Maryland physicians and health care workers urge Sens. Cardin and Mikulski to support AIDS programs

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Forty-nine clinicians, scientists and educators in Maryland joined to send sign-on letters Thursday to Sens. Benjamin Cardin (D) and Barbara Mikulski (D) asking them to stand up in support of adequate funding for the programs that are critical to the U.S. response to AIDS, including the Ryan White Program, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Sen. Cardin sits on the Senate Budget Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, assigned to the International Development and Foreign Assistance subcommittee. Mikulski is a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and sits on the Subcommittees on State and Foreign Operations, as well as Labor, Health and Human Services.

“Maryland is the home of several preeminent research and academic institutions, and healthcare centers that have led the way in the response to AIDS here at home and in the developing world,” the letters state. “We thank you for your tireless advocacy for research and quality health care and respectfully ask you to serve as a champion for the federal domestic and global HIV programs charged with ensuring that the fruits of scientific research benefit those who need them most.”

The letter references National Institutes of Health (NIH)- supported research that has led to important scientific advances in the flight against AIDS, notably the HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) 052 trial that demonstrated treatment of HIV infection can reduce their chances of sexually transmitting the virus by 96 percent. The findings prompted Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama to announce a vision for an AIDS-free generation in 2011, to include treatment scale up in low-resource countries.

In the letter, the authors urge Mikulski and Cardin to support Obama’s fiscal year 2013 budget request to Congress for the Ryan White Program and for the Global Fund, but warns against the administration’s proposed $543 million cut to the PEPFAR program, which would amount to more than 12 percent cut from FY 2012 levels.

“Funding cuts will translate into fewer interventions for pregnant women to prevent HIV transmission from mother to child, fewer medical male circumcisions for at‐risk men and adolescents, less screening for tuberculosis in people living with HIV, and fewer individuals with access to HIV treatment who urgently need it, both to preserve their own health and to prevent transmission to their sexual partners,” according to the letters. “The potential impact of these and other evidence based interventions on the trajectory of the epidemic is directly related to the speed with which we make them available to individuals and communities.”

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