LGBT groups react to N.C. Rep. Larry Brown’s comments about HIV/AIDS funding
The Human Rights campaign, the largest LGBT-rights group in the country, reacted to comments by North Carolina state Rep. Larry Brown, a Republican from Forsyth County, by asking Brown to apologize for his saying many currently living with HIV/AIDS should not get government funding for treatment.
Brown, speaking with the Winston-Salem Journal about the upcoming legislative session, said those “living in perverted lifestyles” shouldn’t get government funding for HIV or AIDS treatment. Brown said he isn’t opposed to helping children with HIV, but those who have “caused it by the way they live” shouldn’t rely on the government.
HRC President Joe Solmonese said in a statement, “Hysterical, judgmental and inaccurate statements like Brown’s create an environment that prevents many from getting tested and seeking treatment, thereby furthering the spread of HIV and AIDS.” Solomonese also added, “Larry Brown’s views are out of line with the fair-minded people of North Carolina,” and Brown’s comments do put him out of step with some of his Republican colleagues.
Ian Palmquist, Equality NC’s executive director said, “These comments are completely unacceptable.” But he also underscored the tension among Republicans on this issue. “Larry Brown is out of touch with the people of North Carolina, who strongly support programs to care for the most vulnerable among us, and he’s out of step with his own party.”
Bill McGee, a Republican representative also from Forsyth County, said to the Winston-Salem Journal that, “People who are sick need care.”
“While I may not agree with the lifestyles which contribute to the sickness taking place, if a person is sick and has no recourse or any way to get help other than being on some program, then perhaps we will have to do that,” McGee added.
U.S. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) has advocated in the past for continued funding of the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP). In late 2009, Burr said, “The compassionate thing to do is to make sure people get the medications they need. But if you look at it from a budgetary standpoint, it’s much more cost effective to provide medication than it is to treat the devastating effects for individuals who don’t receive treatment.”
Funding for the North Carolina AIDS Drug Assistance Program relies on state and federal money, as well as price reductions on drugs from pharmaceutical companies, to provide low-income patients with HIV medication. The North Carolina state budget passed in July 2010 with an additional $14.1 million in funding for the state’s ADAP. With the state facing a $3.7 billion budget shortfall and a new Republican majority in the General Assembly, maintaining adequate levels of funding for the state’s ADAP may prove difficult.
The average cost per enrollee in ADAP annually is $7,700. But as of January 6, 2011, 99 people in North Carolina were on the waiting list, as there is not enough funding to provide medication to everyone that qualifies for assistance. New applicants between 126 and 300 percent of the federal poverty level are added to that list as they apply.