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WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden’s official budget proposal for the coming fiscal year increases funding levels for the fight against HIV / AIDS, prompting supporters to applaud the president’s pledge to increase public spending for deal with the national epidemic, although one group criticizes the proposal for seeking to fund international programs flat.
The FY2022 proposal, unveiled last Friday, would provide an additional $ 246 million for national HIV testing, prevention and treatment programs for the Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative, which aims to end the HIV epidemic. HIV by 2030, and would also provide an overall boost of $ 46 million to Ryan White’s HIV / AIDS programs and $ 20 million to HUD’s Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS (HOPWA).
Carl Schmid, executive director of the HIV + Hepatitis Policy Institute, said in a statement that Biden was “demonstrating his commitment to ending HIV in the United States” in the budget request to Congress.
“Although it falls short of what is needed and the community has requested it, if this funding is achieved, it will build on the momentum already created and make further progress to end HIV in the United States. Efforts to end HIV will help eradicate an infectious disease that we have. has been fighting for 40 years and helping to correct racial and health inequalities in our country, ”Schmid said.
The total amount of $ 670 million requested by the White House for the End the HIV Epidemic initiative breaks down as follows:
- Centers for Disease Control & Prevention: $ 100 million in new money for a total of $ 275 million;
- Ryan White: $ 85 million in new money for a total of $ 190 million;
- Community health centers for PrEP: $ 50 million in new money for a total of $ 152 million;
- National Institutes of Health: $ 10 million in new money for a total of $ 26 million;
- Indian Health Services: $ 22 million in new money for a total of $ 27 million.
Counterintuitively, each of these numbers is actually lower than what Trump’s White House proposed in the previous administration’s final budget request, with the exception of the proposed increase in funds for health centers. communities for PrEP and stabilization of funds for Indian health services.
The requested increase in funds to end the HIV epidemic was expected. Biden had signaled he would seek additional funding of $ 267 million in the “meager budget” released by the White House in February that preceded the more formal and detailed request to Congress last week.
Biden is calling for increased funds after campaigning to end the domestic HIV epidemic by 2025, an ambitious goal that many HIV / AIDS advocates were skeptical of reaching.
Nick Armstrong, head of advocacy and government affairs at the AIDS Institute and co-chair of the AIDS Budget & Appropriations Coalition, said in a statement the time to scale up efforts against HIV has come as the nation emerges from the coronavirus pandemic.
“Public health departments have made Herculean efforts to fight COVID over the past year,” Armstrong said. “But now, it’s time to re-energize the neglected efforts to end the epidemics of HIV, opioids and viral hepatitis. Congress must go beyond what the President has proposed to strengthen our critical public health infrastructure to protect Americans from infectious disease. “
The budget now passes to Congress, which has the power to allocate or not allocate funds according to the president’s request. Congress could either respond, short-fund, or even exceed Biden’s demand in cash as part of this process.
Schmid told The Blade by email that he was optimistic that Congress would get agreement to increase funding to fight HIV / AIDS based on the “strong bipartisan support that the proposal received in the past.
“We still have work to do with Congress due to so many demands on the budget, but I’m pretty confident Congress will back it, they can’t wait to see what the Biden administration does with the program in its budget. and we have the answers now, “Schmid said.” The Biden-Harris administration strongly supports ending HIV. “
While Biden has been praised for increasing funding for national HIV programs, international programs are another matter. The White House has basically flat-funded programs designed to tackle the global HIV epidemic, including the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, or the Global AIDS Fund, tuberculosis and malaria.
Matthew Rose, director of US policy and advocacy at New York-based Health GAP, said in a statement that Biden’s budget proposal “shows a lack of bold leadership motivated to end the HIV pandemic.”
“If the United States had continued to fund PEPFAR in full since 2003 instead of letting funding levels drop to a flat line for more than a decade, the HIV pandemic would be remarkably different today,” Rose said. . “This is not a budget to end AIDS – and it could have been. This is not a budget to end the COVID-19 pandemic – and it could have been. The unacceptable lack of political will in recent years has created a world in which people cannot access the vital services they need. “
Health GAP calls on Congress to approve a budget with at least $ 750 million increase for PEPFAR and $ 2.5 billion in increased funding over the next four years to scale up HIV prevention and treatment and mitigate the damage to the HIV response by the COVID-19 pandemic, the statement said.
Additionally, Health GAP is calling on Biden to nominate “a highly qualified candidate” to serve as the US global AIDS coordinator, the statement said.