HIV/AIDS Programs Devastated by House Budget Vote

Mon. November 21, 2005 12:00 AM by

Washington, D.C. - As the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention released startling new statistics about the impact of HIV and AIDS on communities of color and gay men, the Human Rights Campaign released a statement claiming the U.S. House of Representatives put the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans at risk in passing a budget reconciliation package that would slash Medicaid spending - forcing Americans to rely on the already stretched Ryan White CARE Act.

"Congress and the White House have abandoned their 'compassionate' side to the extremist conservatives," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "The health of thousands of men, women and children are threatened when the far right wing unravels the health care safety net."

The razor thin vote of 217-215 came after new data was released from the CDC detailing racial disparities in infection rates. African-Americans are eight times more likely and Latinos three times more likely than whites to be diagnosed with the HIV. The data also shows increasing infection rates among men who have sex with men.

"New evidence shows that HIV and AIDS continue to ravage men, women and children at alarming rates, yet Congress callously responds by slashing funding," said Solmonese.

The House version of the budget reconciliation package - unlike the Senate counterpart - would permit higher premiums and deductibles for many Americans who already find themselves on the edge of being able to seek quality care and treatment. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the vast majority of the savings will come from beneficiaries being forced to cut back on their use of health care services.

The bill now goes to conference committee where the House and Senate versions will be reconciled. During this process, the cuts could either be restored or left as passed by the House.

"Disastrous cuts to Medicaid combined with inadequate funding for federal HIV/AIDS efforts represent the Congressional leadership's poor response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic," said Solmonese. "Many courageous lawmakers from both parties opposed these draconian cuts and they should be applauded for their leadership."

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