Activists rally to restore HIV funding in state budget bill

Rep. Joe Neal, who also serves as the SC Progressive Network’s Co-chair, speaks at the rally May 25.

Advocates working on behalf of South Carolinians with HIV/AIDS rallied at the State House yesterday morning to pressure the legislature to restore the funding for critical services that the House proposed to cut in its budget bill. Reps. Joe Neal and Bakari Sellers addressed the crowd, praising them for staying vigilant and standing for the state’s most vulnerable citizens.

The rally was organized by the SC Campaign to End AIDS, a member of the SC Progressive Network.

The House cuts would end all state funding for HIV/AIDS prevention and drug assistance, would limit prescription drugs for Medicaid patients and cap enrollment in the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Later in the day, the Senate rejected the cuts to health care. The bill now goes to conference committee. (See story in The State.) The Senate has named Sens. John Land, D-Clarendon, Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, and Mike Fair, R-Greenville, to the committee. The House has named Reps. Kenny Bingham, R-Lexington, Bill Clyburn, D-Aiken, and Dan Cooper, R-Anderson, to the committee.

Those committee members need to hear from us.

To see more photos from the rally, click here.

Rally to restore HIV funding May 25 at State House

Bambi Gaddist, SCHACCTF Chair
Gwen Bampfield, SCHACCTF Co-Chair

We have been informed by Rep. Joe 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. 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 on Tuesday, May 25, 9am to noon 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.

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.

As of yesterday, DHEC says our count is 112 individuals on the SC Wait List. All should be breaking down the doors of the House and Senate.  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.