Increasingly budget cuts have affected the national response to HIV/AIDS. Decades since the advent of the disease and the introduction of antiretroviral medications and combination therapy, HIV/AIDS no longer has the same sense of immediacy it once did. Having HIV or AIDS is no longer a death sentence like it was in the early days of the disease, but infections continue to occur and the rates are rising among some populations.
The issue: Complacency and Lack of Funding for Prevention
Complacency over the continuing seriousness of HIV/AIDS when combined with a growing ignorance about safer sex and HIV prevention has contributed to the still-epidemic conditions that are greatly underfunded. In 2009, the state of California decimated HIV prevention and education funding for local AIDS service organizations and other community groups providing education, risk reduction, and HIV testing.
Without funding for HIV education and prevention, many community programs had to shut down. Without necessary education and HIV prevention information, the HIV infection rate will continue to climb even higher than the current 1% epidemic rate. More people will become infected, which will cost thousands more dollars in the long run to care and treat them. Education and prevention saves money.
HIV Infection and Testing
The average rate of HIV infection in the nation is about 1%. Studies show that most people who know they're HIV positive takes steps to ensure they don't spread the disease to others. But the CDC estimates that about one in five people who have HIV don't know it, which means they could potentially be spreading the disease.
In the Coachella Valley, we consistently see a positivity rate that's three times the national average! Accessible and free testing in the community is essential but the 2009 California State Budget removed all HIV testing funds. Even so, we continue to provide confidential and free HIV testing in Palm Springs and surrounding areas.
Each test we administer costs about $15. Last year, Desert AIDS Project conducted approximately 1600 tests, completely free. That means it costs us over $20,000 a year to provide free and confidential testing in an effort to stop the spread of HIV and its progression to AIDS.
What can I do?
Call your local district representatives and legislature officials and tell them how important it is to fund HIV/AIDS education and prevention. Stopping HIV infection is the key to stopping AIDS!
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