Illustration by Christine Hipp

In Santa Cruz County there are currently 424 persons living with HIV/AIDS. Those 424 community members are among nearly 200,000 California residents who battle the HIV/AIDS virus, which gained widespread attention in the early 1980s. Since then, nearly 90,000 Californians have lost that battle to a disease that is not only ongoing, but without a cure.

In honor of the 24th annual World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, supporters will gather to commemorate those who currently suffer from or have died from the HIV/AIDS virus. City on a Hill Press urges readers to join the global effort to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS, and to also wear red ribbons in solidarity with those affected by the virus.

While steps have been taken to educate the public on the spread of HIV/AIDS and its history, treatment for the virus relies strictly on state-funded programs. Decades later, the number of those infected continue to grow as funding dwindles.

As World AIDS Day approaches, we cannot forget that the HIV/AIDS epidemic is not only longstanding, but facing statewide budget cuts to HIV/AIDS resources and support. California also ranks second nationally in cumulative AIDS cases by state, surpassed only by New York.

Nationwide, proposed cuts to HIV/AIDS funding has ignited widespread protest, with the latest incident involving demonstrators removing their clothing in current Speaker of the House John Boehner’s office to reveal body painting with the phrase “ AIDS cuts kill.”

In California, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger cut $85 million of AIDS funding in 2009 due to the California budget crisis. Since then, funding for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) has experienced several, devastating cuts to HIV/AIDS programs in addition to corresponding matching federal dollars.

Today, Gov. Jerry Brown’s November budget proposal for the 2012–13 fiscal year stands to reduce total funding for ADAP from $477 million to $395 million, a cut of $82 million. Without adequate funding, significant support programs and research efforts toward ending AIDS will be decimated.

The impact of this slash and burn approach toward funding cuts will not only drive up the cost of medications for those suffering from HIV/AIDS but run the risk of limiting access to vital information and testing agencies across the state.

We do not live in a post-HIV/AIDS society, and while California’s budget crisis is indeed grave, the state cannot afford to push the HIV/AIDS pandemic onto the backburner.

Since 1985, programs like the Santa Cruz AIDS Project (SCAP) have provided residents of Santa Cruz County with educational support programs aimed toward harm reduction. SCAP offers services including case management, benefits advocacy, financial and nutritional assistance, transitional housing and wellness events in addition to free HIV/AIDS testing.

However, cuts to state funding have threatened the availability of resources for victims of HIV/AIDS in localities across the state.

With World AIDS day soon approaching, City on a Hill Press urges readers to not only stand in solidarity with those who suffer from the HIV/AIDS virus but to join the fight to keep HIV/AIDS programs not only alive, but moving forward toward a cure.

To get involved with World AIDS day in Santa Cruz, visit: www.scapsite.org