AIDS And The Budget

AIDS And The Budget

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     "I DO NOT WANT TO DIE! I really don’t wanna die…….about 30 percent of people who have AIDS are diagnosed in their twenties, that means most were infected in their teens." (It Happened to Nancy) More and more people are being infected with the HIV virus everyday, and if we do not raise the budget, to provide and cure those with the disease, and try to prevent it, the whole country is going to be HIV positive. "The cost of treating people with HIV is increasing by about 20% annually." (AIDS research budget threatened). The future plans for the budget will have a major impact on many lives, especially those who rely on federal programs for support. As in the past, the impact of AIDS and related illnesses continue to influence the budget along with the level of research that could lead to a cure. In 1992, Laura Thomas reported, "Funds for AIDS research are in danger of being reduced to levels that would seriously impede progress towards effective treatments." (AIDS Research Budget Threatened) When a person is poor, or homeless, they do not have the funds to pay for medical treatment to keep them healthy, and prolong their lives. Funding for AIDS research from the government is essential in the process to find a cure for this horrible disease. The budgets in the past, are a direct reflection of what the funding should be in the future, and without sufficient funding for AIDS research and development, there will be no cure, or vaccine to stop this epidemic.
     Immigrants are a targeted group of individuals who, are threatened by cuts in the budget to reduce health care, and research. Immigrants are one of the groups in need of special health care, because of things such as poor income. Funding and budget decisions need to include everyone who is at risk, even legal immigrants. The 1997 Budget Reconciliation was a plan that would negatively affect legal immigrants, including those infected with the HIV/AIDS virus. Representative Clay Shaw made a number of provisions which represented a departure from the bipartisan budget agreement. This agreement included a provision which would soften the impact of 1996’s welfare reform law on legal immigrants, or those who are already citizens. This could be done by restoring SSI and Medicaid eligibility to legal immigrants in the country as of August 22, 1996. (Anti- Immigration provision).

