New amfAR report estimates debt deal’s potential human toll

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Thousands of lives and years of gains made against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria could be lost if proportional reductions are made to achieve the $1.2 trillion in spending reductions required by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

That’s according to a new report issued Monday by The Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) entitled, “The Budget Control Act of 2011 and Global Health: Projecting the Human Impact of the Debt Deal,” which estimates the human impact of the approximate $5.04 billion that will be cut from global health spending over nine years under a sequestration scenario.

Under the debt reduction deal, the bi-partisan Joint Select Committee is tasked with identifying at least $1.2 trillion in budget cuts over the next ten years and presenting a plan to Congress for consideration by November 23. Under the very real threat that the committee fails to deliver by that date, or the plan is not enacted by the full Congress by January 15, an automatic, across-the-board reduction mechanism will be triggered reducing both defense and non-defense spending via sequestration.

“A central conclusion of this analysis is that a proportional cut to U.S. global health investments under the debt deal would have minimal impact on deficit reduction over nine years but would have devastating human impacts in terms of morbidity and mortality around the world,” said amfAR vice president and director of public policy Chris Collins. The report estimates that under the sequestration scenario – where $1.2 trillion in cuts would be applied equally across bilateral programs, an 11.07 percent cut, over nine years – in fiscal year 2013 alone:

  • 29,000 more infants would be born with HIV because of reduced funding to Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission programs;
  • Food, education and livelihood assistance would not be available to 419,000 children through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR);
  • Funding to treat 403,000 people for HIV/AIDS would not be available;
  • 1.9 million fewer insecticide-treated bed nets to prevent malaria would be delivered;
  • 44,000 fewer people would be treated for TB;
  • through multilateral programming, 1.1 million fewer combination vaccines for children would be delivered through the GAVI Alliance; and
  • cuts to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria would lead to significant additional morbidity and mortality in the three diseases.

AIDS research funding through the National Institutes of Health would stand to lose $339 million in funding over the nine-year period if the enforcement mechanism is triggered, according to the report, putting a stop to new research investment and causing reductions in existing research.

“We need to be as strategic as possible in spending U.S. dollars, and our current global AIDS investments show tremendous pay-off in lives saved,” said amfAR CEO Kevin Frost in an organization press release. “We urge the House and Senate members on the supercommittee—as well as the full Congress—to consider the human lives at stake in the budgeting process, and to recognize how damaging it would be to make serious cuts in global health funding.”

The report also outlines the human impact of every five percent cut to bilateral global health funding. See earlier reporting from Science Speaks for more on how global health will fare in the deficit reduction process.

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