Trans women of color among affected groups
Proponents of funding to combat HIV/ AIDS continue to express alarm over cuts to federal programs, which in some cases are massive, in the budget proposal that President Trump unveiled May 23 amid questions of whether Congress will agree to the reductions.
Carl Schmid, deputy director of the AIDS Institute, said the decrease in funding for HIV/AIDS proposed in the Trump administration’s $4.1 trillion budget request was “pretty shocking” after years of bipartisan agreement to confront the disease.
“We always think there are ways to improve, ways to change things, we’re open to that,” Schmid said. “We’re not one of the people that say, ‘No, no, no.’ But I don’t think cutting the budget this drastically is a way to change things.”
The budget blueprint unveiled in March by the White House Office of Management & Budget indicated proposed cuts for HIV screening and research, but Schmid said the extent of cuts in the budget was a surprise.
CDC, NIH funding would be slashed
Among the more drastic cuts is a $186 million reduction in Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funding for HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis, STIs and TB prevention. A full $150 million of the reduction would come from HIV/AIDS prevention programs.
“We would have probably a million fewer HIV tests because of that and we don’t know how many more people will become [HIV] positive and not get the messages,” Schmid said.
Although the CDC doesn’t provide pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, as a means of HIV prevention, the agency conducts education on the medication, which could be impaired as a result of the cuts, Schmid said.
For research, on the chopping block is the
June 9, 2017
National Institutes of Health, which handles HIV/AIDS research for the federal government and was working on a cure under President Obama. The budget seeks a massive $7.2 billion reduction to NIH generally and a $550 million reduction to HIV/AIDS research specifically, according to the AIDS Institute.
“We never thought it would be at this magnitude,” Schmid said. “It’s around 19 percent of all HIV prevention funding would be cut. We knew that they were going to cut research, but it’s around 17 percent.”
The budget blueprint identified the Ryan White Health Care Act as a high priority, but the budget also contains some rollbacks for the programs it supports – providing assistance to low-income people with HIV/ AIDS, and funding for AIDS globally.”
For Ryan White, the budget seeks a $59 million reduction to the program as a result of cutting $34 million from programs for children, youth, women and families and $25 million for programs of special significance.
Schmid said the program cuts under the proposed budget aren’t direct services programs to ensure low-income people have access to HIV/AIDS medication, but training programs aimed at gay men, transgender women and people of color.
“Most Ryan White funding does go out to grants for direct services and health care medications, things like that, but this is ways to improve and to train people, especially in a changing environment,” Schmid said.
As pointed out by the LGBT group GLAAD, among the programs of special significance is an initiative that seeks to enhance HIV service delivery interventions for transgender women of color at nine delivery sites throughout the country.
“This budget would pull the rug from under some of America’s most marginalized communities, including transgender women of color, at a time when they need our help the most,” GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said. “President Trump’s budget is heartless and the latest example of the administration working to systematically erase LGBTQ Americans from the fabric of this nation.”
Consistent with the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, the budget proposal also seeks to eliminate $800 billion in Medicaid. That’s a major source of assistance for people with HIV/AIDS because an estimated 40 percent of them are on Medicaid.
Doug Wirth, CEO of the New York-based health care nonprofit Amida Care, said in a statement the cuts to HIV/AIDS programs proposed in the budget are “unprecedented” and “represent a cruel and callous attack on millions of hard-working Americans.”
“Funding for health care is not just a number on a balance sheet – for many people, it’s a matter of life and death,” Wirth said. “These ruthless cuts will reverse our hard-earned progress in the fight against