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State Budget Cuts Potentially Deadly For Some North Texans

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A researcher extracts DNA from samples for AIDS vaccine testing. (credit: Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

A researcher extracts DNA from samples for AIDS vaccine testing. (credit: Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Steve Pickett
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CBS DFW (con't)

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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Final numbers on the state budget are still being worked out but one of the thousands of programs that’ll be slashed by lawmakers will be funding to the state health department.

Lawmakers have rejected the department’s request for $20 million to help thousands of people with HIV and AIDS get free prescriptions.

The denial will have a far-ranging impact, since Texas is one of four states where AIDS numbers are increasing fastest.

In fact, Dallas County is at the top of the list for our state. There are 14,000 men, women and children infected in that county alone and more than 23,000 overall in North Texas.

The cuts to health department funding are not only hard to deal with — they’re potentially deadly.

As it stands, Parkland Hospital is already the primary source of medical care for Dallas County’s poorest residents.

Now, the health and human services director for the county believes there could be a negative HIV/AIDS health onslaught heading Parkland’s way. “Any cuts in funding to the Texas medication program is going to be devastating on Dallas County residents living with AIDS,” explained Dr. Zachary Thompson. “We’re going to see people get sicker.”

Agencies like the Resource Center of Dallas assist AIDS and HIV-positive clients with access to the lifesaving medication. They are medicines that would cost thousands of dollars, per prescription, without government aid.

“The quality of their health will suffer, if they are not on these lifesaving medications,” explained Rafael McDonnell, with Resource Center Dallas. “This particular funding is needed, it’s life sustaining medication. So Texas must step up and do the right thing, as it relates to those with AIDS.”

As a medical alternative state lawmakers have outlined federal assistance — Medicaid. Dr. Thompson says that just means get in line at Parkland, and wait like thousands of others.

The AIDS and HIV medications in question are known “anti-retroviral drugs”. Some lawmakers have said Texas has an adequate supply of the medicine, without spending more money.

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