AIDS activists push for $35 million from the state

BOSTON (WWLP) – It is a message no one is prepared to hear, but more than 20,000 people in Massachusetts have tested positive for HIV/AIDS.

“I didn’t ask to live with this illness, it just came to me. Nobody actually asks to be infected,” said Springfield’s Valdir Costa.

More than 4,000 people in the state are unaware they are infected. It is a disease that’s affecting people across the state, especially in the Pioneer Valley.

Tapestry Health’s Liz Whynott says “Springfield has one of the highest HIV rates in Massachusetts, as well as Holyoke. Holyoke and Springfield has one of the highest HIV rates.”

New infections have steadily declined over the past four years, but one group believes the state can do better. Members of “Project ABLE” gathered at the State House to push for $35 million in state funding – a three million dollar increase from last year. Project ABLE Coordinator Mary Ann Hart told 22News their goal “is to get people tested, and if they’re positive, to get them into early care.”

The group says the extra money would boost HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C prevention efforts and help those who have tested positive pay for treatment. It is now up to the Governor and state lawmakers whether they will get the full $35 million.

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