“The fact is that care is prevention. Massachusetts has been successful in reducing new infections because we’ve invested heavily in connecting people with care. The combination of Medicaid and community-based services for people with HIV results in better health outcomes and lower viral loads. Low viral loads in people with HIV, in turn, make it less likely that HIV will be transmitted from one person to another. The state has also invested in robust, evidence-based behavioral interventions to help those vulnerable to infection keep themselves and their families safer. Together, these investments will help us end the epidemic.
“It would be sheer folly to step away from what is still a public health crisis in the black, Hispanic, and gay/bi communities. Blacks make up only 6% of the state’s population, but they comprise 28% of those living with HIV/AIDS in Massachusetts; Hispanics make up only 6% of the state’s population, but they comprise 25% of those living with HIV/AIDS in Massachusetts; and male-to-male sex and injection drug use are the leading reported exposure modes for HIV infection for those living with HIV/AIDS, accounting for 35% and 24% of all exposures, respectively. We need funding restored to end these disparities.
“Over the last decade, state funding for HIV treatment and prevention has declined about 25 percent. During the same period, the number of people living with HIV and AIDS has increased by 42 percent. Today, there are approximately 18,000 people living with HIV in Massachusetts. They are some of the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable citizens. With the cuts proposed this week, they are being asked to bear more than their fair share for solving the state’s fiscal crisis.
“Last July, President Obama released a National Strategy on HIV/AIDS which outlines ambitious, but achievable, goals toward ending the epidemic. Massachusetts has long been a national leader in implementing effective public health programs that succeed in reducing HIV transmission and increase the health of those already infected. So it is particularly disappointing that the Commonwealth is stepping back from its commitment-a commitment that has no doubt saved countless lives, and eased the burden that can come with a diagnosis of HIV for thousands more. We ask lawmakers to restore the $2 million in cuts to HIV treatment and prevention.”