Pennsylvania Returns Tens of Millions of Dollars for AIDS Care During State Financial Crisis


June 18, 2009

Pennsylvania Returns Tens of Millions of Dollars for AIDS Care During State Financial Crisis

Pennsylvania will be returning over $11 million for AIDS care to the federal government. Pennsylvania was allocated this money through Ryan White Care Act money, the major federal fund for HIV/AIDS treatment. According to ACT UP member Max October, "The state turned down free money. Pennsylvanians lost the money this year, and we are unable to get that $11 million dollars in any future year. This is unacceptable. "

This underspending comes at a time when:

§ The Pennsylvania Senate has proposed a 25% cut to HIV funding.

§ Infection rates are rising in almost every demographic.

§ Local municipalities across the state are facing budget crises, including a major budget crisis in Philadelphia.

In many regions of Pennsylvania, there are no dedicated AIDS Service Organizations. AIDS services are coordinated by general nonprofits and local public healthdepartments. Patients have to travel sometimes hundreds of miles to access primary care physicians with the specialized knowledge required to treat HIV and accompanying Opportunistic Infections. There is significant need statewide for more physicians, social workers, and public health workers with HIV/AIDS-specific training and expertise. According to an AIDS social worker, "This money could have been used in creative ways to help with people living with HIV/AIDS with medication and medical coverage-related costs. It's absurd that Pennsylvania would return money that we need so badly to support people living with HIV/AIDS in rural areas."

A consistent pattern is emerging: the state's Division of HIV/AIDS is not aggressively seeking out funding sources, nor connecting funding sources with the demonstrated needs of vulnerable Pennsylvanians.

Call for Apology and Accountability of Director Joseph Pease

There is clear need across Pennsylvania for AIDS services, testing, and prevention. In addition, there is need to utilize funding in creative ways to improve infrastructure and access to care and medications for people outside major metropolitan areas.

Despite the clear need, the Director of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Bureau of Communicable Diseases Division of HIV/AIDS, Joseph Pease, has failed to follow through. His office has not released an epidemiological study since 2004. He failed to spend tens of millions of dollars already given to the state for HIV/AIDS services. His office failed to apply for a 3-year National Minority AIDS Initiative (NMAI) grant, resulting in another significant loss of up to $12 million over the next three years.

For these reason, ACT UP Philadelphia is calling for public apology and accountability from Director Pease. Pease must account for why no epidemiological study has been done since 2004, why his office failed to apply for the NMAI grant, and how his office let tens of millions of dollars slip through the cracks. He must apologize publicly for his actions, and develop a plan to aggressively seek out and use funding to meet the needs of Pennsylvanians living with HIV/AIDS.