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 HARRISBURG, Pa., March 11 /PRNewswire/ -- Terming Pennsylvania's

response to the AIDS epidemic "a dereliction of responsibility and totally inadequate," people with AIDS and community AIDS activists from around the state today gathered in the Rotunda of the State Capitol, called for an $8,360,000 increase in Health Department funding for AIDS services, and mailed to Gov. Robert P. Casey and every state legislator a letter containing a detailed, comprehensive alternative budget proposal for those dollars.
 The letter called AIDS funding in the governor's proposed 1993 budget "inconceivable and unacceptable."
 "Even with the governor's proposed $925,000 increase next year, state Health Department AIDS funding has not come close to keeping pace with the epidemic in Pennsylvania," asserted Peg Dierkers, co-chair of the Pennsylvania Association of AIDS Service Organizations (PCASO) and executive director of the South Central AIDS Network.
 "To make matters worse," she added, "the bureau proposes new services to HIV-affected women and children which are funded with money taken from already strapped maternal and child health programs."
 "We have no intention of letting the state pit urgent needs of women and children against those of us who also fight for AIDS services," declared Dierkers.
 "The budget we propose will just barely enable many small, community-based services across the state to survive and provide critical help to people with AIDS," said Kerry Stoner, a PCASO member and executive director of the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force. "We're talking about saving human lives in a burgeoning epidemic."
 While state dollars for AIDS services and prevention have decreased in the last three years, the number of people with AIDS in the state has doubled.
 "More and more, these are poor people, people of color, people who already have problems getting adequate health care," said the Rev. James H. Littrell, executive director of The Philadelphia AIDS Consortium. "Now is not the time to let up the pressure. We have duties here that we can't ignore. And we can't do the job without the money, even with hundreds of volunteers fighting AIDS every day."
 Activists also urged allocating an additional $6 million to provide adequate support for the state's Special Pharmaceutical Benefits Program, administered by the Department of Welfare. The program pays for 14 drugs most often used in the treatment of AIDS-related illnesses for people with AIDS who could not otherwise afford the treatment.
 The program is allocated $1.4 million in new funds in the governor's proposed budget, but nine new drugs are simultaneously added to the list. Everyone agrees that proposed funding levels will carry the program for only three months.
 "$6 million is, minimally, what's needed to make this program effective," advocates claimed. "Again, our lives are at stake."
 "Most of us have been fighting the AIDS war for years. We will keep fighting, but we must have more help from the governor and the legislature to keep at it effectively."
 "We have just begun that battle," concluded Dierkers. "We call on the governor, the secretaries of Health and Welfare, and every legislator, to join us."
 -0- 3/11/92
 /CONTACT: Jim Litrell, 215-985-6200, or, home, 215-844-0813, or Kerry Stoner, 412-242-2500, or Peg Dierkers, 717-232-4797, all for PCASO/ CO: Pennsylvania Association of AIDS Service Organizations ST: Pennsylvania IN: SU:

MK-JS -- PH025 -- 7552 03/11/92 17:44 EST
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Mar 11, 1992

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