HIV/AIDS Programs Devastated by House Budget Vote

by HRC Staff

'Congress and the White House have abandoned their "compassionate" side to extremist conservatives,' said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese.

WASHINGTON - As the Centers for Disease Control and 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 today 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 to cut costs by operating waiting lists or limiting the medications available to patients. Cutting Medicaid funding will only exacerbate this problem.

The Human Rights Campaign is the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender political organization with members throughout the country.It effectively lobbies Congress, provides campaign support and educates the public to ensure that LGBT Americans can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.

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