Government shutdown affects HIV and AIDS programs

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The federal government’s shutdown has affected the nation on several levels including  the impact on HIV/AIDS programs as well as LGBT federal employees. Since Congress failed at passing the budget, the shutdown commenced at midnight October 1 leaving several health care programs without proper funding. 

While the Republican-controlled House approved several resolutions that would fund the government, the Democratic-controlled Senate denied such proposals and instead concentrated on legislation that would only support the government. The House also repealed or delayed sections related to health care reforms.

“The Tea Party Republicans are playing irresponsible politics with men, women and children living with HIV and AIDS,” the Center for American Progress executive vice president Winnie Stachelberg said in an interview with the Washington Blade.

Some of the HIV/AIDS programs affected are the lack of prevention recommendations and updated treatments for HIV at the Center for Disease Control, a block of medical research at the National Institutes of Health and cutting off funds for the Ryan White AIDS Grants. For the Ryan White AIDS Grants, the guidance states that it will stop providing medication to low-income people who are currently living with HIV/AIDS.

“Monitoring of Ryan White grants – particularly AIDS Drug Assistance Program Grants, Emergency Relief Grants and Comprehensive Care would be insufficient to assure states, cities and communities are complying with statutory guidance and necessary performance,” the guidance stated.

The Human Rights Campaign commented that the situation wouldn’t be too dramatic but will possibly affect the Justice Department and its hate crimes involving LGBT students.

“Many of the grants… are on an April 1-March 31 cycle and won’t be immediately impacted by the shutdown,” Human Rights Campaign, spokesperson Michael Cole-Schwartz said in a press release. “That said, there is uncertainty about the FY 14 funding levels and the impact this will have on grantees for the next grant cycle.”

While the House republicans want to find a resolution with the shutdown and sacrifice on health care reform, the Senate democrats want to approve a legislation that funds the government. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on Monday, “We will not go to conference with a gun to our head.”

“Don’t think for an instant that anyone wanted a government shutdown,” Log Cabin Republicans executive director Gregory Angelo said in an interview with the Washington Blade. “Whether the House GOP votes or Harry Reid’s stubbornness were prudent or not is immaterial at this point — the fact is we are in the midst of a shutdown that Democrats are as responsible for as Republicans. We hope it’s resolved soon with a compromise that gets this country back on track.”

Health insurance enrollment as well as Medicaid expansion started on October 1, which HIV/AIDS patients receive medications, will be affected by the government shutdown. LGBT workers will be affected and placed on furlough along with the estimated 818,000 federal workers that Wall Street Journal deemed “non-essential.”

“This tantrum could end up costing our nation billions of dollars and will negatively affect the most marginalized in our society,” the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force executive director Rea Carey said in a press release. “The truth is, the Affordable Care Act will help ensure access to health care for millions of Americans who are uninsured — including many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who desperately need it. Health care delayed is health care denied. And health care denied is putting lives in jeopardy.”

Exceptions to the shutdown are the US Postal Service, the National Park Service, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Environmental Protection Agency and other national security programs.

“We are given to understand that State has sufficient operating funds for these initial days and that all employees are expected to report to work as usual,” the Gays & Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies president Robyn McCutcheon said in a press release. ”There has been guidance that in the interim, there should be no new travel, no representational events, and so on.”

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