LGBTQ Agenda: GOP subcommittee proposes cutting all Ending the HIV Epidemic funding

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Tuesday July 25, 2023
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HIV/AIDS advocates are concerned about a proposal from House Republicans that would cut $220 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention budget. Photo: Courtesy National Park Service<br>
HIV/AIDS advocates are concerned about a proposal from House Republicans that would cut $220 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention budget. Photo: Courtesy National Park Service

Even though it was announced under former President Donald Trump (R), House Republicans have proposed cutting all $220 million in funding for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's portion for the Ending the HIV Epidemic program.

The move would devastate public health infrastructure across the country, even in California, advocates warn, though the measure is unlikely to survive a vote in the Democratically-controlled U.S. Senate.

"These are devastating proposed cuts that, if enacted, would challenge the public health infrastructure of California and states across the U.S.," Tyler TerMeer, Ph.D., a gay Black man who's CEO of San Francisco AIDS Foundation, stated in a news release. "They would cause irreparable harm to HIV prevention, treatment, and care, and would take away critical services for the HIV community including substance use support and treatment, and mental health services.

"As SFAF continues to make progress on ending the HIV and AIDS epidemic with innovative services and culturally-informed care, we will continue to fight back against politically-motivated attacks on our communities and to fight against cuts to necessary care," he added.

The Ending the HIV Epidemic program was first announced in 2019. Trump touted it in his 2020 State of the Union address, stating, "we will eradicate the AIDS epidemic in America by the end of the decade."

And indeed the plan seeks to reduce the number of new HIV infections in the U.S. by 90% by 2030 for an estimated 250,000 total HIV infections averted. It has been continued by the Biden administration.

The proposed cut is among several that the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee proposed that target the continuum of HIV/AIDS prevention and care funded by the federal government.

The subcommittee's Republicans stated that the proposed budget reduction "protects life and reprioritizes funding to address the needs of the most vulnerable."

If the subcommittee's bill became law, the budget for the CDC National Center on HIV, Hepatitis, STDs, and Tuberculosis would be reduced by $226 million, the Minority HIV/AIDS Fund would be cut by $32 million, the Ryan White CARE Program would be cut by $238 million, and the National Institutes of Health would be cut by $3.8 billion.

Overall, the CDC would see an 18% cut and the entire Department of Health and Human Services would see a 12% cut. Over a quarter of total funding for the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, as well as related agencies, would be cut — bringing it to its lowest allocation since 2008.

Connecticut Congressmember Rosa DeLauro, the ranking Democratic member of the appropriations committee, stated that she was "horrified."

"Regardless of age or stage in life, this bill means you cannot count on government for any help," she stated in a news release. "It limits women's access to abortion while stripping maternal health services and making diapers more expensive. It decimates access to preschool, education, and job training. People can only hope they do not get cancer or need mental health services — you will not find support from House Republicans. These awful cuts will make it very hard for people and should not even be considered by this committee."

The Ending the HIV Epidemic's plan has never been fully funded by Congress, but nonetheless it has resulted in 140,000 self-HIV test kits, 600,000 other HIV tests, and over 44,000 PrEP prescriptions in the past two years, according to the HIV+Hepatitis Policy Institute.

"While we appreciate the sustained funding for many domestic HIV and hepatitis programs, we are devastated by the proposal to virtually eliminate the Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative," Carl Schmid, the executive director of the HIV+Hepatitis Policy Institute, stated in a release.

"We were on a trajectory to end HIV by ensuring all people have access to care and treatment, and prevent new infections through increasing access to PrEP, but now all those efforts will be lost. This bill cannot stand as is," he stated.

Further, over 22,000 people have been engaged or reengaged into care, and over 52,000 people have received PrEP in Ending the HIV Epidemic-funded community health centers, the institute stated.

Ernest Hopkins, the senior strategist and adviser for the AIDS foundation, stated that California's federal representatives should seek to protect the health of people in the Golden State.

"SFAF, in coalition with other HIV and AIDS organizations across the nation, strongly oppose these proposed budget cuts, and urge our state's senators to take action in order to ensure that these cuts do not harm the public health HIV infrastructure of California," Hopkins stated, referring to Democratic U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla.

"We cannot stand by as our communities are targeted and as life-saving government support is cast aside," Hopkins added. "These proposed changes would harm our most vulnerable residents, and would undue years of progress that we have made in reaching an end to the HIV epidemic."

Almost 140,000 Californians are living with HIV infection, out of about 1.2 million people nationally. California ranks No. 10 in the U.S. in HIV infection rates.

Funding cuts would need to pass the House and Senate before making it to President Joe Biden's desk.

LGBTQ Agenda is an online column that appears weekly. Got a tip on queer news? Contact John Ferrannini at [email protected]

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