For more than 30 years the U.S. has invested in public health programs and research to fight HIV/AIDS. Now HIV infection is a chronically managed condition with far fewer people dying from AIDS. Now there is the possibility of Ending AIDS. But agencies need adequate funding to make that so. Among other things, successful intervention in an epidemic requires educating medical professionals and the public, along with outreach, referrals, and health care for those at-risk or infected. Since 2008, however, budget cuts have resulted in the loss of more than 46,000 public health jobs while other positions have been furloughed.
Now sequestration is having its effects. This year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have seen an additional 5%, or $285 million in cuts (actually the overall FY 2012 to FY 2013 reduction to CDC’s program level funding was $580 million dollars!). Ending AIDS will require wide-scale HIV screening along with Treatment as Prevention access to HIV medications. Yet sequestration cuts mean 424,000 fewer HIV tests will be conducted just by those who receive CDC funding. Also, an estimated 7,400 Americans will be denied access to life saving, transmission preventing, HIV antivirals through the federal AIDS Drug Assistance Program (the Ryan White Program).
Programs to prevent cancer, heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes are also being cut by almost $200 million. This is on top of reduced funding for food inspections, public health emergency and disease outbreak preparedness, and support for already struggling state and local public health agencies.
Here in Massachusetts, HIV programs have been being cut for years and MORE WILL BE CUT! Before sequestration, the state did not provide near enough money to fill in for repeated year-in, year-out, level funding and cuts. Now we have sequestration. This is no way to end AIDS in Massachusetts!
AMFAR recently reported that because of the first round of sequestration cuts, treatment for 171,900 people will not be available and 39,200 more will die of AIDS around the globe. Sequestration 2.0 in October brings an even larger 8% funding cut to vast swaths of the federal budget, includng programs that could end AIDS throughout the world. This is no way to end a pandemic!
Fifty years ago TB was on the verge of being wiped out. However, there was a failure of committment to a global effort for doing so. Today, there are almost a million and half unnecessary deaths a year from TB and fighting it costs tens of billions of dollars.
Today the AIDS epidemic is at a similar crossroads. Yet, sequestration and austerity stand in the way of ending AIDS. Do we let HIV/AIDS continue to spin out of control? Do we lose tens of millions of lives and spend billions upon billions of dollars fighting a perpetual pandemic just like TB? OR, do we fight mindless austerity, overturn the sequester, and fund an end AIDS agenda?
Next: What YOU can do.