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IPS Explores What Efforts to Reduce U.S. Federal Deficit Could Mean for Global Health Funding

November 18, 2010

Inter Press Service explores some advocates' concerns over how the "new emphasis in Washington on reducing government spending" could affect U.S. funding for global health programs, including HIV/AIDS. Come January, "Republicans will take control of the U.S. House of Representatives and have made it clear that reducing government spending in order to close the government's budget deficit will be a top priority," the news service writes.

Among the proposals outlined in the House Republican's agenda released in September "was reducing so-called non-security-related spending for fiscal year 2011 to fiscal year 2008 levels, meaning this spending would be 21.7 percent below what President Barack Obama has requested. And the preliminary recommendations from a panel commissioned by Obama to look at ways of reducing the federal budget deficit includes cuts to a foreign aid budget many NGOs say is already too small," IPS reports.

"It is far from clear how many of these proposals will succeed in getting implemented, nor how spending cuts would be distributed across programmes, but it is widely expected that there would be steep cuts to HIV/AIDS programmes and research -- as well as other areas of global health and foreign assistance funding" -- at a time HIV/AIDS advocates argue funding in the global fight is needed more than ever, IPS writes. The article notes that while "the U.S. lags behind many European countries in terms of global health contributions as a proportion of GDP, it remains the single largest funder of health assistance to developing countries."

"If budget deficit-wary U.S. policymakers get their way in Washington, it could have a devastating impact on progress being made against HIV/AIDS both domestically and abroad, warns Chris Collins, vice president and director of public policy at the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amFAR)," which last week released a report (.pdf) detailing how the reductions in non-security-related spending proposed by House Republicans' in their "Pledge to America" agenda would impact the U.S. domestic and global response to HIV/AIDS (Berger, 11/17). According to the amFAR report, "[g]lobal HIV/AIDS discretionary programs will be cut by 13.1% (from $6.74 billion to $5.86 billion)" and "a return to FY2008 funding levels will reduce bilateral HIV/AIDS investments by 12.4%, from $5.74 billion to $5.03 billion and could result in a need to remove people who are already receiving treatment," a press release states (11/9).

Inter Press Service adds that next year, "[f]oreign aid is expected to be one of the first areas targeted by policy-makers looking to shave dollars off the government's budget deficit, but Collins thinks that strategy is short-sighted."

"You really don't solve the budget problem by taking money from foreign assistance. There just isn't enough funding in there right now to make a difference in the deficit," he said, while also pointing out the "'bang for our buck' that global health investments bring in accomplishing humanitarian as well as diplomatic and security goals" (11/17).

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