The ongoing international economic crisis intensifies fate's cruelest judgments.

That is certainly the case here in Massachusetts, where state funding for battling HIV and viral hepatitis has been cut by $5 million over the last five years.

Adding injury to insult, the federal government — held hostage by the most radical wing of the Republican party — has slashed funds for HIV education and prevention by a punishing 25 percent.

It is no use shaking our heads in wonder or shedding tears of frustration. These are the facts on the ground, and people who care about curtailing the spread of HIV and AIDS and providing dignified support for those afflicted must recommit.

Since 1999, the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts, the Bay State's leading provider of prevention and wellness services to people vulnerable to HIV infection, has helped reduce the number of new diagnoses here by 54 percent.

That's an undeniable achievement. And it is made even more impressive when one realizes that this results in health-care savings of more than $2 billion in the commonwealth.

Today, there are approximately 25,000 people living with HIV in Massachusetts. Perhaps as many as 7000 of these people — mothers, fathers, children, brothers, sisters, friends — are unaware of their disease.

The earlier these folks can be diagnosed and treated, the longer their lives will be. This is more than a matter of caring. It is a matter of hard dollars. The earlier a patient is identified, the lower the cost of his or her treatment will be.

In the battle to make this a reality, AIDS Action this year made a real breakthrough. It helped push through Beacon Hill a bill that makes HIV testing easier by modernizing Massachusetts's consent laws.

There is a very simple and concrete way to help AIDS Action continue its vital work: join or contribute to the 27th annual AIDS Walk, which organizes this Sunday, June 3, at the Hatch Memorial Shell on the Charles River Esplanade. Your efforts will compound and reap solid rewards.

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  Topics: The Editorial Page , Politics, fundraiser, AIDS Walk
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