Public Policy: Good News and Bad News for HIV/AIDS in 2013

By Katie Coester | April 3, 2013

The US Capitol is the center of vitally important debates about HIV/AIDS funding this year.

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Last week, after months of political wrangling, Congress passed legislation to finance the federal government for the remainder of fiscal year 2013. When looking at the funding levels for U.S. foreign assistance, we found both good and bad news for the global fight against HIV and AIDS.

The good news: Congress bumped up overall allocations to global HIV/AIDS causes, helping to mitigate some (but not all) of the effects of the cuts incurred of sequestration. But the bad news is that in spite of attempts to bolster the global HIV/AIDS account, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is now at its lowest funding levels in five years.

Funding for the global AIDS response has enjoyed widespread bipartisan support in Congress, largely because U.S. global HIV/AIDS programs have shown such a consistent return on investment. As of March 2012, PEPFAR was supporting antiretroviral (ARV) treatment for nearly 4.5 million people worldwide – well on its way to reaching 6 million people by the end of 2013. In Fiscal Year 2011 alone, PEPFAR directly supported HIV testing and counseling for more than 40 million people, and care and support services for nearly 13 million people, including more than 4.1 million orphans and vulnerable children. In that same year, PEPFAR helped to avert 200,000 new HIV infections in children by supporting over 9.8 million pregnant women with HIV counseling and testing and by providing antiretroviral drugs to more than 660,000 women living with HIV to prevent mother-to-child-transmission (PMTCT) of the virus.

However, the contentious fiscal environment on Capitol Hill threatens the gains that have been made to end the AIDS epidemic. While the PEPFAR numbers are incredibly impressive, there is still a lot of work to do if we want to reach the goal of an AIDS-free generation. Almost half of HIV-positive pregnant women still need access to services to help prevent transmission of HIV to their children. Nearly three-quarters of HIV-positive children don’t have access to treatment. Without treatment, 80 percent of them will die by their 5th birthday. These fiscal cuts will create real human impact: fewer women accessing services to prevent HIV transmission to their children; more children born HIV-positive; and fewer children able to access lifesaving HIV treatment.

Right now, Congress is debating funding levels for fiscal year 2014—what to prioritize, what to fund, and what to cut. We must reverse cuts to HIV/AIDS funding in the next fiscal year.

Congress needs to be reminded that these programs are critical. Advocates across the country and around the world are reaching out to our leaders, and you can be one of them. Email your Member of Congress and Senators today, and tell them why you think global HIV/AIDS funding is so important.

Katie Coester is Public Policy Officer for the Foundation, based in Washington, D.C.