HIV/AIDS Programs Devastated By House Budget Vote

As the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention released
startling new statistics about the impact of HIV and AIDS on communities
of color and gay men, the U.S. House of Representatives put the lives of
hundreds of thousands of Americans at risk on November 18th in passing a budget
reconciliation package that would slash Medicaid spending – forcing
Americans to rely on the already stretched Ryan White CARE Act.

"Congress and the White House have abandoned their
'compassionate' side to the extremist conservatives," said Human Rights
Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "The health of thousands of men,
women and children are threatened when the far right wing unravels the
health care safety net."

The razor thin vote of 217-215 early this morning came after new
data was released from the CDC detailing racial disparities in infection
rates. African-Americans are eight times more likely and Latinos three
times more likely than whites to be diagnosed with the HIV. The data
also shows increasing infection rates among men who have sex with men.

"New evidence shows that HIV and AIDS continue to ravage men,
women and children at alarming rates, yet Congress callously responds by
slashing funding," said Solmonese.

The House version of the budget reconciliation package – unlike
the Senate counterpart – would permit higher premiums and deductibles
for many Americans who already find themselves on the edge of being able
to seek quality care and treatment. According to the Congressional
Budget Office, the vast majority of the savings will come from
beneficiaries being forced to cut back on their use of health care
services. The bill now goes to conference committee where the House and
Senate versions will be reconciled. During this process, the cuts could
either be restored or left as passed by the House.

"Disastrous cuts to Medicaid combined with inadequate funding
for federal HIV/AIDS efforts represent the Congressional leadership's
poor response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic," said Solmonese. "Many
courageous lawmakers from both parties opposed these draconian cuts and
they should be applauded for their leadership."

Medicaid is our nation's largest provider of HIV/AIDS treatment
and care and Americans trimmed from the rolls will be forced to seek
care through Ryan White CARE Act programs that are already overextended
and under-funded. In fact, in many states, budgetary pressures have
already forced AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs) to cut costs by
operating waiting lists or limiting the medications available to
patients. Cutting Medicaid funding will only exacerbate this problem.

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