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The provision would only allow those individuals who were receiving benefits prior, citizen immigrants, to continue to receive them. Immigrants who contract the HIV virus, who are not citizens, but are living in the U.S., and later become disabled by AIDS would not be eligible to receive SSI benefits because of these provisions. The only thing that Rep. Shaw offered was that immigrants who are senior citizens could receive the benefits. All of these immigrants who contract the HIV virus, and who do not have medical care, could spread the disease, and many people would die sooner then they need to. Getting government funds to all aspects of AIDS research and development, needs to include everyone.
     Communities of color are a direct target for the HIV/AIDS epidemic. President Clinton said on October 28, 1998, "AIDS is picking on the most vulnerable among us." (Clinton Outlines New AIDS Initiative) He has outlined a 156 million dollar program to help Blacks and Hispanics get services they need, to their communities. The President also stated, "The AIDS crisis in our communities of color is a national one, and that is why we are greatly increasing our national response." (Clinton Outlines New AIDS Initiative) Even though AIDS was first diagnosed in a small group of homosexual males, everyone is at risk of getting the disease. ("Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, AIDS")
It cannot be denied, that AIDS is hitting hardest in areas where there is very little knowledge about the disease, and poverty is high. Blacks account for more than half the new HIV infections. (Clinton Outlines new AIDS Initiative). Most people do not know that Blacks are eight times more likely than whites to contract the virus while Hispanics are four times more likely. (Clinton Outlines new AIDS Initiative). These communities are not being educated properly in regard to danger and prevention of this disease. The deaths in the country as a whole has dropped, but among the minorities, it has dropped more slowly. There is a misconception among Blacks also, most of them only believe that the gay community is affected by the disease, and they do not realize they too are at risk. There are already many programs which assist and help Black and Hispanics, such as AIDS project Los Angeles and The Latino Commission on AIDS. They even make up half the patients that helps pay for powerful, but expensive protease inhibitor drugs (affect the genetic material of the virus and inhibit the ability of the virus to reproduce). This initiative towards the color communities will provide a new pot of grant money which is targeted at minority communities. Federal officials also plan to set up teams to help communities set up programs to help Blacks and Hispanics at risk for AIDS, and also those who already have the disease. Increasing awareness through targeted programs will very likely reduce the number of minorities with HIV/AIDS.
     Women are also at a high risk for contracting the disease. AIDS Project of Los Angeles reported that women are less likely to have any knowledge about and access to combination therapy (therapy including drugs and medicines, and physical or psychological therapies). Those who do have access to therapies, have shown a decrease in depression, anxiety and pain, and have an increased quality of life. This was especially found to be true in women of color. (Congressional Briefing On The Impact Of AIDS On Communities Of Color) Data suggests that more support groups and programs for women could be useful because they are more likely then a man to contract the HIV virus. It is possible, but very hard for a man to contract the HIV virus from a woman. That is true because a man’s bodily fluids are dissposed into a woman’s body, while the woman’s fluids have a very slim chance to get into a man’s body, unless through oral sex. Increasing care for the women with HIV is just as important as increasing it for anyone else.
     With the great risk of a child receiving the HIV virus from his or her mother, there also needs to be increased care for those individuals too. Mary Ellis Donaldson was a person who worked with children who were infected with AIDS, and she discovered a lot of things about them. The group of kids she worked with, were children living in a shelter, who had been abandoned by their parents, and were cared for by volunteers. She states, "most, if not all of them, had any idea that they had very limited time to live. They knew that they felt sick and tired a lot of times but they also saw that there were plenty of people at the Shelter who cared about them and wanted to be with them." (AIDS "Testimonial") This shows that children, just like everyone else, need special attention, and with more funding, there can be bigger, and even better shelters for children struggling with the disease. Mary Ellis Donaldson fought to have a certain shelter be put up in her community, and if more people were to suggest shelters, and decide to speak up, they could be built, and more children can be cared for, and shown that they are loved.
     Not only will all infected individuals be affected by changes in the budget but HMO’s will also be greatly affected. Doctors who are on budgets fixed by HMO’s, most likely want healthy patients on their plans, so they can make a profit. There are few diseases as finacially deadly as AIDS, so doctors do not want to put those patients with the disease, on their HMO. On average, an AIDS patient costs around thirty-six times more then the average HMO patient. Dr. Bary Siegel said "we need nice healthy people who rarely need healthcare." (AIDS, other costly diseases challenge HMO Plans) To make money on budget means you need healthy people who do not need healthcare. They are not paying big amounts of money to pay for someone’s medical treatment. Dr. Siegel’s medical practice, the Sutter Medical Group, loses money with the more HIV-positive HMO patients he enrolls, although he seems to like the challenge.
Health care leaders in 1997, were planning to pay HMO’s less money if they enrolled healthy patients, and more if they enrolled sick patients. Some researchers have said that it is possible to produce a budget which would care for many people with the AIDS virus, but they cannot predict costs of smaller groups of say 100, such as Dr. Siegel’s HIV-positive patients. (AIDS, other costly diseases challenge HMO plans). The reason for changing the budget system behind HMO’s is so that small numbers of doctors can feel comfortable in recruiting sick patients (AIDS, other costly disease challenge HMO plans). Medication is also an issue. AIDS medication is unpredictable. There are going to be more medication and drug options, and they will more than likely not become less expensive as many probably hope. In 1997, Paul Fishman, a researcher with Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound thinks it will be impossible to devise realistic budgets in the coming years for HMO doctors to deal with a handful of fast-changing medical problems such as AIDS (AIDS, other costly diseases challenge HMO plans).
     One of the most important aspects of funding for AIDS, is to provide housing for those who have the virus. The budget for 1997 gave $201,000 for obligations, so they could provide homeless people with AIDS, a shelter to cover their heads. There are 30 million people now living with HIV, and as of last year, nearly 16,000 were being infected each day. (Is AIDS Forever? Where The AIDS Epidemic Has Hit Hardest. . . . . And Where It’s Growing Fastest) With all of these people being infected, there needs to be more housing opportunities for those who are need of it. For Housing Opportunities For Persons With AIDS, a funding of $225 million dollars was being proposed for this year. This funding would provide 41,000 housing units to go up, and also provide related services to 74,875 people living with AIDS (Housing Opportunities For Persons Living With AIDS, HOPWA).
The Centers For Disease Control have reported that in 1996 alone, there were 69,101 new cases of AIDS. That number is steadily growing and each year, we will need to have more housing opportunities for those who lose their income, and in turn, lose their house, and then need a roof over their head. The increase in funds is essential because not only are the number of AIDS cases growing but the people living with the disease also are living longer thanks to new drugs coming out. In December of 1996, the National AIDS Strategy established a goal that would ensure all people living with HIV have access to care and health services. They further recognized that, "without stable housing a person living with HIV has diminished access to care and services and a diminished opportunity to live a productive life." (HOPWA) One woman said about a shelter idea being rejected for a store or bar, "Nobody here is going to benefit from this. The thing is what kind of people are we when we say that we don’t have any place for somebody who needs help." (AIDS Testimonial). There are certain amounts of funding that are for local and state grantees for each state. Since 1997, the estimated appropriations for funding have risen from $176,400 to $202,500. If the funding continues to increase over the years, we would be able to keep all the homeless persons living with AIDS off the street, which might reduce the number of people being contracted with the disease.
     The budget package in 1999 is a record increase for AIDS funding. The budget package was passed by the House on Tuesday, October 20, 1998, and by the Senate, the Wednesday morning after. The types of funding levels will help to modernize AIDS programs to better serve those affected by the new era of the epidemic. $110 million is secured by the CBC (Congressional Black Caucus) will help to fight the epidemic in the African American Communities. The budget package for 1999 includes $4.087 billion for AIDS research, treatment and prevention, with also $261 million in increases for the Ryan White funding. There is $184.9 million more being spent on more AIDS research and the $225 million for the Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS program. The AIDS related funding for Fiscal Year 99 is $800 million more than what was appropriated in FY98. (Record AIDS Funding Won in FY99 Budget)The whole spending package brings the total prevention funding in FY99 to $657.8 million, which is $32.9 million more than FY98 and almost $25 million more than what President Clinton asked for. This increase is a strong message for better prevention funding for the Fiscal Year 2000. Daniel Zingale, AIDS Action’s executive director stated, "This year the President and Congress reinvented AIDS spending to better meet the needs of increasing numbers of people living with HIV and AIDS. Next year, we must adapt to meet the needs of those at risk for infection." (Record AIDS Funding Won in FY99 Budget)
     The growing number of people living with the HIV and AIDS virus, need increasing funds to support and help out their lives and living conditions. The budget, when it is written up, needs careful consideration so the government can sufficiently provide every program and group with the funds they need. In the AIDS aspect of the budget, there is a lot of funding that is needed. Funding is needed to help the immigrants, and also to inform the color communities and women of their high risk of contracting the horrible disease. Children, especially those abandoned or given up on by their parents, are also in desperate need of funding, so they may prolong their lives by even a little bit. HMO plans, without proper funding decisions from the budget are threatened, because medicine and care is provided through the services. To create more housing opportunities, there must be more funds, because without the HIV/AIDS shelters, those who are homeless will have no place to turn, and will end up dying on the streets. The plans for the budget in Fiscal Year 1999, are a huge improvement from the previous years, and if the funds continue to increase especially for research, there is a greater possibility to arrive at an AIDS cure.
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