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AIDS service orgs seek additional funding from Congress

A coalition of over 80 HIV/AIDS service organizations have sent a letter to Congress seeking increased funding for HIV prevention and care programming in the country.

The letter, delivered to top Obama White House officials as well as members of the House and Senate Appropriations committees, calls for millions of dollars in increased spending to combat the epidemic in the U.S.

The letter highlights eight areas of federal funding streams, and identifies what the groups say the financial needs in each area are.

Of particular interest is a call for increased funding to Ryan White monies. Those funds assist state AIDS Drug Assistance Programs which help those infected with HIV who do not have insurance access vital medications. It currently serves 529,000 people, but several states have had to furlough applicants to waiting lists. Florida leads the nation with waiting list patients at 3,085 people. Ten states have implemented waiting list, putting 6,001 people in limbo waiting for access to life saving medications.

The Obama administration has pushed a $30 million emergency supplemental spending bill for ADAP programming for the 2010 fiscal year. But the letter calls for additional funding under Ryan White Care Act as follows:

For these reasons, we strongly urge you to support an increase in funding of at least $101.9 million for the Ryan White Program. In doing so, we support that the funding be divided in the following ways: $15 million for Part A, which will go to 52 metropolitan areas in 28 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico ; $10 million for Part B base, which goes to all states; $65 million for ADAP, which goes to all states; $5 million for Part C, which funds 444 clinics in 49 states, DC and Puerto Rico; $2.5 million for Part D, which funds 98 programs in 36 states for Women, Children and Youth; $ 2.6 million for Part F, which funds the AIDS Educations and Training Centers; and $1.8 million for Part F Dental programs. While these numbers do not represent the true need, in most instances, they represent what was proposed by Congress in earlier versions of FY11 spending bills.

The letter also supports an emergency appropriation for $66 million for prevention activities funded through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

With increased funding, crucial prevention efforts can be enhanced, including the delivery and evaluation of behavioral interventions, structural interventions, surveillance, and other preventative education programs. Community-based organizations and state and local health departments are all facing severe financial challenges. Through budget cuts, hiring freezes, layoffs, and furloughs, health departments across the nation continue to curtail core public health functions, including those that prevent the spread of HIV and other infectious diseases. Additional federal resources are absolutely necessary if we are to reverse the increase of new infections, which occur at the rate of one every 9 ½ minutes.

With 56,000 new infections identified annually, prevention measures are key, the groups say. Preventing those 56,000 new infections would result in a lifetime savings in medical care of $20 billion the group says. In Detroit, HIV prevalence rates in over half of the city’s zip codes are three, four and five percent. One zip code has a prevalence rate of six percent, which is on part with Uganda. Those prevention dollars could assist in addressing the crisis in Detroit.

The letter also calls for $40 million more for the Division of Adolescent and School Health. That proposal notes that youth 13-29 account for one-third of new infections nationally. The groups also call for $133 million in funding for the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative and request the program to include HIV prevention messages.

In addition, the groups ask lawmakers to approve $350 million for Housing Opportunities for People With HIV/AIDS. The program assists HIV positive people obtaining and maintaining stable housing. This, studies have shown, has a positive impact on health outcomes for those with HIV and prevents additional infections, lowers medical costs by getting people with HIV to adhere to medication protocols and more.

And finally the letter calls for $1.4 million for the Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) in the White House. The money would be used to effectively implement the National HIV/AIDS Strategy released by the Obama administration in July.

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