March 16, 2017
Today the White House released a budget blueprint that cuts $15.1 billion from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, including nearly $6 billion from the National Institutes of Health, and $10.1 billion from the U.S. Department of State and the US Agency for International Development (USAID). These substantial funding reductions would seriously threaten the progress we have made preventing and treating HIV and other infectious diseases. Adding $54 billion to defense spending, the proposal leaves little to protect or improve our nation's public health.
While we are heartened to see continued support for the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program and our pledge to the Global Fund, we have grave concerns about other consequences of this proposal. While few details are provided regarding the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, any structural changes that reduce the resources available to conduct surveillance and support critical screening and prevention programs would undermine recent progress in lowering HIV incidence nationwide and cripple state efforts to respond to other infectious threats such as hepatitis C, Zika and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
The budget proposal maintains a commitment to individuals already receiving lifesaving treatment through PEPFAR, but we are concerned that the ongoing funding needed to continue to slow the global epidemic may not be maintained. The proposal to cut funding for the NIH by 19 percent and proposed elimination of its Fogarty International Center would be absolutely devastating to research, innovation and to our nation's long-term health and security. In totality, the President's proposal would severely weaken our nation's health infrastructure affecting disaster preparedness, disease surveillance and patient care by sharply reducing funding to essential agencies and would threaten our position as a global leader in medical discovery.
Sustained funding for HIV/AIDS research and public health efforts, development of new drugs, vaccines and diagnostics; and consistent access to health care and preventive services are all necessary investments to our safety and prosperity. The President's budget plan would have immediate damaging impacts to individual and public health, reverse the advances we have made against HIV, lead to higher healthcare costs, and do long-term harm to our nation's healthcare capacities. It is now incumbent on Congress to protect our country's progress combatting the HIV epidemic and our advances in global and domestic public health and research, and reject this short-sighted proposal.
Wendy Armstrong, M.D., F.I.D.S.A., is chair of the HIV Medicine Association.
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