in Medi-Cal reimbursement rates, no increase in funding for the state's AIDS Drug Assistance Program, and an ADAP enrollment cap that could ultimately put up to 1,000 people on a waiting list for the program.
Assemblyman John Laird is leading the fight to restore ADAP spending in the budget and says he is optimistic more money will be added to the program by the legislature when it begins the budget review process. Last year AIDS activists and lawmakers worked together to kill a planned copayment plan for anti-HIV drugs provided through the drug assistance program, he notes. AIDS Project Los Angeles executive director Craig Thompson is also spearheading the fight to boost ADAP spending. "The state's fiscal crisis requires sacrifices all around, but limiting access to ADAP could cost people with HIV/AIDS their health and ultimately their lives," Thompson said in a statement.