CQ HEALTHBEAT: Obama Budget Request on AIDS and Hepatitis Funding Criticized

February 02, 2010


By Jane Norman, CQ HealthBeat Associate Editor

President Obama’s proposed budget allocations for HIV/AIDS and viral hepatitis programs came under fire Tuesday from advocates who said more money is needed for disease prevention and treatment.

Representatives of the AIDS Institute and the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable said the funding increases proposed by Obama in his 2011 budget request released on Monday are inadequate given the scope of the problem. The Institute of Medicine issued a major report earlier this month saying hepatitis B and C go unrecognized as a serious public health threat, and AIDS prescription drug programs based in the states are seeing tremendous growth, advocates said.

AIDS Institute leaders said Obama proposed an increase of $39 million, or 1.7 percent, to the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, one of the largest federal program targeted toward low-income people with HIV/AIDS. The money includes a $20 million increase, or 2.4 percent, to the AIDS Drug Assistance Programs in states, which provide low-income Americans with the prescription drugs they need to fight AIDS. The institute wants an emergency supplemental appropriation this budget year for the programs.

With significant cuts to state and local budgets, and the growing number of new infections and people needing life-saving treatment and services, we are disappointed in the level of spending proposed by the president,” said Carl Schmid, deputy executive director of the institute, in a statement. He said the proposed increases are smaller than last year’s, but local budgets are in much worse shape now.

Institute officials said that a budget increase of $31 million, or 4 percent, is proposed for HIV prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A housing program at the Department of Housing and Urban Development for needy people with AIDS would receive a $5 million increase, bringing it to $340 million.

As for hepatitis, leaders of the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable said that a proposed funding increase of $1.8 million is too small. The total budget for the Division of Viral Hepatitis at the CDC would be $21 million in 2011.

“While the administration’s proposed $1.8 million increase for the Division of Viral Hepatitis is better than we have seen in years, its budget proposal ultimately shortchanges more than 5 million Americans afflicted with chronic viral hepatitis,” said Lorren Sandt, chairwoman of the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable, in a statement.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in presenting the overall HHS budget described it as strengthening the public health infrastructure and “getting serious about prevention and wellness,” though she also cautioned that “we recognize the fiscal challenges facing this nation.” The fiscal 2011 budget request for the CDC says that $1.1 billion, an increase of $38 million, will be provided for prevention programs for HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis, sexually transmitted diseases and tuberculosis.

“The request also includes increased funds to support key components of a national HIV/AIDS strategy under development,” budget documents say. “CDC will address high-risk populations and use new medical approaches to communicate culturally appropriate and effective messages about HIV risk reduction behavior.”

Source: CQ HealthBeat News
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