Bush budget flat-funds Ryan White AIDS programs

BY admin

February 04 2004 12:00 AM ET

President Bush on Monday sent Congress a $2.4 trillion fiscal 2005 budget that includes big increases for defense and homeland security but flat-funds Ryan White HIV/AIDS programs and includes only a modest increase in funding for state-run AIDS Drug Assistance Programs. Very few domestic programs outside of defense and homeland security received funding increases in Bush's proposed budget, but a doubling of spending to $270 million on abstinence-only sex education and HIV prevention programs was included in Bush's spending request as part of the president's proposed Marriage and Healthy Family Development Initiative. Bush also requested $2.8 billion for international AIDS efforts, less than the $3 billion he could request through the five-year, $15 billion global AIDS initiative. The budget also includes a $364 billion deficit, which could climb to more than $410 billion when the costs of war in Iraq and Afghanistan are added in.

AIDS activists reacted with alarm to the flat funding of Ryan White AIDS programs and an increase in spending on anti-HIV medications for low-income people that is more than $280 million short of what is needed to provide the drugs to everyone who needs them. The proposed $35 million increase for the nation's ADAPs would bring the program's total appropriation to $783 million, which is $284 million short of the projected need, according to the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. With 15 state ADAPs closed to new enrollments and nearly 800 HIV-positive people on waiting lists for medications, community advocates are calling on Congress to support a $180 million emergency supplemental appropriation this fiscal year for ADAP. "ADAP is one of our country's most important and successful AIDS programs," said David Munar, AFC's associate director. "Thousands of HIV-positive people will be denied access to care, which will simply worsen our nation's AIDS crisis."

"The Administration is scaling back on domestic AIDS funding just as the epidemic may be showing signs of resurgence," added AIDS Project Los Angeles executive director Craig Thompson. "We understand the enormous demands on this budget, especially for increases in funding for national security. But protecting the country against AIDS is also part of national security."

Activists also decried an increase of only $1 million for HIV prevention programs, particularly since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has already shifted up to $90 million in federal prevention dollars away from traditional programs aimed at keeping HIV-negative people from becoming infected to those urging HIV-positive people to stop spreading the virus. "We are disappointed in the Administration's 2005 budget proposal, especially the lack of additional funds for HIV prevention," said Mark Ishaug, AFC's executive director. "How can we possibly reduce the 40,000 infections each year in this country without a greater financial commitment to proven prevention programs?"

The Democratic National Committee also sounded in with criticism of the president's planned AIDS spending, particularly since federal figures show that HIV infections between 1992 and 2002 soared 26% among Latinos and 17% among gay and bisexual men. "We believe the HIV/AIDS epidemic requires a comprehensive, coordinated national strategy that includes increased funding and strong presidential leadership," said DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe in a statement. "The Bush administration so far has failed to meet either of these tests." McAuliffe added, "Bush's refusal to fund science-based programs and community-oriented prevention efforts while pouring millions into abstinence-only programs shows just how far he is willing to go in order to appease his right-wing base."

To battle soaring deficits, Bush proposed squeezing scores of government programs and sought outright spending cuts in seven of 16 cabinet-level agencies. The Agriculture Department and the Environmental Protection Agency were targeted for the biggest reductions in discretionary spending.
In total, Bush's budget would eliminate 65 government programs for a savings of $4.9 billion. The budget proposes trimming spending in 63 other programs. Bush says his spending blueprint advances his three highest priorities--winning the war on terror, strengthening homeland defenses, and boosting economic recovery. Bush proposes boosting military spending by 7% in 2005 and raising homeland security's budget by 10%.

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