March 8, 2012
If the Mississippi legislature fails to find $2.5 million for its Ryan White contribution for its 2013 budget, it could stand to lose more than one-third of its federal Ryan White contribution. This could have a devastating impact on the services provided for people with HIV in the state that ranks 48th in the nation for health care spending.
"Ryan White dollars go to support the basic living needs of people with HIV to stay healthy, including ADAP," said Luke O. Versher, Field Organizer with AIDS Action Mississippi. "For the last two days we've been working with key legislators and The Chairman of the house appropriation committee about the impact of losing this funding.
The federal Ryan White CARE Act provides $2 for every $1 each state spends on the program, much like Medicaid. The Mississippi State Department of Health has identified approximately $4 million of current state spending that can count towards the federal match, but is $2.5 million short -- there is no other source to draw down for this funding.
In November 2011, Salon.com called Mississippi The worst state in America to have HIV, noting that a "Mississippian with HIV/AIDS is almost twice as likely to die than the average American with the virus; HIV-positive African-Americans in Mississippi are ten times as likely to die from it than their white neighbors. African-Americans are only 37.5 percent of the population, but represent 78 percent of new HIV infections. Meanwhile, an abstinence-education statute forbids even programs offering information about condoms to demonstrate how to use them, but does include a requirement to mention the anti-sodomy laws still on the books."
The AIDS Issues Update reported last month that nearly two-thirds of people with HIV in the state are without treatment, and the state is planning major cuts to an already meager Department of Health Budget. Local and national organizations working in Mississippi on this issue include AIDS Action MS, Mississippi In Action, A Brand New Day, AIDS United, and Harvard Law School's Center for Health Law & Policy Innovation.
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