President Obama may finally be living up to the expectations of AIDS activists, who had long hoped the first African-American president might pay close attention to the HIV epidemic.
The president’s 2013 budget request includes an increase of $58 million to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for AIDS, as well as $10 million for hard-hit urban areas and $88 million more for care and treatment under the Ryan White program, which provides last-resort care for patients.
“The budget prioritizes HIV/AIDS resources within high-burden communities and among high-risk groups, including gay and bisexual men, black Americans, Latino Americans and substance users,” the White House said in a fact sheet.
“Compared to 2010, the budget increases domestic discretionary HIV/AIDS funding at the Department of Health and Human Services by $219 million and Veterans Affairs HIV/AIDS funding by $173 million, while maintaining HIV/AIDS funding levels at the Department of Justice and Department of Housing and Urban Development. Overall, total U.S. government-wide spending on HIV/AIDS increases from $26 billion to approximately $28 billion in 2012.”
The budget designates $940 million for AIDS drug-assistance programs, $80 million more than three years ago in 2010. The White House said the money would provide AIDS drugs to 13,000 patients who have not been getting them.
The CDC estimates that 1.2 million Americans are infected with the virus that causes AIDS and that as many as 20 percent don’t know because they haven’t been tested. About 50,000 become newly infected every year, many of them young, black men but also other minorities, women, and drug users.
Groups that have been critical of federal AIDS funding praised President Obama’s budget on Monday.
“Given our nation’s difficult fiscal climate, President Obama’s call for increased HIV/AIDS funding demonstrates his steadfast commitment to combating this epidemic and realizing what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called an ‘AIDS-free generation,” Kali Lindsey of the National Minority AIDS Council said in a statement.
“President Obama has shown leadership by developing a National HIV/AIDS Strategy and bolstering it with the dollars to implement it. We hope the Congress will follow his lead,” Michael Ruppal, Executive Director of the AIDS Institute,” said in his own statement.
But the AIDS Institute wasn’t totally full of praise, saying it would fight a proposal to cut Part D of the Ryan White program.