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Stop the Governor's Illegal Budget Cuts to HIV/AIDS

Thousands of protestors joined Pacifika Voice and APAforProgress this evening at Pershing Square, Downtown Los Angeles at the HIV/AIDS Protest Vigil & March.  Progressive allies from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, AIDS Project Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Commission on HIV, and Bienestar rallied by our side to demand Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to take back a line-item veto he made on July 28th, 2009.  

The Governor used a questionable line-item veto authority in the 2009 Budget Act to cut $59.1 million in State funds to HIV/Aids programs, specifically eliminating HIV Counseling and Testing, HIV/AIDS education and prevention, early intervention, and the Therapeutic Monitoring Program (TMP) system. 

The Governor’s line-item reductions were made in addition to HIV/AIDS program cuts already included in the budget package approved by the Legislature.

“With a single stroke of his blue pencil, Governor Schwarzenegger has terminated the state’s AIDS programs and, along with it, the lives of some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation.  If he wanted to prove he didn’t have a heart, he succeeded.  If he wanted to prove he didn’t have a brain, he did that too, cutting essential community programs… while increasing drug company funds by $55million.”

Speaking at the candlelight vigil and rally, Democratic Caucus Chair, John A Perez of the California State Assembly said that they were suing the Governor.  “What the Governor did was veto funding he had already approved with his signature this past winter, said Perez.  According to the Supreme Court, the Governor’s authority to line-item veto only applies to new appropriations…that is, only new spending. This is the most impacting way to restore his illegal, immoral and unconstitutional act.”

Pacifika Voice and APA for Progress had an opportunity to speak with many of these progressive leaders, including Los Angeles protest coordinator, Craig Vincent-Jones.  Jones serves as the Executive Director, Los Angeles County Commission on HIV and emphasized the importance of contacting our legislatures and asking them to take back the budget cuts.

We interviewed Al Ballesteros of the JWCH Institute, a fellow API, and authority figure in the LGBT community. “These cuts are devastating and threaten to dismantle an entire safety net of care and treatment for our State’s most vulnerable and disenfranchised residents with HIV/AIDS.”

Perhaps the most heartfelt speaker of the evening was Aids Project Los Angeles (APLA) client, Lynnea Garbett, a 24 year old African American woman who for the past 17 years of her life has been speaking against AIDS.  “This is not a gay person disease, not a his disease or a her disease, it’s Our disease… Aids affect us all.”

Garbett relies on the TMP system and goes to the doctor every two months for testing.  “I don’t know what’s going on with this virus,” she agonized.  I’ve lived all my life with HIV, I don’t have a choice.  Without prevention services, how will people who do have a choice know how to prevent this disease.”

In her closing remarks, Garbett challenged the sea of poignant red shirted supporters who lifted their voices in “anti-budget cut” chants and dutifully lit their candles in solidarity to continue the fight against HIV/AIDS and to choose to fight this Governor.

What can you do?

Continue the conversation about fairness and equality in your own way and in your trusted circles.  Educational and prevention programs such as these targeting HIV/AIDS, if eliminated, have a viral effect on communities of color.  The Governor has regressed to the dark ages with the stroke of his pen and it's a sad, sad day for all of us.  We cannot continue to stand idly by while programs that affect our communities are illegally seized and accellerated on the chopping block.  We must hold our elected officials to the sword and call out these injustices against our communities.

If you like this blog and  the work of APAforProgress, drop a few coins in our bucket...or, perhaps you'd rather share this story with a close friend or sibling and that's just fine by us... thank you for that.   If you haven't already done so, sign up for our RSS feed and/or newsletter  Check out the many ways you can get involved (on your own terms) in the struggle for basic equality.  And if you like the color Red, come to the next rally.  For topic discussions please visit www.stoptheHIVcuts.com



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