Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Schwarzenegger Kills California HIV Patients

California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger used his line-item veto on his state budget and decimated California HIV/AIDS services. The cuts curtailed state funding for HIV-related education (an 80% cut), prevention (80% cut), counseling (70% cut), testing (70%), primary medical care (50%), home care (50%) and housing (20%). Most shocking of all was a complete termination of all funding for the Office of AIDS' Therapeutic Monitoring Program.

This is the program that pays for viral-load and drug resistance testing for up to 35,000 working and middle-class California HIV/AIDS patients. Viral load testing is a vital part of HIV treatment and care. Your viral load test confirms that your HIV meds are working, and regular testing is an early warning system when and if they stop. Drug resistance testing is done right after your HIV diagnosis, and determines what treatments your body will/will not respond to. Drug resistance testing is also used if your treatment meds fail in order to determine which drugs need to be replaced.

According to Office of AIDS Chief Michelle Roland the Theraputic Monitoring Program is only 50% funded by the state, so people will still have some access. But that access will be diminished and harder to find. People with treatment failure may not find out about it until they are ill, and the chances of somebody with an active viral load transmitting the virus are increased.

"A population that is less successfully virally suppressed is more likely to transmit. We may see an increase in the HIV rate as a result."

Roland also said the massive reduction in funding for ordinary HIV testing (to see if one has the virus) means "there will be fewer people who know their status," which also will increase HIV transmission.

According to the LA AIDS Healthcare Foundation "Each new infection can mean up to $600,000 dollars in lifetime health care costs."

So you have to wonder, where the hell is the sense in saving $8 million today, when the potential cost is far, far greater in the future? Monetary considerations aside, this outrageously callous decision will more than likely cause many Californians (and other Americans) to fall ill and possibly die.

Nice move, Arnold.

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