(EDGE) The House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee approved its Fiscal Year 2017 funding bill on July 7 that maintains funding for domestic HIV programs. However, the bill includes several extreme partisan cuts to critical programs that impact people with HIV and help reduce new infections, including the Affordable Care Act and sexual health programs. The bill also provides no increases for hepatitis prevention programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
"The AIDS Institute thanks the leadership of the House Subcommittee for maintaining their support of domestic HIV and hepatitis prevention, care, treatment, and research programs," commented Carl Schmid, Deputy Executive Director of The AIDS Institute. "We realize the Subcommittee had to craft a bill with less money available than current spending levels and targeted increases in certain areas, such as medical research and the opioid epidemic. However, we are deeply disappointed in the proposed cuts and will advocate that they be restored."
Funding for the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, including the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), is maintained at $2.3 billion. The Ryan White Program provides medications, medical care, and essential coverage completion services to approximately 512,000 low-income, uninsured, and underinsured individuals with HIV. The AIDS Institute is pleased the Subcommittee again rejected a proposal in the President's budget that would have moved funding for Part D of the Program, which serves women, infants, children, and youth, to Part C.
The House bill maintains $789 million for HIV prevention at the CDC, including the Division of Adolescent and School Health. There continues to be about 44,000 new HIV diagnoses each year, with a growing number of youth, particularly among young black gay men, being infected. Surprisingly, the Subcommittee is not allowing the CDC to move forward with its requested pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) demonstration project. The Administration proposed using $20 million of existing funding to allow health departments to spend a limited portion of their prevention funding on PrEP and associated services, which has been proven to reduce the chances of HIV infection by up to 92 percent.
The Subcommittee is proposing to maintain CDC Hepatitis Prevention funding at only $34 million for the entire country. There are nearly 55,000 new hepatitis transmissions each year, and the CDC estimates that between 2010 and 2013 the country saw an increase of more than 150 percent in new infections. Of the nearly 5.3 million people living with hepatitis B and/or hepatitis C in the U.S., as many as 65 percent are not aware of their infection. Viral hepatitis remains the leading cause of liver cancer, and the number of deaths attributed to hepatitis C now surpasses the number of deaths associated with all 61 notifiable infectious diseases combined.
"The AIDS Institute is disappointed that the House is not increasing our nation's investment in hepatitis prevention given the magnitude of the number of infections and the need for increased surveillance, testing, and education," commented Michael Ruppal, Executive Director of The AIDS Institute. "As the bill progresses through the Congress, it is our hope that this is one area where increased resources will be prioritized."
In a significant positive development, the Subcommittee increased medical research funding at the National Institutes of Health by $1.25 billion. The AIDS Institute trusts that some of that increase will be dedicated to AIDS research. Increased resources are needed to conduct research on an AIDS vaccine, new prevention and treatment technologies, and an eventual cure that will benefit not only the U.S. but the entire world as we seek to end AIDS.
Language that allows federal funding of ancillary services that support syringe exchange programs in areas experiencing increased HIV or hepatitis C infections due to injection drug use is maintained.
The Subcommittee has proposed to defund many elements of the Affordable Care Act, which is currently providing health care to millions, including many with HIV and hepatitis who in the past could not access health insurance. The bill would totally cut the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program and Title X Family Planning services. Disappointedly, the House is proposing to double funding for failed abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.
The full House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to consider the bill on July 13th. Last month, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed their version of the bill on a bipartisan basis.
For more information, visit www.TheAIDSInstitute.org