Administration Tries To Play Shell Game To Hide The Damage; Advocates Not Fooled; $215M Budget Cut to Global AIDS Reveals Obama’s ‘AIDS Free Generation’ As Empty RhetoricBy
Source: AIDS Healthcare Foundation
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) today criticized the Obama administration, which—in a shocking repudiation of nearly thirty years of progress against the global AIDS pandemic—last Monday unveiled a global AIDS budget that takes the unprecedented step of reducing AIDS funding by approximately $214 million in fiscal year 2013. Never before has a President sought to actually reduce America’s commitment to fighting the AIDS epidemic globally.
In Fiscal Year 2012, the federal funding for global AIDS is $6.63 billion. President Obama’s fiscal year 2013 budget proposes spending $6.42 billion. In human terms, this difference represents 640,000 people with HIV/AIDS that could receive lifesaving AIDS treatment for one year.
The proposed budget comes shortly after, and is directly at odds with, the President’s December 2011 announced goals of putting 2 million more people (50% more than the current number of approximately 4 million) on treatment by the end of 2013, and of creating an “AIDS free generation.”
“This latest action merely confirms what people with HIV/AIDS and their advocates have long suspected – the President simply is not committed to fighting global AIDS. Coming on the heels of the President’s flowery rhetoric last December, the cynicism is simply breathtaking,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which provides free HIV/AIDS medical care to over 125,000 people in 26 countries abroad.
Since the creation of the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) under President George W. Bush in 2003, the U.S.’s commitment to global AIDS has grown quickly from less than $1 billion to today’s present levels, and the results have been nothing short of miraculous. In combating a disease that affects over 33 million, U.S. generosity today helps provide treatment for over 3.9 million people with HIV/AIDS worldwide, preventing premature deaths and has helped prevent millions of new HIV infections.
However, further funding increases have stalled under President Obama, despite Congressional approval for increased spending – which approval then-Senator Obama also supported. Now, as President, Obama is taking action to reduce America’s commitment.
Most damaging, the proposed budget slashes PEPFAR – the U.S.’s program for directly funding AIDS treatment, care, and prevention in the countries hardest hit by the AIDS epidemic – by $546 million. The budget seeks to downplay this devastation – and the full nature of the cuts – by engaging in shell game tactics of proposing an increase in contributions to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS Tuberculosis and Malaria, a multi-lateral program recently beset by charges of fraud and mismanagement, prompting the recent resignation of its Executive Director.
“With this one stroke, the President seeks to gut the most successful foreign aid program since the Marshall Plan,” continued Weinstein. “We simply don’t see how the U.S. can increase the number of people receiving treatment by 50% while simultaneously cutting the main program for treatment by 10%. Further, we are very concerned that shifting funding to the Global Fund, which unlike PEPFAR has had very serious issues of corruption and waste, is a deliberate effort to set the stage for future reductions should the Fund prove to be unable to spend the money effectively. Without increasing funding to levels already authorized by Congress, just holding steady against the epidemic, let alone achieving an ‘AIDS-free generation,’ is simply empty rhetoric.”