HIV Physicians Urge Congress to Provide Adequate Funding for HIV/AIDS Programs

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- As Congress prepares to return from its summer recess next week, the HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA) and the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) are urging lawmakers to increase funding for domestic and global AIDS programs-some of which face desperate circumstances in 2004 without additional funding.

The AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), which provides life-saving drugs to Americans who otherwise could not afford them, is particularly threatened by inadequate funding. Already at least 10 states have stopped accepting new patients into ADAP because of budget constraints, and more than 20 states have initiated or plan to implement ADAP eligibility and other new restrictions. Many patients who are uninsured or underinsured will go without necessary treatment.

The Senate appropriations committee has designated only a $24.7 million increase for ADAP. The House bill would give ADAP a $39 million increase; however, the bill cuts funding from other parts of the Ryan White CARE Act, of which ADAP is part. "Both the House and Senate funding levels are completely inadequate," said William G. Powderly, MD, chair of the HIVMA board of directors. The National Organizations Responding to AIDS recommended a $225 million increase to congressional appropriators. HIVMA urges lawmakers to offer and support amendments to increase funding for ADAP and other programs funded by the Ryan White CARE Act.

HIVMA is also concerned about the fate of domestic HIV prevention efforts. Both the Senate and the House bills contain no increase in funding for domestic HIV prevention activities for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This is especially troubling given CDC's recent announcement of a major new prevention initiative, Advancing HIV Prevention: New Strategies for a Changing Epidemic. The new initiative aims to target those individuals who are already infected with HIV (but may not necessarily know it) in order to curb transmission of the disease and to get HIV clinicians engaged in supporting their patients' efforts to protect their sexual partners from HIV infection. Without additional funding for prevention, it is almost certain that many existing HIV prevention programs funded by CDC will be eliminated, and the new initiative will be inadequately supported.

Finally, HIVMA urges Congress to honor its commitment to allocate $3 billion per year for the president's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Congress passed the law, H.R. 1298, in May to respond to the AIDS pandemic in targeted Sub-Saharan and Caribbean nations. So far legislators have earmarked only $2 billion to $2.2. billion in appropriations. "Millions in the developing world wait for life-saving treatment," said Powderly. "With a coalition of global health advocates, we are strongly lobbying congressional appropriators to fund global AIDS initiatives with the full $3 billion, without taking the funding from existing international relief programs."

HIVMA will work in the coming days to assure that federal HIV/AIDS programs are funded at adequate levels.

The HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA) is the professional home for more than 2,500 physicians, scientists and other health care professionals dedicated to the field of HIV/AIDS, not only those trained in infectious diseases. The Association promotes quality in HIV care and advocates for policies that ensure a comprehensive and humane response to the AIDS pandemic informed by science and social justice. HIVMA is housed within the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

Source: IDSA

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