February 2, 2010
Given the spending freeze for many domestic programs, we applaud the President for sustaining and enhancing funding for programs that play a key role in the nation's response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the United States. But minimal funding increases proposed for many of these important efforts will leave HIV prevention and medical programs and clinics across the country struggling to meet the demand for care.
Similar modest proposed increases to address HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis around the world, through the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and other programs, are welcome, but unfortunately fall short matched against the scope of these twin global health threats, which claim a combined 10,000 lives a day.
The growing demand for HIV care in the United States underscores the need for health care reform, and we strongly support the President's commitment to expand access to affordable, comprehensive insurance coverage for everyone. Until such reforms are in place, however, it is absolutely vital for the Ryan White program to be funded at levels to ensure we can continue to care for our current HIV patients and patients newly diagnosed through routine HIV testing and outreach programs. We appreciate the proposed $40 million total increase for the Ryan White program but are concerned with growing state budget cuts and increased demand for care that we will fall short in our ability to serve our uninsured or underinsured patients.
The proposed increase of $5 million for Part C of the Ryan White program is a step in the right direction, but clinics that are funded by Ryan White have seen a dramatic increase in HIV patients over the last several years while funding remained virtually stagnant. Clinics across the country have cut services, reduced their hours, and laid off staff. The fraying of the HIV safety net will accelerate without necessary funding increases.
We applaud the President's proposed increase of $31 million in funding for HIV prevention and surveillance at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including a new initiative targeting the gay and bisexual population. With new HIV cases increasing by 15 percent from 2004 to 2007, a sustained commitment of federal funds to implement routine HIV screening and support prevention programs targeted at the populations most heavily affected is urgently needed.
Effective prevention is key to addressing the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and it is positive news that the President's budget supports federal funding for syringe exchange programs as passed by Congress last year. Needle exchange interventions are a proven way to reduce HIV transmission, but it will be critical to support this policy change with federal funding to support the expansion of these programs.
The President's continued investment in biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is welcome and needed. We supported and appreciated the infusion of NIH funds through the economic recovery legislation. It is critical that this level of funding is maintained and enhanced to sustain our research capacity or we risk losing ground in our battle against this deadly disease.
We are excited about the development and launching of the President's long-awaited National HIV/AIDS Strategy, and hope that this important initiative will be supported with the resources necessary to effectively fight the pandemic. We look forward to working with Congress to build on the administration's budget proposals so that we can take greater strides in reducing the impact of HIV disease here at home and abroad.