TERRIBLE NEWS: "Obama to propose spending freeze"

In the State of the Union address, President Obama will apparently announce that he is freezing the federal budget, which means no increases in funding for anything except entitlements (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid), the military, homeland security, and some foreign aid.

For some programs, the budget won't even keep up with inflation, so it really means cuts to spending. According to the proposal, will last for three years.

For people with HIV/AIDS, that means cuts to already underfunded programs that provide medicine, doctor's visits, housing, and support. This means no money for clean needles to prevent the spread of HIV, no new prevention programs, no new research towards cures and vaccinations and microbicides...

This budget freeze affects all Americans and is the wrong way to confront a continuing economic crisis. In my opinion it's bad economics, bad politics, and ethically wrong.

But thinking about HIV/AIDS, it's important to remember that the disease is often its own economic crisis for each individual affected, one that was made worse by the big recession but which has sucked for a long time and will suck for a long time after the rest of the economy recovers, unless we spend the money needed to fix the problem.
  • Before the "housing crisis" 1 out of every 2 people with HIV faced homelessness at some point. It's probably worse now.
  • In Philadelphia alone, the AIDS housing waiting list is 2 years long, and Section 8 housing waiting list is so long it's closed for the foreseeable future. Again, that started before the housing crisis.
  • The recession has caused states to cut funding for AIDS treatment and care, leading to people dying on waiting lists for access to AIDS medicine.
  • Many, many states are cutting their AIDS budgets dramatically, closing doors of AIDS Service Organizations that provide outreach, care, treatment, prevention, housing, food, etc.
If we don't spend more money now on programs like the AIDS Drug Assistance Programs, Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS, and the Ryan White Care Act, issues of illness and homelessness that have only been getting worse will continue to spiral out of control. We can't sacrifice people's lives for the sake of a balanced budget. It's wrong.

It's also much more expensive in the long run: access to clean needles, medicine, and a home to live in cut rates of HIV transmission dramatically, better than any public service announcements or targeted prevention program. Letting people get sick, become more likely to spread HIV, more likely to end up in emergency rooms sick and dying, is expensive in the long run, short-sighted, and wrong.

For more coverage, was the first to leak the story.

If you agree that something must be done to stop this disaster of a budget, email actupphilly_at_gmail_dot_com to find out how you can take action. Stay tuned for updates and specific action alerts.

PS -- please forgive the ranting nature. It's late, I have a cold, and I'm very very angry.