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HIV/AIDS advocates seek funding in tough times
HIV/AIDS advocates seek funding in tough times
by Liz Meyer - SGN Contributing Writer

With the Washington State Legislature facing nearly a $6 billion budget deficit this year, how will area lawmakers prioritize HIV/AIDS funding? Given the dire state of the local and national economic situation, perhaps the better question is this: "How much will they cut?"

Advocates from across the state may soon get a better indication of how this dynamic might play out. At the upcoming AIDS Awareness and Action Day in Olympia on February 18, both experienced lobbying heavyweights and relative newcomers to the sport aim to convince legislators not to skimp on crucial support services funding.

As it has done for several years, Lifelong AIDS Alliance will organize the event. Lifelong's website states, "Every two years, advocates from across Washington State gather in Olympia to educate state lawmakers about the need for HIV/AIDS prevention and care services in our state. & Let's make sure our elected officials in Olympia understand why our community can't afford to lose critical programs serving people living with and at risk for HIV/AIDS."

Katherine J. Kurlon, Marketing and Communication Coordinator for Lifelong, said, "Basically what happens is once we convene in Olympia, there's an opening ceremony where everyone gets squared away on the issues. Then, everyone from the different legislative districts meets with their congress members. So there are over 140 different appointments set up where advocates go to different congress members and talk to them about for about three to five minutes about the issues."

She estimated that 350 people will attend the event.

Of particular concern to Lifelong this year is preserving funding for its Chicken Soup Brigade, the food service program it provides.

"In 2007 Lifelong AIDS Alliance received $500,000 from 2007 Washington State legislature with a goal of studying the impact of Medical Nutrition Therapy on low-income people living with chronic illnesses, and providing healthful, disease appropriate food to individuals managing multiple diagnoses," states a Lifelong fact sheet. "This grant currently provides over 200 individuals in Snohomish, Kitsap, and Pierce counties with meals and/or groceries, while allowing Lifelong to monitor their health outcomes, and evaluate for potential Medicaid cost-savings of MNT services."

Other areas advocates may focus on during the day include ensuring access to life-saving medications.

Kurlon added that the tough economic climate only increases the difficulty of the task, saying she'd never seen a time during her tenure when funding was so difficult to secure.

"I think that everyone is really struggling with what's going on," said Kurlong. "But we have to try to continue to provide as many different services that we can."

Registration for the event was still open as of press time, but Lifelong asks that people RSVP by February 16, 2009 at 5:00 p.m. In addition to information posted on its website at llaa.org, Lifelong has also set up a blog strictly devoted to the AIDS Awareness and Action Day at aidsactionday.blogspot.com.

The events start at 9:30 a.m. at the Capitol Building and United Churches in Olympia.

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