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House Appropriations Committee passes FY2018 health services budget bill that offers no additional funding for HIV or viral hepatitis initiatives; does not acknowledge the rising rates of Hepatitis C infections in the U.S.
The bill “flat funds” – meaning there is no increase or decrease in funding – HIV programming, including the Ryan White Program, at the FY2017 level, with the Ryan White Program having already endured a $4 million cut in FY2016. While this flat funding does not allow the Program to keep pace with increasing need or rising health care costs, it is the preferred option to the $58.8 million cut to Ryan White funding that was requested by the President. The Committee also rejected an amendment brought by Rep. Barbara Lee (D – CA) to restore funding for the Minority AIDS Initiative Fund (MAI).
The bill also flat funds the CDC’s Viral Hepatitis programs at $34 million for the third consecutive year. Viral Hepatitis saw a modest $2.7 million budget boost in FY2016 to bring it to the $34 million mark, but funding has remained flat ever since. What is even more troubling is the comments made in the bill by the Committee concerning viral hepatitis prevalence. The Committee only makes a brief mention of its concern in the rise of cases of Hepatitis B in the U.S. despite the availability of a vaccine with an efficacy rate over 90%. There is no mention of concern about the skyrocketing rates of Hepatitis C in the U.S. among young adults tied to the opioid epidemic. While Hepatitis B and C rates are increasing in the U.S., rates of Hepatitis C are increasing at a far more rapid rate, and hundreds of thousands more Americans are affected by Hepatitis C than B. The Committee’s silence on this issue speaks loudly.
Legislators must start listening to the advice of health authorities and advocates who are imploring them to provide support to address the Hepatitis C epidemic in tandem with the opioid epidemic, as the two are fundamentally correlated. Actions such as this by the House Appropriations Committee indicate the government’s continued commitment to ignore data and insight from those working directly on health issues to provide the adequate resources needed to actually remediate the Nation’s most critical public health issues.
NASTAD has created a chart showing the breakdown of funding for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, and STD programs, which can be found here.
The views reflected in this expert column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent those of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law or Georgetown University. This blog is solely informational in nature, and not intended as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed and retained attorney in your state or country.