‘Sequestration’ of federal dollars threatens local HIV services
Nov 29, 2012 | 2170 views | 0 0 comments | 60 60 recommendations | email to a friend | print
By David Webber

Senior Development Specialist, ActionAIDS

Se • ques • tra • tion :

1. To cause to withdraw into seclusion.

2. To remove or set apart; segregate.

3. To drive the United States over a fiscal cliff.

Just a month from now, we face an ominous fiscal crisis resulting from the “sequestration,” or withholding of federal funds, for a wide host of programs. While you’ve very likely heard about this “fiscal cliff” and the potentially devastating effect it will have on federal programs and the U.S. economy overall, it will also significantly reduce funding for local HIV/AIDS services. Because funds for HIV services are already stretched very thin, these additional reductions in funding will have a significant impact.

The background

You may recall the debt-ceiling crisis of about a year ago, when Congress and President Obama could not agree on how to fix the federal deficit. Without legislation resolving this budgetary impasse, the United States was put at risk of financial default. Congress avoided this outcome by adopting a budget at current levels, and then turning the debt-ceiling issue over to a Congressional committee. The idea here was that this so-called “Super Committee” would negotiate an end to the impasse and adopt a plan to reduce the national debt. But in the event the Super Committee failed in its assignment, Congress mandated that as of Jan. 3, 2013, the debt-reduction process would begin with across-the-board cuts intended to reduce the national debt by $1.2 trillion. As it turned out, the Super Committee did fail to reach an agreement and, as a result, the consequence — which was something that was not supposed to happen — is now what will happen if Congress and the president do not resolve the federal deficit-ceiling issue.

The national impact

• AIDS programs will be affected nationally as well, with a real impact on individuals with HIV, as estimated by the Foundation for AIDS Research:

• 15,700 people will lose AIDS Drug Assistance Program support for HIV treatment.

• 5,000 households that include people living with HIV/AIDS will lose support

Equivalent of 460 AIDS research grants will be eliminated.

• $196 million will be eliminated from the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program in the next year.

The local impact

The debate about tax policy and spending limits in D.C. may seem far removed from our day-to-day lives, yet the impact of that debate, and the failure to resolve the sequestration issue, will cause tremendous hardship on individuals and families affected by HIV in the Philadelphia area. And even if the issue is resolved before the January deadline, it has already had an impact on nonprofits such as ActionAIDS, as these organizations begin planning for potential funding cuts.

City of Philadelphia officials anticipate an 8-percent cut across various federal programs; HIV-prevention programs, for example, could be reduced by $648,000. Because federal funding makes up about 19 percent of the ActionAIDS’ $6 million budget, a significant portion of the the organization’s budget is threatened. A study by U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) estimated these losses for services locally:

• 393 fewer patients will receive life-saving drugs in PA

• 10,279 fewer people will be tested for HIV statewide in PA

• 14,197 fewer people will be tested for HIV in Philadelphia alone

What you can do: Call or write your federal legislators and President Obama and make two points:

We need agreement in Congress that prevents sequestration and instead addresses the federal deficit without reducing critical non-defense discretionary programs and other programs critical to people with HIV.

Raising revenue must be a crucial part of deficit reduction.

Also, go to www.actionaids.org/take-action to make your voice heard.

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