The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been sitting on data that shows that nearly 50% more Americans are infected with HIV than originally estimated which makes this the perfect time for Congress to cut funding for HIV prevention. The cuts occurred in an omnibus spending bill that will fund 14 federal agencies for 2008.
Among its provisions are just under $2.2 billion for the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act, which funds services for people with AIDS provided by states, cities, and private AIDS groups, and $692 million for the CDC's HIV prevention programs, which got $695 million in the 2007 fiscal year.
Included in the Senate version of the bill was an additional $40 billion for the Iraq war. That makes total sense right? Let's spend more money to blow stuff up and continue a completely unnecessary war rather than spending money to educate Americans on how to prevent becoming infected with HIV.
We are 26 years into the epidemic and there is still no comprehensive national strategy for dealing with AIDS. The next president has to make the creation and implementation of a national AIDS strategy a top priority.
As David Munar of AIDS Foundation Chicago and Prevention Justice says
CDC’s own 2001 HIV Prevention Strategic Plan, which set the important goal of reducing new HIV infections to a level of 20,000 per year by 2005 (a 50 percent reduction), quietly expired two year ago without any progress. A decade of flat funding, inadequate money for HIV prevention (and care) from the start, and poor investments for the scarce resources that have been made available—such as failure to fund needle exchange, comprehensive sexuality education, and other proven interventions—are largely (but not entirely) to blame. We also need to figure out what other psychosocial and structural factors (i.e. stigma, homophobia, racism) contribute to high rates of HIV transmission in the U.S. and what can be done about them.
Quite simply, failure to invest in proven interventions (and at adequate amounts) fails to produce desired results. This is why a comprehensive national AIDS strategy with measurable goals and objectives—and the accountability mechanisms to sustain and measure progress—is so desperately needed.