Over the past few years we have seen cuts to HIV/AIDS programs and we have learned to work with less. We have learned how to get the Prevention message out, take care of those infected and keep working towards the goal of everyone infected getting proper care and stemming new diagnosis. Every year we wondered What would happen next year?. Would next year be the year services stopped?
Recently the Governor made changes in the budget. that cut programs that affect children, senior citizens, and programs for people at risk or infected with HIV. The cut to the budget for HIV services is over $60 million. The results for Fresno County are astonishing and we are trying to find ways to keep programs going. Almost all of the funding for Education and Prevention has been cut.
Fresno County Department of Public Health has notified that the mobile van will not be conducting sites until further notice. The Living Room, A Project of WestCare, has been notified that all Education and Prevention grants are to be terminated. These are devastating events.
The Living Room can no longer send people out into the community to educate school children and college students. We can no longer attend community sponsored events and disperse information and safer sex products. We can no longer send outreach workers to the clubs and migrant camps to make sure people are educated about safer sex and give them condoms and lubes. We can no longer work side by side with The Health Department and urge people to test at the mobile van. We can no longer help our community stop the spread of HIV/AIDS. We can no longer do what our staff has been dedicated to for over 13 years.
The result for those who live in Fresno County is that fewer people will be educated about safer sex practices. Fewer people will learn that sharing needles can lead to both HIV and HEP C. Fewer people will learn how to use a condom properly, Fewer people will use condoms because they are not readily available. Fewer people will test, even if they are aware that they may have been exposed. Fewer tests result in more infections unknown, and that equates to a higher infection rate, in months to come. Fewer tests will result in people being unaware they are positive until they end up in the ER with PCP or some other infection. We will then be paying thousands of dollars to make that person well, while that person will, unfortunately, already have progressed to an AIDS diagnosis. Fewer opportunities for testing and outreach may result in the start of a new epidemic.
The Living Room will remain open for case management and support services. We urge you to call us or drop in and ask for condoms and lube. Do your part to educate friends, lovers, family and partners. Help prevent the spread of HIV. Do you remember what it was like to lose a friend every month to this virus? I do and I don’t want to see that ever again.
If we can be of help, if you have any questions or just want to talk please call us at 237-3420.
Be safe, be well
The Living Room
A Project of WestCare.