Only July 13, the House of Representatives Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee released its budget proposal for the 2024 fiscal year. The proposed budget would cut a total of $500 million from various federal programs for people with HIV/AIDS. If the budget is signed into law, these cuts would drastically affect access to care for people living with HIV/AIDS across the US.
The proposed budget cuts $220 million from the CDC National Center for HIV, Hepatitis, and STD program. This includes cutting all the funding for the CDC’s Eliminating the HIV Epidemic (EHE) initiative. Established in 2019, the EHE aims to reduce new HIV infections in the United States by 75% by 2025, with the goal of ending the epidemic by 2030. The EHE is focused on HIV prevention through education and PrEP access, increasing patients’ knowledge of their HIV status through testing and diagnosis, and linkage of patients to care. Since 2019, the EHE has provided funding, resources, technology, and training to health departments in over 48 US counties. Their aim is to address the areas of the country that have the highest rates of HIV transmission and where residents experience many structural barriers to getting care. Eliminating the EHE would strip resources from health departments operating in areas of the country that have been hit the hardest by the epidemic.
This new proposal also includes a $238 million cut to the Ryan White program. Since 1990, the Ryan White HIV & AIDS Program has been the largest federal initiative for low-income people with HIV/AIDS. Currently, around a half million people, or 50% of people diagnosed with HIV, receive services funded by Ryan White. The program funds medical services, support services, medication assistance, outpatient care, education, and more. Many HIV/AIDS agencies across the country, including LAAN, receive a significant portion of their funding from the Ryan White program.
Additionally, the budget proposal would eliminate $32 million from the Minority HIV/AIDS Fund, a cut of over 50 percent. The Secretary’s Minority AIDS Initiative Fund was created in 1998 when public health data was released showing that rates of HIV were disproportionately high among African Americans. The goal of the initiative is to promote racial equity in HIV/AIDS care, and to implement best practices for programs in communities of color to address community needs and eliminate systemic barriers to care. Since 2016, the Minority HIV/AIDS Fund has provided resources and support to over 200 health departments and agencies across the country and has expanded HIV prevention and care services to improve health outcomes for racial and ethnic minorities. Reducing their funding by 50 percent would be detrimental to communities of color who are already disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS.
Many experts in the field of HIV/AIDS, including doctors, social workers, and researchers, have heavily criticized the proposed budget cuts, calling them “egregious” and “devastating”. Dr. Tyler TerMeer, CEO of San Francisco AIDS Foundation, explained that cutting funding would “cause irreparable harm to HIV prevention, treatment, and care, and would take away critical services for the HIV community.” According to Ernest Hopkins, Senior Strategist and Advisor at San Francisco AIDS Foundation, “These proposed changes would harm our most vulnerable residents and would undo years of progress that we have made in reaching an end to the HIV epidemic.” Activists are urging citizens to call their representatives in congress and let them know how critically important this funding is to people living with HIV/AIDS.