COLUMBIA — The South Carolina House voted last week to cut some $2.4 million in HIV/AIDS funding. The drastic cuts will effectively put an end to new clients in the state’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) which currently serves close to 3,000 people, according to news station WIS 10.
South Carolina’s move follows similar action by North Carolina officials (see our March 6 print edition cover story, “AIDS funding cuts protested”). In January, state AIDS director Jacquelyn Clymore announced her state’s ADAP would be capped at current levels. More than 100 people have already been put on a waiting list.
Dr. Bambi Gaddist of the South Carolina HIV/AIDS Crisis Care Task Force says cutting such lifesaving funding will impact the livelihood of more than 14,000 South Carolinians. Many will not be able to obtain medicines, which could increase transmission of the virus.
The funding cuts in the Carolinas follows new reports from the Centers for Disease Control indicating increasing levels of new infections across the country, and particularly in the South among young black gay and bisexual men. In Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, officials estimate the new infection rate is similar to that of Los Angeles County. South Carolina currently ranks eighth in newly diagnosed HIV cases.
Blogger Alvin McEwen of Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters says the decision to eliminate HIV funding by SC governing body is poor management.
“It’s an ugly indictment on the hypocrisy of the supposed Bible belt region,” McEwen wrote on March 8. “It is written that Jesus healed the sick, but I guess things have changed to the point that those who claim to be his followers have no problem with ignoring the sick.”
Donald Wood of the South Carolina HIV/AIDS Council says his organization will lose about $1 million in state funding.
The funding cuts made by Carolinas’ officials follow a similar trend nationwide. After years of decline in waiting lists and increased funding for such programs, the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors say 10 states now have ADAP waiting lists, including North Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky. Another 10 have cost containment measures in place or pending.