Congress’ AIDS Funding Criticized
The budget bill now being taken up by Congress contains a nasty surprise for those who had hoped that President Barack Obama would step up to the table in the fight to eradicate AIDS. Rather than increasing funding, the proposed budget contains flat funding for HIV prevention efforts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The House of Representatives' Appropriations Committee for fiscal year 2009 Omnibus Appropriations bill will fund programs through August. The head of Gay Men's Health Crisis, a New York charity that is the largest private AIDS service organization in the world, severely criticized Congress for what amounts to, considering inflation, a funding cut.
"It is disappointing for Congress to flat fund HIV prevention efforts at this time," said GHMC CEO Marjorie J. Hill. "Recent CDC reports indicate that the domestic epidemic is worse than previously estimated. Racial minorities and gay men, especially gay men of color, are disproportionately becoming HIV-positive."
Men who have sex with men still make up a hugely disproportionate percentage of new AIDS cases, according to the CDC's own data--57% of new HIV diagnoses in 2006. This translates to gay (and bisexual) men being 20 to 30 times more likely to become infected with HIV.
The other big at-risk group is women of color. According to the CDC, in 2006, 15,000 women were infected, with black and Latina women comprising 75 percent of those. Overall, HIV infections increased 9 percent from 2006 to 2007.
Under the Bush-Cheney Administration, funding for HIV prevention at the CDC dropped 19 percent in real dollars. "We were hopeful that the new congressional leadership would deliver more support for programs that work," Hill said in a statement.
Last fall, then-CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that CDC needed twice its current level of funding in order to bring down the number of new HIV infections each year.
Hill did commend the House for increasing HIV care and research, "and for including the $1.4 million appropriation to the White House Office of National AIDS Policy to fund the development of a national AIDS strategy for the first time since the epidemic began."