A blow to family planning $ is a blow to HIV/AIDS prevention

The Red Pump Project I need a late pass. I was supposed to write this post on March 10, joining a number of bloggers and the Red Pump Project in observance of National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. I must admit that my procrastination along with a weeklong stay in Austin, TX for South by Southwest pushed back the publish date of this post. Nevertheless, here I am with my 2011 NWGHAAD post. Better late than never.

This is the third year I’m joining up with the Red Pump Project to write about this issue and I was really stumped about how to approach it this time around. Personally, I’m a bit frustrated because I feel like we’ve been talking about HIV/AIDS for most of my lifetime and, for the most part, we’re still having the same conversations. How many times can we warn of the risks? Don’t most people know by know how HIV is contracted/spread? If the statistics don’t scare you what will? It’s very frustrating to keep having this conversation here in 2011 but unfortunately it’s still necessary. I waited for inspiration to strike (another reason this post is late) and finally it hit me like an Acme anvil.

I’ve been following the hullabaloo in Congress that has anti-choice Republicans trying to cut Title X family planning funding from the budget. Make no mistake about it – this is an attack on women’s health and an all out attack on Planned Parenthood, the nation’s leading provider of family planning services for many low-income, un/under-insured individuals, and others with limited access to health care.

Title X, signed into law in 1970 by President Nixon, helps provide care to more than five million Americans and includes cervical and breast cancer screenings, STD testing/treatment, and birth control services.

The House leadership claims that defunding Planned Parenthood and cutting Title X funds is necessary to save money and to “preserve life.” These people have a beef with abortion, obviously, but what they seem to ignore is the fact that Title X money can’t go to abortion at all due to a rule made up by CONGRESS itself. Whatever, that’s not really the main point here and you can read about it elsewhere if you like. For the purposes of this post and belated-NWGHAAD, I’d like to point out that defunding Title X would also impact HIV/AIDS testing and treatment.

A recent letter to Congressional leadership signed by 18 leading HIV/AIDS advocacy organizations — including HIV Law Project, the National Minority AIDS Council, and the HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA) — highlights the critical roles that Planned Parenthood and Title X play in preventing the spread of HIV.

As organizations committed to winning the fight against HIV/AIDS in this country, we are strongly opposed to the elimination of Title X funding and the amendment offered by Representative Mike Pence (R-IN) that prohibits Planned Parenthood health centers from receiving federal funds to provide primary and preventive health care services to millions of Americans every year.  The elimination of Title X and the Pence amendment—which passed the U.S. House of Representatives on February 18th—is political and ideological, and will result in millions of Americans losing access to essential health care services, including HIV prevention and care.…

The elimination of Title X would result in a crippling loss of funds for thousands of health clinics around the country.  The Pence amendment, which would do nothing to reduce the deficit, would eliminate funding streams vital to Planned Parenthood’s provision of affordable, quality care, including Medicaid, Maternal and Child Health program funds, evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention funds, and CDC funding for HIV screening and infertility prevention.  As a result, these dangerous provisions would take away health care relied upon by millions of women, disproportionately impacting low-income women and women of color and exacerbating already unacceptable health care disparities.

Well that just about says it all, right? HIV/AIDS advocates the world over agree that the first step to stopping this epidemic cold is for everyone to know his or her status and if positive, to seek treatment early on. We want to prevent the spread of these diseases as well as help those infected to manage their health and lives. How can we do this effectively if the first line of defense – often community-based health centers (like Planned Parenthood) – are disarmed by a political and social agenda?

This year, if we want to move forward in the fight against HIV/AIDS, especially for women and girls, we need to fight against these proposed cuts to family planning and Planned Parenthood in Congress. These attacks will not save money (Publicly supported family planning saves the government $3.74 for every dollar invested), they will not reduce the number of abortions in America, and they will not lead to money being redistributed to other health care providers. In fact, other clinics already fear the defunding of Planned Parenthood; afraid they cannot take up the slack. Instead, these attacks will leave millions of women and teen girls without a familiar, low-cost option to get tested for HIV and obtain support in maintaining a healthy, safe sex life.

Tell Congress that these attacks won’t fly. Tell them that family planning funding is important to fighting HIV/AIDS. Sign Planned Parenthood’s open letter.