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At amfAR Capitol Hill Conference, Government and Health Leaders Urge Continued Investments in HIV/AIDS Programs To End Epidemic

Monday Jun 19, 2017

A substantial cut in U.S. funding for lifesaving HIV/AIDS programs in the U.S. and around the world would seriously jeopardize the significant progress made thus far in the fight against the epidemic, according to the Members of Congress and government, scientific and public health leaders who convened at the amfAR Capitol Hill conference, "Making AIDS History: A Roadmap for Ending the Epidemic," on June 14, 2017.

The event highlighted the latest advances in HIV prevention, treatment and research, and addressed current challenges and opportunities for ending the global AIDS epidemic. The national security implications of epidemics, the economic and health impact of aging with HIV, and the opioid crisis and its interrelationship with HIV in the United States were also discussed.

"As a result of investments in research, treatment and prevention, we are at a tipping point towards reversing the pandemic," said Susan J. Blumenthal, M.D., M.P.A., Conference Chair, Senior Policy and Medical Advisor, amfAR, and former U.S. Assistant Surgeon General. "But progress is fragile and proposed significant funding reductions of $1 billion in the Administration's FY18 budget for global AIDS programs could have an immediate human impact with tens of thousands more HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths. An 18% proposed cut for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) would also be a significant setback for the discovery of a cure and a vaccine, which are essential elements in our roadmap to end AIDS."

Overwhelming Support for PEPFAR and the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, TB, and Malaria

Ambassador Deborah Birx, M.D., U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, provided an update on the lifesaving impact of the United States President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) on millions of people around the world since its establishment in 2003. Holly Kuzmich, Director of the George W. Bush Institute, shared President Bush's vision for the program and his hopes that it would be fully funded next year.

Members of Congress including Sen. Bob Corker, Chairman, Senate Foreign Relations Committee (R-TN,) ; Sen. Patrick Leahy, Ranking Member, Senate Appropriations Committee (D-VT); Sen. Thad Cochran, Chairman, Senate Appropriations Committee (R-MS) Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Ranking Member, Senate Foreign Relations Committee ; Rep. Ed Royce, Chairman, House Foreign Affairs Committee (R-CA); Rep. Nita Lowey, Ranking Member, House Appropriations Committee (D-NY); Rep. Barbara Lee, Co-Chair Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus (D-CA); and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) voiced bipartisan support for PEPFAR and the Global Fund, vowing to protect U.S. investments in these transformative global health programs that underscore American values in the world as well as for continued research on the disease.


Ambassador Birx was followed by Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director, who discussed the importance of accelerating innovation, activism, and partnerships within the global HIV/AIDS communities to help reach UNAIDS' 90-90-90 targets.

Kenneth Cole, amfAR's Chairman of the Board and UNAIDS International Goodwill Ambassador, asserted that progress on HIV/AIDS is dependent on three key ingredients -- political will, innovation, and human and financial resources -- and warned that the loss of one or more of these would inevitably bring progress to a halt.

He also underscored the perils if progress is halted due to the FY 18 budget cuts recently proposed by The White House, which would slash funding for the CDC by $1.2 billion. Cole stated that such cuts could lead to a 12 percent increase in HIV cases in the U.S., costing $6.8 billion in lifetime health care expenses.

Veteran AIDS research leader Anthony Fauci, M.D., Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), summarized the extraordinary progress on HIV/AIDS that has resulted from investments in science. He noted how the disease was a death sentence at the beginning of the epidemic, but today with antiretroviral treatment a person can expect to live a normal lifespan -- on average of 53 years after diagnosis.

Dr. Fauci outlined the formidable scientific challenges inherent in the pursuit of a cure and a vaccine and discussed upcoming clinical trials that will be closely watched by the scientific community.


Addressing Other HIV/AIDS Challenges

A highlight of the conference was the launch of amfAR's new Opioid & Health Indicators Database (opioid.amfar.org ). The database is a free web resource designed to as a tool to help policymakers and advocates effectively respond to the opioid epidemic. It provides local and national statistics on new HIV and hepatitis C infections, opioid use, overdose death rates, and the availability of services like drug treatment and syringe services programs. Users can examine data at the state and county levels and see the differential impact of the opioid, HIV and Hepatitis C epidemics in communities and states across America.

The database was launched in conjunction with a panel discussion on "The Opioid Crisis, HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C: Interconnected Epidemics in America," moderated by Joel Achenbach, author and staff writer at the Washington Post. Jonathan Mermin, M.D., M.P.H., Director, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, CDC; Michael Botticelli, Former Director, Office of National Drug Control Policy, and Director, Grayken Center for Addiction Medicine, Boston Medical Center; Brittany Combs, Director, Public Health Nursing, Scott County, Indiana; and Rahul Gupta, M.D, M.P.H., Commissioner and State Health Officer, Bureau of Public Health, Department of Health and Human Resources, West Virginia, discussed the opioid crisis unfolding in the U.S., and how the sharing of contaminated injection equipment is facilitating the spread of HIV and hepatitis C infection in communities across the country. Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) and Ms. Combs highlighted the 2014 outbreak of over 200 HIV cases in Scott County, Indiana, due to injection drug use.

In "AIDS to Zika: National Security Implications of Epidemics," PBS Newshour Anchor Judy Woodruff and a panel of experts explored how infectious diseases are national security threats killing more people than wars, and discussed the lessons learned from the AIDS epidemic to build effective, coordinated responses across the public and private sectors. Anne Schuchat, M.D., Acting Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), was joined on the panel by Ron Klain, Former White House Ebola Response Coordinator; Executive Vice President, Revolution, LLC; David Smith, M.D., Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs,U.S. Department of Defense; and Ambassador James Glassman, Former Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy, U.S. Department of State, and Visiting Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.


A third panel discussion titled "Aging with AIDS in America: The Health and Economic Impacts" explored how to improve the quality of life for the largest percentage of people living with HIV is the U.S.- people who are 50 years and older. Moderated by Regan Hofmann, UNAIDS Policy Advisor and amfAR Trustee, the panel featured Maureen M. Goodenow, Ph.D., NIH Associate Director for AIDS Research and Director, NIH Office of AIDS Research; Lisa Backus, M.D., Ph.D., Deputy Chief Consultant, Measurement & Reporting, Population Health Services, US Department of Veterans Affairs; and Benjamin Anderson Bashein, Executive Director, ACRIA.

The conference ended with remarks from Kevin Robert Frost, Chief Executive Officer of amfAR, who provided an update on amfAR's Countdown to a Cure initiative, which is aimed at developing the scientific basis of a cure by the end of 2020.

"If we make the right investments, and we're smart about how we support the science, we will make AIDS history," said Frost.

The "Making AIDS History: A Roadmap for Ending the Epidemic" Capitol Hill conference was held at the Senate Hart Office Building, Room 902, in Washington, D.C.

amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, is one of the world's leading nonprofit organizations dedicated to the support of AIDS research, HIV prevention, treatment education, and advocacy. Since 1985, amfAR has invested more than $480 million in its programs and has awarded more than 3,300 grants to research teams worldwide.


For more information, visit amfar.org

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