July 24, 2013

July 24, 2013
Facing Sequestration Senate Appropriates
Funding for HIV

Welcome to another day in my life. Today is Wednesday and we have almost made it through the middle of another work week. I hope you are having a beary safe and great week so far. It is another busy week for Dab the AIDS Bear and me.

Recently we were in Washington, DC meeting with our elected officials. One of the topics we discussed with them was the effect of the sequestration on HIV funding. So we have some great news about funding that has been allocated.

With sequestration cuts savaging federal funding for HIV prevention and care, the Senate Appropriations Committee on July 11 moved to pass legislation to keep the funding at 2013 levels, with an additional $51M for the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program. But some wonder what the cuts will do to HIV research programs, and services for young MSM of color.

Sequestration has devastated our nationís response to HIV at a time when we can least afford it. For the first time in three decades, science has provided us with the tools to realistically end this epidemic. But the climate of gridlock and budget cuts that continues to grip our nationís capital has left Americaís researchers, health care providers and outreach workers struggling to realize this vision. The Senate has recognized the importance of this collective effort and has demonstrated a strong commitment to achieving an AIDS-free generation.

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been stripped from funding for federal HIV/AIDS programs -- a move that provides small deficit reduction benefits, but has a serious and devastating effect on lives.

According to the amfAR brief "Estimating the Human Impact of Budget Sequestration on HIV/AIDS in the United States in Fiscal Year 2013," the cuts will cause 15,700 people to lose ADAP funding, 5,000 households with PLWHAs to lose housing, the equivalent of 460 AIDS research grants to be eliminated and major cuts in HIV prevention services.

Under the FY14 spending bill passed by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, HHS, Education and Related Agencies, funding for the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program would increase by $51 million over FY13 enacted levels. The Ryan White Program provides medical care, treatment and other services to 550,000 low-income people with HIV and has been struggling to keep up with growing patient loads.

The Senate Appropriations Committee would earmark $47M for additional ADAP (AIDS Drug Assistance Program) funding, which has seen funding shortfalls and waiting lists in recent years. The Committee has also included increases in funding for the National Institutes of Health, continued funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at last yearís levels and restored some funding stripped by sequestration cuts.

Estimates indicate that sequestration cuts would result in $64.7M in the CDCís HIV prevention programs, including $27.6M from HIV prevention and $2.4M from HIV adolescent and school health.

Since there was a dramatic loss of ADAP funding in FY13, the Obama Administration recently transferred $35 million in emergency funding to ADAP to ensure that patients currently on medications can continue to receive them. The Subcommittee action ensures those patients will continue to receive their medications next year and provides for an additional $12 million in new funding.

Because of bipartisan gridlock, the Houseís budget will likely never become law, but activists hold on to hope that the chambers will come together and decide to fund programs that will help end the domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Both the President and the Senate have demonstrated great leadership in addressing HIV/AIDS at home. We are still waiting to see what the House of Representatives will do, which has differing views on how to address federal spending.

Recently, The AIDS Institute released an analysis that showed sequestration and other budget cuts have already resulted in cuts of $375 million from the federal governmentís response to the domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic. If the cuts outlined in the House of Representativeís budget are applied across the board, an additional $1.1 billion would be slashed.

The appropriation bills being considered by the Senate, along with the Presidentís budget, restore the damaging cuts caused by sequestration. Unfortunately, the House is taking a different approach.

We hope that all parties soon can come to an agreement that will end the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the federal budget and in the process, adequately fund critical public health programs, including those that prevent HIV and provide for care and treatment for people living with HIV.

Still, the Senate Appropriations Committee has promised to maintain spending for HIV prevention at the CDC at $755 million. There continue to be about 50,000 new HIV infections each year, yet the federal government allocates only 4 percent of its domestic HIV spending on prevention.

Dab the AIDS Bear Project recognizes Chairman Tom Harkin for his leadership in maintaining the United States Senateís strong commitment to domestic HIV programs by increasing funding for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) and maintaining funding for the rest of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program and HIV prevention at the CDC.

Hope you have a beary safe and great Wednesday!

Until we meet again; here's wishing you health, hope, happiness and just enough.

big bear hug,

Daddy Dab