A participant in Tuesday's ADAP rally in Columbia. Photo Credit: Larry Bryant.

In Columbia and Raleigh, LGBT Carolinians are making their voices heard. On May 25, both capital cities played host to LGBT and HIV/AIDS groups pushing for progressive changes and increases in funding for low-income AIDS patient services.

In North Carolina, over 175 people attended the Equality North Carolina (ENC) Day of Action. At the same time, 50 or more people attended the North Carolina AIDS Action Network’s HIV Advocacy Day.

“We were excited to hear from many participants that legislators on both sides of the aisle understood the importance of funding the AIDS Drug Assistance Program,” Ian Palmquist, ENC executive director, told qnotes via email. “In a tough budget year, to have so many legislators who were committed to finding additional funding was great news.”

The “good news” from state legislators on funding for North Carolina’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) is a good sign for Gov. Bev Perdue’s propsed $14 million addition to the program. Her budget proposal comes after state officials decided to cap new ADAP enrollment earlier this year. The state’s waiting list has grown to more than 600 individuals — the largest in the nation.

On the legislative front, Palmquist said there seemed to be less enthusiasm for an anti-LGBT marriage amendment, even from elected officials who’ve previously offered such an amendment their ardent support.

In Columbia, organizers of a rally to protest cuts to South Carolina’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) say hundreds of people attended their protest and rally event, held to coincide with the start of the state legislature’s deliberations on this year’s budget.

The rally was organized to protest more proposed cuts to that state’s ADAP assistance. Following North Carolina’s drastic cuts, South Carolina legislators decided in early March to eliminate all current funding for ADAP and HIV prevention.

Karen Bates, who organized the rally, says it is important to keep critical funding necessary for providing life-saving medications to those living with HIV/AIDS. She wants to see future cuts stopped and current funding restored.

“We appreciate our state’s current financial woes,” Bates said in a release before the rally. “But what we cannot understand is how our state can justify supporting the funding of a golf tournament when people are dying for lack of life-saving medications.”

Bates says at least one person has already died due to lack of access to ADAP medications.

According to Melissa Moore, program director of LGBT youth support organization We Are Family, the rally was successful and participants faced no obstacles or challenges from local officials or police. Moore, who spoke at the rally, encouraged attendees to call state Sen. Hugh Leatherman, chair of the Senate Finance Committee. Moore said so many people called, the senator’s office lines were jammed.

Budget cuts and spending freezes for ADAP programs have occurred across the nation, as states attempt to balance budgets in a tough economic climate. Nearly half of all states have either cut ADAP spending altogether or decreased it. The Palmetto State currently has 112 individuals waiting for access to ADAP assistance, according to the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors. : :

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.