Senate Appropriations leadership proposes significant increases for domestic HIV programs: Hepatitis programs left flat-funded
Washington DC… The leadership of the United States Senate Appropriations Committee is proposing to significantly increase funding to continue to ramp up efforts to end HIV in the United States. Like the House, the Senate bills include increased funding for the Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S. initiative by at least $245 million for domestic HIV testing, prevention, treatment, and research programs. This matches the amount proposed in President Biden’s budget.
The Committee leadership additionally proposes to increase funding for the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program by $31 million, the same amount requested in President Biden’s budget but $100 million less than the House bill. For HUD’s Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) program, the Senate is proposing an increase of $20 million, the same amount requested by President Biden but far less the $170 million increase proposed by the House.
At the same time, in a major disappointment, the Senate bill includes no additional funding to the current annual $39.5 million for the CDC’s hepatitis division. The House version of the bill called for an increase of $5 million.
The fiscal year 2022 bills were introduced by the leadership of the Senate Appropriations Committee but have not yet been considered by the Committee.
“We sincerely thank Senate Labor, HHS Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Patti Murray and her colleagues for demonstrating their continued commitment to ending HIV in the United States,” commented Carl Schmid, executive director of the HIV+Hepatitis Policy Institute. “While there are several instances in which the Senate bill falls short compared to the House bill, if this funding is realized it will continue the momentum already created and make further progress in ending HIV in the U.S. Broad efforts focused on testing, prevention, treatment, and research to end HIV will help eradicate an infectious disease that we have been battling for the last 40 years and help correct racial and health inequities in our nation.”
For the Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S. initiative, the Senate matches Biden’s budget, which includes a $100 million increase for CDC’s HIV prevention efforts, $85 million more for the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, and $50 million more for the Community Health Centers to expand access to PrEP and $10 million for NIH AIDS Research. Additionally, in a separate bill authored by Sen. Jeff Merkley, Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Chair, funding is included for HIV and hepatitis prevention activities for the Indian Health Service. While the actual level is not detailed in the bill, both President Biden and the House supported $22 million for these programs. All total, the Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S. initiative increase would equal at least $245 million for a total nearing $700 million.
The Senate Chair’s Labor HHS bill also includes a $3 million increase for the Minority AIDS Initiative, which is the same level as proposed by the House. It removes the federal funding ban on the purchase of sterile syringes and includes an increase of $17 million for the CDC’s Eliminating Opioid Related Infectious Diseases program, which will be beneficial to preventing new cases of both HIV and hepatitis.
The Senate funding level for hepatitis falls well short of the community’s request of $134 million for the CDC Hepatitis Division. Recently, the CDC reported that the number of acute hepatitis C cases increased 70 percent from 2015 through 2019. Elimination of hepatitis can be made possible through scaling up curative medications for hepatitis C and vaccines for hepatitis A and B.
“If we are to implement the national strategic plan to eliminate hepatitis and do it by 2030, as the president supports, we are going to need a significant commitment of resources and the leadership to make it happen,” continued Schmid. “Unfortunately, that is not going to be possible with this consistently low level of funding.”
Hepatitis funding increases are needed to carry out surveillance, screening, education, linkage to care, and outbreak response programs throughout the country, particularly as a result of the ongoing opioid crisis.
No funding would be allocated for abstinence-only programs, while there would be a $213 million increase for Title X family planning programs and a $29 million increase for the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program.
HIV+Hep urges the Congressional leadership to quickly agree upon topline spending levels for fiscal year 2022 so that the House and the Senate can begin negotiations and finalize the spending bills by the December 3rd deadline, when the current continuing resolution expires. As these negotiations begin, while there is much agreement between the House and Senate when it comes to HIV funding, there are some differences and, in those instances, we will be urging the Congress to support the House HIV and hepatitis increases, which are greater than those proposed by the Senate.
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The HIV+Hepatitis Policy Institute is a national, non-profit organization whose mission is to promote quality and affordable healthcare for people living with or at risk of HIV, hepatitis, and other serious and chronic health conditions.