Office of AIDS Research gets a shout out — and a $544 million cut in NIH budget “justification”

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Citing priorities of HIV research slated to lose hundreds of millions of dollars, dispatching the Fogarty International Center while extolling its contributions, document released by National Institutes of Health director tallies steep and devastating cuts without explanation

” . . .the HIV epidemic represents the most serious health crisis of our time, a critical and ongoing risk to the health of Americans, and populations around the world.”

With that, the first sentence of the section addressing Office of AIDS Research funding for the coming year, the NIH FY 2018 document appears to prepare a case for continued robust HIV research funding. But it comes under a heading laying out a cut of more than $544 million, or a little more than 18 percent of the prior year’s funding to the NIH office that has led what the document itself describes as “unprecedented” medical advances that have not only prevented illness, deaths and transmission of HIV, but propelled progress in other fields. The cuts to the Office of AIDS Research, which directs and coordinates studies to prevent and treat HIV and associated illnesses and conditions, and toward a cure for the virus, will be felt across the institutes  that comprise the NIH, which in turn, also will receive direct cuts in funding.

These are all laid out in the NIH Justification of Estimates for Appropriations Committees, which distributes, but does not justify, the Trump administration’s proposed cut of more than 21 percent of  the budget of the world’s leading research entity.

The proposed impacts of the proposed $5 billion cut to the NIH range from a  8.4 percent reduction in funding to the National Library of Medicine, to 100 percent of the previous $70 million budget for the Fogarty International Center, slated for elimination under the administration’s plan. The Center, the document explains, supports global health research confronting diseases and needs that include HIV, Ebola, Zika, neurological disorders, injuries, and health workforce shortages. Coordinating more than 500 research collaborations and research training partnerships involving more than a 100 universities, as the document notes, the Center provides support for academic institutions in the United States with more than 80 percent of its grants (which the document does not note).

Like the proposed cuts to HIV research spending, the proposed dismantling of the Center is presented without explanation. Instead, the section on the center, and its planned demise, concludes that “Approximately $25 million within the Office of the Director will be dedicated to coordinating global health research across the NIH.” How that will replace the collaborative international partnerships forged over the course of half a century since the Fogarty Center began, remains a riddle wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.

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