Congress adds $300 million to PEPFAR for FY15, in bill global health advocates say recognizes critical needs

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Omnibus The world’s largest humanitarian and health program dedicated to defeating a single disease will have more to work with in the coming year, with a Congressional spending bill released Tuesday that increases, or maintains from last year’s allocations almost all areas of global health spending for fiscal year 2015. The bill includes a $300 million increase for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief over the amount allotted for fiscal year 2014, and over the amount requested by President Obama in his FY15 proposed budget. The allotment of $4.3 billion for PEPFAR restores half of the $600 million in cuts PEPFAR has seen since 2011.

Overall, global health programs will receive $8.45 billion, a $15 million increase over 2014 enacted levels and $404 million more than the Administration’s request.

Congress exceeded the President’s requested $192 million funding for USAID’s global tuberculosis program — a proposed 19 percent cut over the previous year’s spending — with an allocation of $236 million. The bill provides full funding for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS,Tuberculosis and Malaria with $1.35 billion for 2015, and includes $142 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention TB program. In addition, the National Institutes of Health will receive $30.1 billion under the bill, $150 million more than the 2014 level.

The bill includes $128 million for the CDC global AIDS program, which is level with 2014 funding. Most global health programs were maintained at the current funding levels including malaria and international family planning efforts. Malaria programs will receive $669.5 million, and bilateral family planning programs will receive $575 million, both equal to 2014 enacted levels.

The bill represents a victory for global health advocates who campaigned vigorously to preserve the $300 million increase for PEPFAR included in the House foreign assistance funding bill this summer.  In a World AIDS Day ad supported by 21 global health organizations featured in Politico, they argued that the additional funding will help provide antiretroviral therapy to an additional 300,000 people, help get 55,000 more pregnant women on treatment, and avert 62,000 AIDS-related deaths.

On Monday, 21 U.S. Senators joined Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in a letter to Senate appropriations leaders calling for continued robust funding for PEPFAR.

“The comprehensive approach to global health in this bill sends a message to donors and governments globally that the United States is dedicated to, and invested in the fight against HIV and tuberculosis, and for equitable evidence-based care and treatment access with no lesser goal than success,” said Christine Lubinski, director of the Center for Global Health Policy, which produces this blog, and vice president for Global Health for the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

Congressional leaders pledged a commitment to getting the bill through before the Dec. 11 deadline, or extend funding to avert a shutdown of government services, including at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health, as happened in 2013.

“Now,” a global health advocate said today, “it’s on to FY16.”

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