Nine global HIV/AIDS advocacy organizations sent a letter to President Obama Thursday asking him to rethink his fiscal year (FY) 2013 budget recommendation to slash $546 million in funding from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) program.
The groups expressed gratitude that the administration recommended funding The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria at $1.65 billion – keeping the U.S. on track to reach its three-year commitment of $4 billion by 2013. “But we must and we do strongly object to the apparent shoring up of the Global Fund budget request at the expense of the PEPFAR program,” the letter reads. “These two programs are synergistic and often provide complementary services to the same communities.”
Andrea Weddle, executive director of the HIV Medicine Association, one of the groups contributing to the letter, expressed her dismay with the president’s budget request.
“We recently learned from the results of a large clinical trial that putting HIV-infected patients on HIV treatment not only improves their health, but reduces the chance of passing their infection onto their HIV-negative sexual partners by as much as 96 percent,” Weddle said. “Scaling up HIV treatment is the key to preventing the further spread of this disease — and ensuring PEPFAR’s ability to scale up treatment to those who need it and stymie the spread of HIV infection is crucial to achieving an AIDS-free generation.”
During a speech on World AIDS Day (Dec. 1, 2011), President Obama vowed to increase the number of people the U.S. supports on lifesaving antiretroviral treatment globally to 6 million by 2013 – 2 million more people than are currently supported on treatment today through the PEPFAR program. The $546 million cut, nearly a 13 percent reduction from the FY 2012 funding level, could seriously disable efforts to scale up access to antiretroviral therapy in the countries hardest hit by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
“To keep his commitment, President Obama should support efforts to restore full funding for PEPFAR, as there is no U.S. program that has so rapidly and efficiently saved lives, built health systems, and stabilized communities and nations from collapsing under the devastation of the AIDS pandemic,” said Leigh Blake, president of ACT V: The End of AIDS — who also signed the letter.
Regan Hoffman, editor-in-chief of POZ Magazine, another letter signatory, agreed. “When scientific evidence proves a bolus of funding now will save tens of millions of lives and billions of dollars in the near future, it’s hard to understand the President’s recommendation to cut funding for foreign aid to people with HIV/AIDS and to set inadequate budget levels stateside to handle the real number of Americans with HIV who need treatment,” Hoffman said.
“Given the massive global funding gap in the fight against HIV, and the millions without access to treatment, prevention, and care, it is clear that cuts to bilateral programs would keep us from achieving the goal you set forth on December 1st of ‘ending the AIDS pandemic once and for all,’” according to the letter.