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The HIV Caucus Objects to Funding cuts of the FY18 Federal Budget Proposal

n solidarity with all people living with HIV in the United States and those most at risk of acquiring HIV, the US People Living with HIV Caucus (“the HIV Caucus”) is deeply troubled by the Trump Administration’s proposed massive cuts to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs in the FY 2018 Federal Budget. As a “network of networks” representing diverse unification of people living with HIV (PLHIV), as well as independent advocates living with HIV, the Caucus asserts that a $59 million cut to the Ryan White Care Act [RW] is unacceptable. The Ryan White Care Act provides critical life-saving services to more than a half million PLHIV, many of whom are among the most vulnerable within our community: those who live in poverty or in rural areas, People of Trans experience, women, the elderly, young people, especially African American men who have sex with men, those dealing with mental health and addiction issues, or are otherwise disenfranchised.
 
The $59 million in proposed cuts to the Ryan White program includes $34 million from AIDS Education and Training Centers - Part F. This program is responsible for ensuring that healthcare providers and those serving PLHIV are knowledgeable and well trained. Such a drastic cut will without doubt, increase the stigma and obstacles to care within the healthcare system PLHIV face. Another $25 million proposed cut from Special Projects of National Significance [SPNS], will dramatically reduce, if not eliminate, our ability to track emerging needs in a fast-changing response to the epidemic. The proposed $5.6 billion cut to the National Institutes of Health (including a $186 million cut to the TK) jeopardizes the progress we have made in HIV prevention, care and cure research.
 
We are especially troubled by the budget narrative outlined on page 89 of the HHS budget document. “Sexual Risk Avoidance, the Budget includes $10 million for Sexual Risk Avoidance education grants, the same as the funding level provided in the FY 2017 Continuing Resolution. This program supports an evidence based approach defined as voluntarily refraining from non-marital sexual activity.”
 
The Caucus, including the ex-officio organizations, PWN-USA, The Sero Project, ICW- North American, GNP+ North America, with seats on our Steering Committee, believe in science and evidence-based interventions consistent with HIV epidemiology. When PLHIV can access quality healthcare, we are able to live healthy lives, and virtually eliminate the risk of transmitting HIV to anyone else. Dependence on rhetoric and outdated abstinence only prevention strategies does not reflect our current HIV science based approaches. Access to the full “toolkit” of prevention: PrEP, PEP, access to condoms, treatment as prevention and full access to stigma free factual information will impact HIV; not regressive social judgement.

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