The Budget Sequester Could Harm Funding for the New “Cure” for HIV

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The AIDS Drug Assistance Program is one of the federal programs that will be greatly affected by the ‘sequester.’ The budget of the National Institutes of Health may loose $1.6 billion from its budget because of the cuts.

An estimated 8.2 percent in the first year would be cut from the budgets of discretionary federal programs, including HIV/AIDS and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) -related programs.

Crosby Burns, research associate for the Center for American Progress, said that the cuts would mostly affect minority communities.

“Politicians are literally playing games with people’s lives,” Burns said. “If the sequester happens, AIDS patients will lose access to life-saving drugs, programs that combat hate crimes and domestic violence in the LGBT community will be slashed, LGBT homeless youth will have to remain on the streets if homeless shelters receive less funding, and LGBT workers who have been discriminated against will see their cases go uninvestigated.”

A report was released by Gregorio Millett, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) official, at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s annual Creating Change conference held in Atlanta last month. “Cuts to the AIDS Drug Assistance Program could result in 7,400 fewer patients having access to life saving HIV medications,” the report says. “And approximately 424,000 fewer HIV tests could be conducted by CDCState grantees, which could result in increased future HIV transmissions, deaths from HIV, and costs in health care.”

The sequester — approved by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in 2011 as part of an agreement to raise the nation’s debt ceiling — would institute $1.2 trillion in cuts for U.S. government programs across the board starting this year over the course of 10 years.

Chris Collins, vice president of public policy for amFAR, The American Foundation for AIDS Research, said there was a “cruel irony” to the timing of the HIV cure discovery and sequestration.

“As we’ve heard this exciting news about cure research, the entire AIDS research field is experiencing a significant cutback,” said Collins. “If we were in the business of ending AIDS, this would be the time to invest, not pull our resources out.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, a division of the NIH said that the sequester will most likely mean cuts in research into the cure of AIDS. “In the long run, it will hurt,” said Fauci. He went on to say, “In general, it’s a dampening effect in the whole field.”

 

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