Facing an enormous shortfall of over $1 billion in next year’s budget, Governor Baker released his proposal for fiscal year 2016 cutting $2.3 million in HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C funding. These reductions are concerning and could threaten the high quality, life-saving care that Fenway Health and other organizations provide to thousands of people living with HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C Virus infection in the Commonwealth.
Continued investment in HIV/AIDS prevention and care is critical to reducing the spread of the virus and optimizing health outcomes for people living with the disease. Over the last decade, persistent efforts to get people tested and connected to care, keep them on their medications, and provide crucial support services during treatment resulted in a 41% decrease of new HIV diagnoses in Massachusetts. To remain a national model in HIV/AIDS care and ultimately reach zero new infections in the Commonwealth, we need consistent and deliberate investments in prevention work including increased outreach to high-risk populations and education about life-saving medications like Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) and Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP).
Though often understated, hepatitis C infection (HCV) is a quickly growing epidemic in Massachusetts. As many as 200,000 people in the state are living with the disease and there are at least 8,000 new diagnoses of the illness each year. Increased funding for prevention, screening, and treatment of HCV will enable the expansion of testing services, ensure high quality case management and treatment for HCV patients, and improve surveillance efforts to better understand the status of the disease in our state.
Simply put, investment in effective HIV/AIDS and HCV programs saves thousands of lives and billions of dollars in health care costs.
We urge the legislature to lead the way and restore funding to education, prevention, and outreach efforts related to HIV/AIDS and HCV by, at minimum, level funding this line item. We look forward to working closely with House and Senate members to protect vital services for people living with HIV/AIDS and HCV and to prevent our residents from getting infected in the future.
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