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House GOP declares war on AIDS funding

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From the AIDS Institute:

Media Contacts: Carl Schmid

Short Term Actions will have Long Term Ramifications

Washington, DC – “Republicans in the House of Representatives have proposed massive cuts to both domestic and global HIV/AIDS programs that will have severe ramifications to millions of people’s lives both here in the United States and around the world,” commented Carl Schmid, Deputy Executive Director of The AIDS Institute. “While it may help achieve short term goals to reduce federal government spending, this reckless action will have long term impacts on the health and wellbeing of people living with HIV/AIDS and on efforts to prevent HIV infections in the future. In the long run, the costs to society and individual’s lives will be far greater than any short term savings”

“While there is a waiting list of over 6,000 people in ten states to receive lifesaving AIDS medications from the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), and thousands more are being removed from the program, the House Republican spending proposal will seriously exasperate the crisis,” added Schmid. Low income people with HIV/AIDS were counting on an increase of at least $65 million, including continuation of $25 million that state ADAPs received this summer to help reduce the waiting lists. “Not only did the House Republicans erase any funding increase, they failed to continue to fund the $25 million in FY11 and, in effect, will be taking away medications from people. If we have long wait lists now, just imagine what the situation will be like next year with no increases in funding,” he added. Access to early quality care and treatment keep people with HIV/AIDS healthy and free from opportunistic infections, resistance to medications, and away from expensive emergency rooms.

“With over 56,000 new HIV infections annually in the U.S., now is not the time to cut CDC’s prevention funding,” said Michael Ruppal, Executive Director of The AIDS Institute. “We only spend 3 percent of our federal HIV spending on prevention. Cutting CDC’s budget by 15 percent and prohibiting scientifically proven effective prevention programs, such as syringe exchange, will lead to even more HIV infections,” he added. The bill even goes as far as preventing the District of Columbia, a place with one of the highest rates of HIV in the country, from spending its own money on syringe exchange programs. It is far more cost-effective to invest in prevention now rather than paying for care and treatment later. Preventing one infection will save approximately $355,000 in lifetime medical costs. Preventing all the new 56,000 cases in just one year would translate into an astounding $20 billion in lifetime medical costs.

The proposal authored by the House Republicans cuts research funding at the National Institutes of Health by over $1.6 billion. Investing in HIV research will help in the discovery of new medications, new tools in the prevention of HIV, including vaccines, and ultimately a cure.

The bill cuts over $500 million from the U.S. historic humanitarian commitment to treating and preventing HIV in the poorest countries in the world, where the economic downturn has crippled economies and their people.

It also seeks to derail implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which will provide health care to hundreds of thousands of people with HIV/AIDS and millions of others when implemented.

“While we appreciate the desire to cut government spending and the budget deficit,” concluded Ruppal, “The AIDS Institute asks the Congress not to act in haste without first considering the long term human and societal impacts of their decisions. Our government must be responsible with taxpayers’ money, but it also must be accountable to the basic human health needs of people. We urge the Congress to reject these reckless short term budget cuts. Some programs cannot afford to be cut; too many lives are at stake.”

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