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AIDS and HIV Funding in Peril Under Proposed Budget

The problem: HIV cases in Illinois are rising, but funding in next year’s newly proposed budget does not meet the need.

The solution: bi-partisan effort to produce a smart budget — which hasn’t been the state’s forte in the past.

“If that funding is not produced, we will unquestionably all see 500 to 1,000 people losing access to drugs,” said John Peller, director of government relations for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago.

The projected funding needs for the Illinois AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), which provides medication to nearly 4,200 low-income HIV patients monthly — a 32 percent rise since 2007 — grew this year by more than $10 million, reports the AIDS Foundation of Chicago.

But in Gov. Pat Quinn’s FY2011 budget, no additional funding was given to the Department of Public Health, from which AIDS and HIV support draws its funding. The department must now choose between preventative services for the future or helping those affected now.

“On the one hand, a cut wasn’t proposed; but at the same time, the need for new funding grew 36 percent this current fiscal year,” said Peller, who projects the need will grow an additional 25 percent by next fiscal year.

That means for FY2011, the state needs to produce $29.5 million to satisfy the requested needs of the AIDS Drug Assistance Program. Currently, Illinois gives it $19 million.

Last year, the Department of Public Health was forced to transfer over $4 million from other HIV services, including prevention and medical care, to meet the need for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program. But Peller said prevention is important to stopping the spread of HIV and to diagnose and treat patients early, which could save the state money in the future.

In response to the increased need, Rep. Harry Osterman (D-Chicago) has introduced House Bill 6173, which would claim the state’s estimated part, $29.5 million, for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program and restore $14.5 million to the AIDS and HIV services that have been hurt.

“Our ultimate goal is before the legislators adjourn (May 31) … our funding levels are where they need to be,” Osterman said.

While Quinn’s budget proposal provides the same amount of funding for the Department of Public Health as last year, legislators like Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago), a co-sponsor of the bill, still see that as a threat to HIV services.

“He (Quinn) proposed flat funding of the HIV line item, but that’s prospective because the demand has skyrocketed so high,” said Harris.

The bill already has 11 co-sponsors, including 10 Democrats and one Republican, but its need must be compelling enough to convince those lawmakers agonizing over the state’s $26 billion budget, which has a $13 billion deficit.

Because Quinn’s proposed 1 percent (from 3 to 4 percent) income tax increase for FY2011 was said to fill budget gaps in education, it’s likely that other departments won’t see increased funding. Peller said to restore lost funds to AIDS and HIV, it’ll be necessary to support an even higher tax increase, but pundits say Illinois might not see any movement until after the November elections.

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