December 1st marked the 24th annual
celebration of WORLD AIDS DAY. But the occasion was somewhat bittersweet. Despite the
educational achievements and fundraising efforts of national and local
advocacy groups, HIV/AIDS prevention and education programs are in peril. The
proposed FISCAL CLIFF next year could cut the HIV/AIDS program budget by over
$650 million, starting in January 2013.
This 8.2 percent reduction in FUNDING has far-reaching consequences for
the HEALTH of the American public. Though education and awareness are at the
core of the HIV/AIDS issue, the looming budget cuts to HEALTH CARE programs
pose an imminent threat and must be avoided at all costs.
Despite America’s over sexualized
media culture, a taboo still surrounds reproductive HEALTH issues. After Magic Johnson’s shocking, public
announced that he had HIV in the 1990s, the majority of Americans have allowed
the topic of HIV/AIDS fall out of public consciousness. Though HIV/AIDS ravages third world
developing areas, such as the sub-Sahara region of Africa, it also has a
striking impact closer to home.
According to the CENTER FOR DISEASE CONTROL, 1,000 young Americans are
infected each month. Yet the HIV/AIDS epidemic remains hidden and fatal; people
continue to fail to get tested and this delay in treatment drastically
decreases medications’ efficacy. This
delay in treatment also allows the virus to be unknowingly transmitted and has
led to infection rates comparable to those of sub-Sahara Africa in certain
regions of the country, such as Washington D.C, according to EVERYDAY HEALTH.
The proposed FISCAL CLIFF budget cuts
will impact U.S. areas with high infection rates more harshly than others
regions, according to EVERYDAY HEALTH.
Vital programs such as needle exchange and free HIV testing will be
jeopardized. In addition to directly
cutting FUNDING for HIV/AIDS prevention and education programs, the sequester
will make reproductive HEALTH CARE less accessible. The AFFORDABLE CARE ACT,
which provides preventative reproductive HEALTH services at a reduced cost,
will also suffer from the budget cuts. Forcing patients to shoulder the full
cost of treatments will result in many at-risk populations going without
preventative care and treatments. If FUNDING
for HEALTH CARE programs is not made a priority, the state of America’s
reproductive HEALTH will only worsen.
Despite the need for federal FUNDING,
private and non-profit organizations do play an important role in keeping
Americans HEALTHy. As of Dec. 1, WALGREENS
pharmacies began offering discrete HIV testing at select locations. Schools and community organizations, such as
USC now also offer free testing. These measures will help facilitate the U.S. PREVENTIVE
SERICES TASK FORCE’s recommendation for universal HIV testing. This initiative seeks to identify infected
individuals and allow them to begin treatment sooner. By normalizing HIV
testing, the U.S. PREVENTIVE SERICES TASK FORCE will also help to remove the
taboo associated with HIV/AIDS.
Though it is not a substitute for
adequate FUNDING, education programs can help to further reduce the impact of
HIV/AIDS. Through the diligent effort of
advocacy groups, the mystery and myths surrounding the epidemic are being
dispelled. For example, the CDC’s CARE
AND PREVENTION PROGRAM IN THE UNITED STATES focuses on educating members of
underserved communities. Although not yet implemented in L.A, the PASADENA AIDS
SERICE CENTER offers similar educational programs. In addition, youth education
programs in schools are focusing on teaching safe sex rather than solely
preaching abstinence. While these
measures are vital to lessening the HIV/AIDS epidemic, they cannot stand alone.
HEALTH CARE programs must continue to receive FUNDING in order to remain
effective for the sake of all Americans’ reproductive HEALTH.