Gov. Schwarzenegger and the California Legislature are coming to grips with a $21 billion-with-a-B budget deficit. Since Californians soundly rejected initiatives in a special election last week that would have raised taxes and redirected funds, draconian measures are being proposed for closing the budget deficit.

One of these is defunding the California Office Of AIDS. From the Los Angeles Times:

[T]he Los Angeles County Commission on HIV issued an alert objecting to possible elimination of a $96-million AIDS program that provides help to 35,000 patients.

Los Angeles County Commission On HIV Brief - Effect Of State Budget Cuts On California Office Of AIDSIt’s going to be brutal, if this budget cut goes through.

On May 21, 2009, Governor Schwarzenegger’s administration released tentative plans for $5.5 billion in new cuts to health and human service programs. These plans include severe cuts to HIV services.

Although the formal proposal is not expected to be released until May 26th, preliminary reports indicate that the Governor plans to eliminate all state general fund support to the Office of AIDS. Removing general fund support to the State Office of AIDS would eliminate over $160 million in support for services such as:

• AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP),

• HIV counseling and testing,

• HIV education and prevention,

• Early Intervention Programs (EIPs),

• Therapeutic Monitoring Program (TMP)

• HIV surveillance,

• Home and community based care programs,

• Housing programs, and

• CARE/Health Insurance Premium Payments (CARE/HIPP)

These cuts further jeopardize direct services for Californians living with HIV because they remove the Office of AIDS’ ability to meet the federal government’s fiscal requirements. These requirements [variously called "Maintenance of Effort (MOE)" and/or "matching"] mandate that the State contribute a portion of its funds to be eligible for federal funding.

The Governor’s plan would result in the State losing a portion, if not all, of its federal Ryan White HIV Program and CDC grants. The cuts would also impact local jurisdictions: without surveillance, the HIV case reports upon which local Ryan White grants are based would not be reported. Additionally, the State Office of AIDS currently funds many local EIPs, home and community based care programs.  

If the Governor ultimately includes this plan in a formal proposal and the Legislature approves the proposal, Californians living with HIV/AIDS will no longer have access to many life sustaining programs and services, including ADAP!

The San Francisco AIDS Foundation has chimed in, beginning their press release…

The San Francisco AIDS Foundation is adamantly opposed to the draconian cuts to health and human service programs proposed today by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger that would risk the lives of thousands of Californians.

The governor’s tentative plan to remove all general fund support to the state Office of AIDS would jeopardize more than $150 million in federal matching funds that the state receives through grants from the Ryan White Program and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As a result, 35,000 California residents would lose access to their HIV medications because the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) would cease to exist.

“This is the worst possible time to take support away from the most vulnerable Californians,” said Judith Auerbach, Ph.D., vice president for Science and Public Policy at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. “Balancing the budget on the backs of those at greatest risk threatens to reverse all progress made against the HIV/AIDS epidemic over the past two decades.” …

Yup, pretty much.

If you’re a Californian, you might want to select the image of the Los Angeles County Commission On HIV Brief above — there’s a take action step to stop this budget cut from occurring…or at the very least not cutting the program so much that the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) is completely decimated.