President's FY09 Budget - A Disaster for Domestic AIDS: Congress Must Fund Critical Healthcare Priorities

Feb 04, 2008, 00:00 ET from The AIDS Institute

    WASHINGTON, Feb. 4 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- "Congress must reject
 President Bush's Fiscal Year 2009 budget in order to address the critical
 health needs of the over 1.1 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the
 United States," commented Dr. Gene Copello, Executive Director of The AIDS
 Institute. "Most of the people who rely on these government programs for
 their healthcare and medicines are very poor and from minority communities.
 As the richest nation in the world, we can't turn our backs on them. The
 budget the President has recommended ignores our Nation's healthcare
 priorities and must be rejected."
     "We must also turn to the Congress to increase HIV prevention funding
 at the CDC. At the same time the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control
 (CDC) is about to release higher HIV incidence numbers for the U.S., and is
 embarking on increasing HIV testing and case finding programs, the
 President is proposing to cut HIV prevention programs," Copello continued.
     "It is appalling that the President is recommending a measly $1 million
 or .004% increase for the Ryan White CARE Act, which provides healthcare
 and medications for low-income people living with HIV/AIDS," added Copello.
 "This does not even keep up with inflation, let alone take in account that
 more people need services due to new infections, new testing initiatives,
 and people are living longer. We will now have to turn to the Congress to
 adequately fund HIV/AIDS care and treatment."
     Many parts of the Ryan White program have faced cuts in recent years
 despite the growing demand. For the current year, HIV/AIDS funding for
 state health departments was cut by $19 million at the same time state
 budgets are being stretched due to the economic downturn. The President is
 proposing an increase of only $6 million for the AIDS Drug Assistance
 Program (ADAP) which provides lifesaving medications. This does not come
 close to the anticipated needed increase of $133 million. Despite this
 minor increase, he is proposing cuts to other parts of the Ryan White
     While the President is proposing to flat fund CDC HIV/AIDS programs
 overall, he is cutting HIV prevention programs by $40 million and putting
 those funds into HIV testing. "While we need additional money for testing
 it should not come at the expense of HIV prevention," commented Carl
 Schmid, Director of Federal Affairs for The AIDS Institute. "Additionally,
 the President is continuing to propose increases for failed and
 scientifically invalid abstinence-only until marriage programs, which is
 slated to receive a $28 million increase. "We call on the Congress to
 correct these injustices," added Schmid.
     The President's budget also flat funds HUD's Housing Opportunities for
 Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) program and NIH research. HOWPA assists
 individuals and families who are homeless or in threat of homelessness and
 living with HIV/AIDS. NIH funding increases are desperately needed so we
 can find new therapeutics and prevention strategies, including a vaccine
 and microbicides.
     "The AIDS Institute is also deeply concerned with the startling $200
 billion proposal to reduce Medicare and Medicaid over the next five years,"
 added Schmid. "As the two largest healthcare programs for people with
 HIV/AIDS, we will work very hard in the Congress to defeat any reduction
 that harms beneficiaries."
     The President renewed his pledge to fight the global pandemics of
 HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria by calling on Congress to authorize
 $4.79 billion for the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
 This represents a 3% increase over the funding level enacted in FY 2008.
 This landmark initiative, begun in earnest in 2004, has witnessed
 phenomenal successes such as providing life-saving retroviral treatment for
 approximately 1.45 million men, women, and children in the 15 focus
 countries. It has also provided care for more than 6.6 million people,
 including care for more than 2.7 million orphans and vulnerable children.
 To keep pace with the scale up of programs and services, as well as
 reassure the leadership of the countries where this program has made a
 significant impact on the lives of the people, Congress must continue to
 fund this program at levels that will sustain the efforts and achieve the
 desired outcomes.
     Copello concluded: "While the President's FY 2009 budget carries good
 news for addressing the global pandemic, it is terribly inadequate to
 address the epidemic in our own backyard. Following a trend now for several
 years, this budget will only further destabilize the prevention of HIV and
 the care and treatment of people living with HIV/AIDS in our own country.
 The AIDS Institute supports and applauds efforts to curb HIV/AIDS
 worldwide. However, we must see a new commitment and real leadership in
 stopping the epidemic in the United States as well.
     For more information and to become involved in AIDS advocacy work,
 please contact The AIDS Institute at: (202) 835-8373, or by email at: or
     The AIDS Institute is a national nonprofit agency that promotes action
 for social change through public policy research, advocacy and education.

SOURCE The AIDS Institute