Nearly 300 leading U.S. disease experts expressed serious concern about the White House’s inadequate budget request for global AIDS and TB programs, saying the proposed funding levels signal a retreat in the U.S. response to the twin epidemics of HIV and TB.
In a strongly-worded letter sent to members of Congress today, the physician-scientists said the consequences of a pullback in combating HIV and TB in the developing world would be devastating. HIV/AIDS experts, in particular, are concerned that insufficient funding requested by the White House could jeopardize the hard-won gains made in reducing HIV-related mortality, preventing new infections, and providing life-saving treatment and care to millions of HIV-positive patients through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
The letter comes amid an unfolding crisis in access to HIV treatment in southern Africa, a result of the economic downturn, stagnant funding for PEPFAR, and a shortfall in resources for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. There are already disturbing reports from Uganda, Nigeria and Mozambique about limits on access to lifesaving drugs for new HIV patients, even for pregnant and breastfeeding women. These limits also put at risk U.S. investments in HIV testing campaigns launched across the developing world, because patients may now be reluctant to find out their status if they have no assurances of receiving treatment.
“We cannot retreat from the lifesaving mission we as a nation embraced in 2003 through the creation of the PEPFAR program,” the letter states. “Regrettably, the President’s FY 2011 budget reflects such a retreat by failing to request adequate resources to continue to scale-up HIV treatment or to respond to the twin epidemics of HIV and TB in southern Africa and elsewhere in the developing world.” Click here to see the House version of the missive: Global AIDS-TB Sign on Letter for House
Physician-scientists are also deeply worried about the U.S. commitment to fighting TB. The Obama Administration’s Global Health Initiative dramatically scales back treatment targets for tuberculosis, including lethal new strains of drug-resistant TB. The letter urges lawmakers to support full funding for the Lantos-Hyde Act, which calls for spending $48 billion over five years to address HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria.