A House funding bill for fiscal year (FY) 2012 would cut funding for global health programs $700 million from current funding levels. The proposed state and foreign operations spending bill was released by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations on Tuesday prior to its consideration by the Subcommittee and the full House Appropriations Committee. The Subcommittee will vote in the draft measure on Thursday and the full House Appropriations Committee will consider the bill next week.
As it stands, the bill proposes $7.1 billion in funding for the U.S. Global Health Initiative, which includes the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief bilateral AIDS program; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; global tuberculosis; the President’s Malaria Initiative; international family planning; neglected tropical diseases programs and an array of other programs, with no specified funding levels for any of these programs. Overall, the bill cuts foreign assistance by $3.5 billion.
The proposed bill does more than just propose cuts in funding, it also explicitly prohibits federal funding for syringes or syringe exchange programs in the international context.
According to the bill text, “Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, none of the funds appropriated in this Act or in prior Acts shall be used to carry out any program of distributing sterile needles or syringes for the hypodermic injection of any illegal drug.” The language would pose a serious threat to HIV prevention programs in regions where injection drug use is fueling the spread of HIV, such as Eastern Europe, Central Asia and now certain parts of Eastern Africa.
This bill would become a place holder until Congress and the White House reach a budget agreement, which could pose additional threats to funding for foreign assistance, including global health programs.
Stay tuned for further budget developments relevant to U.S. support for global health.