Health GAP (Global Access Project) PRESS STATEMENT
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 2 2015
Contact: Paul Davis, +1 202 817 0129 • [email protected]
Obama Budget Betrays President’s Commitments on Global AIDS
• Activists call on Congress to fill the gap•
(Washington D.C.) AIDS activists expressed bitter disappointment over President Obama’s proposal to cut $200 million from the global AIDS budget for FY 2016. The President’s budget fails to restore cuts made since 2011 in PEPFAR, and reduces by nearly $250 million the U.S. contribution to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. This reduction to global AIDS programs from FY15 (enacted) amplifies years of underfinancing, leaving PEPFAR short of funds needed to carry out its mission. In 2014, PEPFAR saw steep declines in new enrollments on life-saving treatment.
“The President talks about removing budget caps and overturning sequestration, but then proposes more cuts to this successful, popular program that is saving millions of lives,” said Health GAP’s Paul Davis. “President Obama apparently lacks the conviction to keep his 2013 commitment for an ‘AIDS-free generation’ made in the State of the Union Address. Less funding means fewer people get treatment, more people get infected, and the epidemic grows instead of shrinking. AIDS funding cuts means more people die. We need the many supporters of global health from both parties in Congress to step up again and fill this leadership gap, like appropriators did last year by restoring half the cuts made to PEPFAR by the President,” Davis continued.
Congress last year increased funds for PEPFAR for FY15 for the first time in years, although the balance of cash came from reallocating $300 million in funds pledged to the Global Fund that other donors had not stepped up to match. “In a rare show of bipartisanship, Congress has shown its commitment to funding the programs needed to actually move toward ending the AIDS crisis,” said Matthew Kavanagh of Health GAP. “In a tough budget environment members of congress reached across the aisle last year to support life-saving global AIDS initiatives--yet the White House responded this year by cutting those programs instead. It’s the height of cynicism to for President Obama to make big promises to people living with AIDS around the world, and then refuse to fund them in his 2016 budget proposal.”
New enrollments on HIV treatment supported by PEPFAR slowed dramatically in 2014 under budget cuts. Programs in Uganda and Kenya, two countries with the potential for dramatic program acceleration, have said they are running out of money to continue scaling up in 2015 and 2016—a result that will likely cause a surge in deaths and new infections.
“How can we in Kenya take the American commitment to an ‘AIDS-free Generation’ seriously when President Obama has not delivered on his own promises?” asked Maureen Milanga from Health GAP’s Nairobi office. “It is inexcusable that the U.S. President would pull back at this moment—over a sum that is really only a rounding error in the U.S. budget, but would save countless lives, avert millions of new infections, and generate massive cost savings. In Kenya, we rely on the U.S. keeping its commitments to people with HIV to leverage increased investments from our own government. We need Congress to finish restoring $300 million harmful cuts to PEPFAR, so that hard-hit countries around the world can continue stepping up to do our part to end the epidemic. Obama’s proposal will allow the epidemic to grow, and for costs to spiral out of control.”