Proposed cuts to HIV programs would make ending HIV epidemic more difficult


Proposed cuts to HIV programs would make ending HIV epidemic more difficult
AIDS United VP: ‘The HIV community will not tolerate these cuts’

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WASHINGTON — The Republican-led Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee released Thursday its proposed bill covering fiscal year 2024.

The proposal would cut nearly $500 million to programs that are ending the HIV epidemic. These cuts are spread across multiple programs, including, $238.5 million from the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, $226 million from the National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and $32 million from the Minority HIV/AIDS Fund.

The cuts are part of larger cuts to the CDC (an 18% cut), the Department of Health and Human Services (a 12% cut) and the National Institutes of Health (an 8% cut). 

Carl Baloney Jr., AIDS United’s vice president for policy and public affairs, criticized the proposal, saying: 

In the last decade, under Presidents Obama, Trump and Biden, we have made great strides toward ending the HIV epidemic. Indeed, for the last 30 years, efforts to end the HIV epidemic have found support among Republicans and Democrats alike. The proposal released today is a significant departure from that. 

Trump introduced the Ending the HIV Epidemic Initiative in 2019, and Biden has continued and strengthened the program. The initiative was a major step forward in coordinating the various federal efforts to end the epidemic and has enjoyed broad bipartisan support in the same way the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program has. Republicans today propose to gut that program and severely hamper the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program’s ability to provide care for people living with HIV. Do Republicans in Congress really want to undo that part of Trump’s legacy and over three decades of bipartisan cooperation? 

But what’s more important than the impact on Trump’s legacy or the departure from bipartisanship, is how this proposal is an attack on people living with and vulnerable to HIV. These cuts would ruin lives. People living with HIV would lose health care. Without proper treatment and care, people living with HIV would not be able to reach and maintain an undetectable viral load — a important indicator of health, and also a critical tool to prevent the spread of HIV as someone with an undetectable viral load cannot pass the virus along to anyone. 

This budget proposal would also completely zero out funding for Part F of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, including the AIDS Education and Training Center program that is responsible for training health care professionals like doctors, nurses and pharmacists on HIV prevention and treatment strategies. I cannot overstate how badly the elimination of support for Part F of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program would be to the HIV workforce. These draconian and shortsighted cuts would be devastating and would set us back years in our fight to end the HIV epidemic. 

And from the very earliest days of HIV, the virus has been a disease of inequality. Black and Brown communities have always been hardest hit by the epidemic. We must invest in projects led by and serving people of color. That’s why the Republican-controlled Congress created the Minority AIDS Initiative in 1998. It is shocking that Republicans are now seeking to slash funding for the Minority HIV/AIDS Funds in half and completely remove funding for Minority AIDS Initiative programs within the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

These cuts are all part of a larger agenda of dismantling our public health system. This system is fragile and needs many more investments. These cuts would make people sicker and increase the number of HIV transmissions. 

These cuts are egregious and unacceptable. The HIV community will not tolerate these cuts.

AIDS United’s mission is to end the HIV epidemic in the U.S. through strategic grant-making, capacity building and policy. AIDS United works to ensure access to life-saving HIV care and prevention services and to advance sound HIV-related policy for populations and communities most impacted by the U.S. epidemic As of January 2021, our strategic grant-making initiatives have directly funded more than $118 million to local communities, and we have leveraged more than $184 million in additional investments for programs that include, but are not limited to, syringe access, access to care, capacity-building, HIV prevention and advocacy.