South Carolina to Cut ALL HIV/AIDS Funding
Welcome to another day in my life. Today is Saturday and I hope your weekend is off to a safe and great start. As you know from reading my blog, it has been a very long and difficult week for me because of what is happening to people with HIV and AIDS in our country.
Dab the AIDS Bear and I will be working our Department of Health booth at a health fair at the Pride Center here in Fort Lauderdale this morning so I am doing my blog early today. You know I always take pictures wherever I go so stay tuned for the pics probably in the blog tomorrow.
But yesterday, I received some horrible news about South Carolina elected officials deciding to cut ALL HIV/AIDS funding. Now remember South Carolina already had an ADAP waiting list. Dab the AIDS Bear will be at the rally with Karen so make sure to get your picture taken in support of people living with HIV and AIDS and tell her Daddy Dab sent you.
The following is an email from Karen Bates on the issue.
To whom it may concern:
Advocates in SC have just learned that ALL state money for AIDS treatment and prevention has now been stripped from our state budget. Final debate on that budget is scheduled for Tuesday and it will probably all be over by Thursday evening. Therefore, we have decided to change the date and time of the "Stephanie Williams' Memorial Rally for Life" to Tuesday, May 25 from 9:00 a.m. to noon. (Please see the letter below from Dr. Bambi Gaddist, Executive Director of SCHAC and Chair of the SC HIV/AIDS Care Crisis Task Force.)
We apologize for any confusion this may have caused. However, let me make this abundantly clear. WE ARE FIGHTING FOR OUR VERY LIVES!!!
If you are HIV positive, we are literally fighting for your life. If you are a service provider, we are fighting not only for the lives of your clients, but possibly for the very existence of your jobs and your agencies. I know it is not easy for any of us to run to the statehouse on such short notice. But Bambi is closing down her agency on Tuesday morning and requiring her staff to attend the rally. Should any of us do anything less? All of the work I've put into this effort (not sleeping, getting sick) is unimportant. What is important is saving lives. If you run an agency, close your doors and come. Better to close for all or part of one day than to close for good. If you have meetings planned, reschedule them. If you work, take the day off. After all, without medicine you may not be able to continue to work anyway.
I have contacted all of our media to alert them to the change. I have already received communications from many of them indicating that they are planning on covering this event. Let's give them something to cover! We need to let our legislators know, in no uncertain terms, exactly what we think of them being willing to sacrifice our lives. If we don't speak out NOW, they will think that no one cares. Are they right? Do you care? Show them how much. Use this weekend to make phone calls and blanket your churches and gay bars with flyers. Show up to the rally with your handwritten signs and posters. Wear red. If we go down, we should at least go down fighting.
I WILL EXPECT TO SEE ALL OF YOU AT THE STATEHOUSE ON TUESDAY MORNING!!!!
South Carolina Campaign to End AIDS
Email: scaplwa@aol. com
We have been informed by Rep. Neal that once more, health care will sustain another blow. We thought most HIV/AIDS providers were aware that the House have retaliated for losing support of a veto for $20 million in new fees to support the states court system. However, after conversations with several in AIDS leadership- we realized that our assumptions are incorrect. This may explain why we haven't received communications from AIDS leadership expressing concern or proposing strategies to combat what could be interpreted as benign neglect from some of our states leadership.
THE STATE newspaper on Thursday morning spelled it out to the world-- so we assumed everyone knew that ALL ADAP and HIV prevention has been eliminated from the House amended budget presented Wednesday. Other cuts include loss of support for state health insurance programs for low-income children, new restrictions on medications funded by Medicaid, and elimination of cancer screenings and kidney disease prevention round out this reality.
We know that the Senate takes up the new House proposal on Tuesday, May 25, 2010. As a result we have been informed that our plans to conduct the Stephanie WIlliams Rally on Thursday at 6:00 PM will be wasted energy. In fact, decisions about HIV/AIDS funding could very well be completed by Thursday. The legislature will have departed by 6:00 pm and will not even witness the depth of our plight. It is imperative that we step-up our efforts--change the date to Tuesday and greet legislators with a rally and demonstrate our discontent as they decide once more WHO LIVES AND WHO DIES---WHO GETS ACCESS --WHO DOESN'T!
Rep. Neal noted that this moment is where the "rubber meets the road". Either we are prepared to sacrifice today or as I was told, "we can't come crying later". Rep. Neal made it crystal clear that we either "show up and show out" or in my words-be prepared to deal with the realities if the House budget amendment passes. I appeal to the Task Force, college students, community citizens to come out not on Thursday.... .but Tuesday-May 25, 2010 from 9:00 am to 12:00pm outside the State House.
We have been told to gather our own constituents once more. We must plead for sacrifices to be made to attend on Tuesday. Frankly, we too am weary! Yet, what do we do? Sit back--say nothing--do nothing-wait for someone else to do the job for us? Those residing in Columbia-- may appear to have the luxury of this appeal. Know that we are aware of the sacrifice many will make.
Yet, we ask for all to come and to join us as we fight with the last breath so that we save health care, save ADAP, HIV prevention, and Lives. At least at the end of the day-if nothing else, we will KNOW--that we did everything humanly possible to stop this madness!
We call on all AIDS Directors, Task Force members, faith leaders, health officials, physicians, and community citizens to make the ultimate sacrifice to attend Tuesday morning. Close your office-send a designee-reschedule a meeting-coordinate your agencies van and bring clients--get out the bed---or appeal to retired citizens to come out and support our efforts to stop the madness in our Legislature. If we fail to advocate for our cost--then what?
If we fail to show up-let us begin preparing for the aftermath--as NEXT YEAR WILL BE EVEN WORSE.
This is our moment of advocacy right now...we do...or we all die!
We appeal to all that may care or listen. We ask for continued solidarity in completing our mission of advocacy. We appeal to our citizens living with HIV/AIDS. Those of us who remain advocates but are not dealing directly with the impact of HIV/AIDS in our lives, NEED YOU-PWA's TOO!
As of yesterday-SCDHEC says our count is 112 individuals on the SC Wait List. All should be breaking down the doors of the House and Senate. Family members that buried loved ones-- should be marching-- if we could only just move beyond the shame and fear of loss of social standing. In closing, we hear frequently about advocates and PWA's in northern and western states who stage rallies in support of HIV/AIDS. We ask that we all make every effort to bring our Voice on Tuesday as we-proud southerners demonstrate our ability to make a difference in our own lives.
Bambi Gaddist, SCHACCTF Chair
Gwen Bampfield, SCHACCTF Co-Chair
So if you can make it to the rally PLEASE show up and help make a difference in saving the lives of people with HIV and AIDS.
Until we meet again; here's wishing you health, hope, happiness and just enough.
big bear hug,