WASHINGTON, D.C. — Announced in late January, the president’s new budget contains cuts to critical funding needed for domestic HIV/AIDS programming supported by federal dollars. Advocacy groups called the decrease in life-saving treatment and prevention care money a “disappointment.”
President George W. Bush’s budget for 2009 requests a total of $2.143 billion for the Ryan White CARE Act, a $1 million (or 0.004 percent) increase from 2008. While the budget adds $14 million for grants to states and territories (of which $6 million is for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program), it offsets that increase with a $8 million cut to programs serving metropolitan areas hit hardest by the epidemic, and a $5 million (or 16 percent) cut to the AIDS Education Training Centers.
“The president’s proposed budget falls far short of providing those on the front lines of the HIV/AIDS epidemic with the resources they need to confront what remains a national crisis,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “We call on Congress to reject the president’s proposal to largely level fund these critical lifesaving programs, and instead to provide adequate funding that meets the challenges of today’s epidemic.”
Last month, The New York Times reported that New York City health officials estimate diagnoses of HIV rose by 32 percent among gay men under 30 between 2001 and 2006. The most staggering increases were among gay men ages 13 to 19 and black and Hispanic gay men, whose infection rates grew to up to 50 percent over the past year. These increases follow a period of decline of HIV/AIDS cases in men who have sex with men.
“We are deeply disappointed that, in light of recent reports of startling increases in HIV/AIDS cases in the U.S., particularly among young gay and bisexual men and in communities of color, the president is seeking even more money for anti-gay abstinence-only-until-marriage programs while neglecting so many domestic HIV/AIDS priorities,” Solmonese said.
Calling Bush’s actions a “complete disregard for people living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S., and an ongoing disregard for preventing new infections,” the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) joined in condemning the president’s proposed budget for HIV/AIDS funding.
“President Bush has shown utter neglect of the AIDS epidemic that continues to ravage communities across this country,” said Dr. Marjorie J. Hill, chief executive officer of GMHC. “It is clear from this budget, as well as from eight years of failed leadership, that this president has misplaced priorities. The president proposes to either cut or flat-fund critical programs for research, HIV prevention and care, while continuing to call for increases in harmful programs like abstinence-only education.”