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6 AIDS activists arrested in Capitol protesting Cuomo’s budget

ALBANY — Six activists were arrested at the State Capitol Monday while urging Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to boost state spending dedicated to assisting those with AIDS and reducing the number of new cases.

About 150 AIDS and HIV activists parked themselves in a room just down the corridor from Cuomo’s office on the second floor of the State Capitol, reading aloud the names of 100,000 AIDS victims. They said Cuomo last year promised $200 million in state funding, but his office later clarified it would be paid over five years. Activists want $70 million included in this year’s budget, especially for housing assistance.

Cuomo has proposed adding $10 million in new funding for AIDS/HIV, although his office says the budget proposal includes $2.5 billion a year it spends to combat AIDS.

“We want to send the message that we need a significant investment to eliminate homelessness and housing insecurity for people living with HIV to reach our 2020 goal,” said Jason Walker, an HIV organizer with VOCAL-NY of Brooklyn.

Volunteers planned to return to the room at 7 a.m. Tuesday. About 25 had planned to stay overnight. The six were arrested for remaining in the building after its 7 p.m. close. .

The governor’s budget is due Thursday at midnight.

Cuomo has said his plan aims to reduce infections to 750 per year by 2020, down from 3,200 cases in 2013. It includes expanded testing and treatment, as well as increased housing and services.

“No one is more committed to ending HIV/AIDS than Gov. Cuomo, who with a $2.5 billion annual investment, has made New York State a national leader by pledging to end the epidemic by 2020 and providing quality support services to those impacted by the disease,” Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said in an email. “The budget process is ongoing and the governor looks forward to productive discussions with both houses as we address a variety of issues including the End AIDS initiative.”

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