HIV moms and their unborn babies may be in danger of losing prenatal care with the recent passage of a $29.6 billion state budget by the General Assembly.
The budget slashes funding to HIV/AIDS programs across Illinois by 42 percent. It also leaves the future of the Pediatric AIDS Chicago Prevention Initiative in jeopardy. Community-based HIV prevention programs are expected to take a $3.3 million hit in budget cuts after the legislature, led by State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, restored $623,000 in cuts from Gov. Pat Quinnfs original proposal.
The state budget approved by lawmakers totals $29.36 billion for fiscal year 2013, which begins July 1, compared to $35.38 billion for FY 2012. The AIDS initiative served 133 moms in 2011 and 69 of them gave birth to healthy babies last year. The services prevent babies from being born with HIV.
The future of the program, however, is uncertain, according to Mary Brewster, program coordinator for the Prevention Initiative.
‘Wefre not sure if our program will be cut entirely or how other programs across the state will be cut,” Brewster said.
The Initiative works with public and private institutions, as well as community organizations, to help eliminate the transmission of HIV/AIDS from mother to child. They also assist HIV positive mothers by providing financial and mental support in addition to access to health care.
‘We just had a meeting with [the executive director] and shefs still looking at the budget to see if things can be moved around,” said Lucy Rios, a case manager for the Initiative.
According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, the cuts put 563 people with HIV in danger of losing medical care, food, and mental health treatment. Lauren Whalen, development and media coordinator for the initiative, however, insists the organization is still focusing on upcoming projects. Theyfre also actively seeking alternative funding to continue operation, Whalen added.
‘Wefre trying to increase private funding and individual donations, and just applied for a federal grant that will expand one of our programs nationwide,” she said. ‘Wefre also still focused on recruiting for the AIDS Run/Walk on September 30.”@