House spending bills have increased HIV-related funding, but is complicated

The House of Representatives passed several spending bills late last week. These bills included increased funding for HIV-related programs.

But the modest funding increases by the House were not exactly what HIV advocates were hoping for.

“It’s complicated,” as the headline of a Washington Blade article says.

It’s complicated because limits on domestic spending, called discretionary budget caps, put a ceiling on the total amount of money available to programs. These arbitrary restraints put valuable public health programs in competition with each other.

This is the wrong way to fund public health infrastructure.

In a statement issued last week, the Partnership to End the HIV, STD and Hepatitis Epidemics, of which AIDS United is a member, said,

“While we appreciate the increased funding levels, discretionary budget caps are preventing these programs from receiving the funding necessary to truly end the HIV, STD and Hepatitis epidemics. We urge Congressional leaders to ensure that vital public health funding is not strangled by arbitrary caps on public spending. As has been amply demonstrated by the COVID-19 pandemic, public health programs are as crucial to the protection of our nation as the many national defense programs that are exempted from budgetary caps. More must be done as we continue to combat COVID-19 and build a public health system that addresses the needs of all Americans, not a privileged few.”

The bills, passed by the House, now head over to the Senate. The measure faces an uphill battle in that chamber. The White House has also signaled that the president would veto the bill in its current form. HIV advocates will continue to fight for more resources to end the HIV epidemic and final funding measure.