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Senate Maintains Funding For Domestic HIV and Hepatitis Programs

Tuesday Sep 12, 2017

Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Fiscal Year 2018 funding bill that maintains funding for domestic HIV and hepatitis programs.

"The AIDS Institute thanks the bipartisan leadership of the Senate Appropriations Committee and particularly the Chair and Ranking Member of the Labor HHS Subcommittee, Sens. Roy Blunt and Patty Murray, for continuing to fund domestic HIV and hepatitis programs, especially after President Trump proposed cutting them by almost $1 billion," commented Carl Schmid, Deputy Executive Director of The AIDS Institute.

The Committee is recommending that funding be maintained at fiscal year 2017 levels for the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, CDC HIV, Hepatitis, and STD Prevention programs, and the HHS Secretary's Minority AIDS Initiative Program.

The Committee continues to fund other programs that impact people who are at risk of HIV, including the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program and Title X Family Planning, Unfortunately, the Committee is proposing to increase funding for harmful abstinence-only until marriage programs.

Medical research at the National Institutes of Health would be increased by $2 billion. The AIDS Institute trusts that some of this increase will be dedicated to AIDS research.

"While the Subcommittee is proposing to maintain CDC Hepatitis Prevention funding at $34 million, this amount is totally inadequate to address the growing hepatitis epidemic in the U.S.," commented Franklin Hood, Hepatitis Policy Associate at The AIDS Institute.

There are nearly 55,000 new hepatitis transmissions each year, and the CDC estimates that between 2010 and 2015 the country saw a three-fold increase in the rate of new hepatitis C infections. Of the 5.3 million people living with hepatitis B and/or hepatitis C in the U.S., as many as 65 percent are not aware of their infection. Viral hepatitis remains the leading cause of liver cancer, and the number of deaths attributed to hepatitis C now surpasses the number of deaths associated with all 60 other notifiable infectious diseases combined.

While the House of Representatives also maintained funding for most domestic HIV programs, they did eliminate all funding for the Secretary's Minority AIDS Initiative Fund, the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program and Title X, and cut SAMHSA's Minority AIDS Initiative programs by over $17 million. The AIDS Institute will be focused on restoring these funds as the House and Senate work together on a final appropriations bill.

"Minority communities, especially in the South, are deeply impacted by the HIV/AIDS epidemic," said Michael Ruppal, Executive Director of The AIDS Institute. "Now is not the time to eliminate or cut Minority AIDS Initiative programs, which will exacerbate health disparities occurring in minority communities. As Congress continues to craft the final FY 2018 appropriations bills, we urge them to increase non-defense discretionary spending in order to restore proposed cuts, along with many other worthy programs."

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