By Cassandra Bent
Crowded with over 300 people, Project ABLE’s annual Lobby Day was held January 28, 2010 at the State House on the Grand Staircase.
Project ABLE stands for Aids Budget Legislative Effort. Project ABLE, “protects the availability of services” for those living with HIV/AIDS, increases their network of allies to advocate for the needs of their community, and “secures and improves the community-based service network caring for 15,000 people living with HIV in Massachusetts for over 15 years.”
The annual Lobby Day is a chance for those living with HIV/AIDS and the people who provide services to “advocate for state funding to sustain HIV/AIDS treatment and social services.” The event was described as, “The best Lobby Day EVER,” in an article on Project ABLE’s website.
Along with about 50 BLC members, The Boston Living Center’s Development Coordinator, Julia Renalds, attended this event.
With tours, State House employees, and other visitors walking past, “You really felt that you had an impact,” said Julia.
This years lobby day was BLC member Kevin’s first time and he said it was a good experience and that he plans to attend again next year. “It’s important that we need more funding,” said Kevin.
His favorite portion of Lobby Day was when Representative Gloria Fox gave her speech. She encouraged people to talk to their legislators and make their opinions heard. Kevin described her as “very enthusiastic.” Rep. Fox’s speech was also one of Julia’s favorite parts of the day. She said Representative Fox’s voice was “booming” and that the speech was very “powerful.”
Another notable speech was the one given by Senate President Therese Murray, because it is not often that the Senate President speaks at Lobby Day.
As the number of people with HIV/AIDS is increasing, the funding is steadily declining, and Lobby Day addressed the budget issue for HIV/AIDS services in Massachusetts.
Between 1999 and 2008 the number of people living with HIV/AIDS increased by 42%, according to the Massachusetts government website. However, there was 2.1 million dollars in lost funding over the Fiscal Year 09-10, according to State Representative Carl Sciortino’s website. Sciortino was also a speaker at Lobby Day.
More prevention education and outreach programs are in danger of being cut, according to a Boston Globe article.
According to this article, Project ABLE is urging the state to provide more funding for multiple reasons. One reason is that Project ABLE is looking to make sure that all county houses of correction “have the full array of HIV/AIDS services.”
Also, more funding is needed for programs that help those living with HIV/AIDS to disclose this information to their partners, and get referrals for testing.
Another one of the many reasons Project ABLE is seeking more funding is “for state-supported services, from meals to transportation.”
And it is not just those living with HIV/AIDS that want the budget to be increased. For example, a BLC marathon member attended Lobby Day and wanted to speak with her legislator afterward about increasing funding for HIV/AIDS services in Massachusetts.
Project ABLE will be testifying at a public hearing on March 5th in front of The House and Senate Ways and Means Committee. Before this occurs, there are ways you can help.
Contact your state representative and ask to “support maintenance of the HIV/AIDS funding at 35.4 million.” For more information visit the Project ABLE website.