PRESS RELEASE: OVER 150 HIV ORGANIZATIONS DENOUNCE DRASTIC CUTS TO DOMESTIC FUNDING AND THREATS TO GLOBAL CARE AND PREVENTION
For Immediate Release
Media Inquiries: Michael Chancley, Michael@PrEP4All.org,
Washington DC– On Tuesday, September 5th, global and national HIV organizations held a press conference at the US Capitol to denounce catastrophic domestic HIV funding cuts proposed by the US House of Representatives and threats to global HIV funding. Advocates urged members of Congress to support and expand upon the FY2024 domestic HIV funding levels proposed by the bipartisan Senate LHHS appropriations subcommittee. They also called on Congress to pass a clean, five-year reauthorization of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, commonly known as PEPFAR, which has provided a bedrock for US global HIV/AIDS support since President George W. Bush launched it in 2003. The program has faced unprecedented threats despite being credited with saving over 25 million lives and moving the worldtoward an HIV-free generation by preventing over 5.5 million babies from being born with HIV.
“Arbitrarily dismantling domestic and global HIV funding is not only cruel; it is costly to the US. Domestic HIV funding is a smart investment; every new case of HIV in the US leads to over $500,000 in lifetime healthcare costs,” stated Jeremiah Johnson, Executive Director of PrEP4All, a primary organizer of the press conference. “These are incredibly successful programs that are saving lives and saving costs by averting new infections. PEPFAR has served as an important bridge between the US and over 50 nations worldwide. Throwing all of that away to make short term, nonstrategic, misguided political points about government spending or partisan politics would needlessly undercut long standing, bipartisan public health victories.”
“Due to the federal commitment to combatting the HIV epidemic over the last 40 years, we now have the tools to end the HIV epidemic.” stated Congresswoman Barbara Lee in a statement drafted for the press conference. “This is the moment when Congress must double down on its efforts and find the political will to increase the national and international HIV/AIDS response. We must step up our commitment to fund research, and direct services to truly end the HIV epidemic.”
Advocates were shocked in July when the House LHHS appropriations subcommittee proposed slashing $767M in HIV funding for fiscal year 2024, including eliminating funds specifically designated for the bipartisan Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative. At the same time PEPFAR, which is set to expire on September 30th, has become paralyzed by partisan politics.
A letter signed by 150 Executive Directors of HIV organizations argues that allowing these drastic cuts to occur would be particularly devastating as these investments are on the verge of significant, and long sought victories. US funded research has driven forward the advent of effective biomedical interventions, including pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV acquisition and highly effective treatment for HIV that research confirms stops HIV sexual transmission for people living with HIV who achieve an undetectable viral load. That research, combined with global and domestic investments in services for people living with HIV, has resulted in treatment access for well over 20 million individuals, including at least half a million Americans living with HIV who receive support annually. Domestic HIV prevention efforts have accelerated with President Barack Obama’s establishment of the first National HIV/AIDS Strategy in 2010 and the announcement of the Ending the HIV Epidemic (EHE) initiative by President Donald Trump in 2019, resulting in a 16% reduction in new HIV infections since 2017 in America’s most highly affected jurisdictions. US funded initiatives are on the edge of bringing the epidemic under control for all American communities and for communities around the world.
“If PEPFAR isn’t reauthorized, we could lose millions of people who rely on PEPFAR for life saving medication, including my adopted children. We would also see rising HIV infections caused by the elimination of prevention programs including babies born with HIV because prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT) initiatives are discontinued,” explained Pauline Muchina a speaker from the Advocacy Network for Africa. “Members of Congress must not use the bipartisan PEPFAR program to play politics while worsening the epidemic throughout the world including in the U.S., risking the health of millions and condemning millions to death.”
‘When we’ve come so far in our efforts to end HIV, we can’t turn back progress, especially when it means we will continue to leave Black people behind.” explained Raniyah Copeland, Founder of Equity & Impact Solutions. “The CDC estimates 91% of Black Americans who need PrEP aren’t getting it. We need to continue to blaze forward to end this disease that has ravaged our world for more than 40 years. We canend HIV, but we can’t let this opportunity fall into bipartisan fighting. We need HIV funding from Congress NOW.”
“New York State has driven new infections down below the rate of all-cause mortality of people with HIV, proving that we can end HIV as an epidemic across this country and across the globe if we strategically apply the right resources.” explained Charles King, CEO of Housing Works. “But the proposed cuts to the domestic budget and one-year reauthorization of PEPFAR would make it impossible to achieve this goal. We are counting on the United States Senate to appropriate the full funding necessary and to insist on the same in conference.”
“Now is the time to strengthen rather than weaken our response to the HIVpandemic. Withdrawing much needed support for public health, biomedical research, HIV prevention and healthcare programs, will put our nation’s health and health security at risk and reverse critical gains made in responding to the HIV pandemic,” wrote Michelle Cespedes, MD, MS, Chair of the HIV Medicine Association in a separate statement. “HIVMA calls on Congress to sustain and grow investments in global and domestic HIV programs. These must include PEPFAR, all parts of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, the Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative, and infectious diseases research at the National Institutes of Health. If we are to end the HIV epidemic in the U.S., we also must expand access to the highly effective tools available to prevent HIV through a National PrEP Program.”
“As a black man living with and currently thriving with HIV, I am acutely aware of how these cuts to the funding of the Minority AIDS Initiative and all HIV funding will negatively impact the health equity of my fellow racial and ethnic minorities living with and affected by HIV.” said Malcolm Reid, Chair of the Policy Action Committee for the U.S. People Living With HIV Caucus. “Now is not the time to take our foot off the gas. We are making significant progress in testing, diagnosing, treating and preventing HIV.”