Story at a glance
- President Biden has committed to ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which began in the 1980s.
- The administration is requesting $267 million more dollars from Congress to address the public health crisis.
- The program would expand the use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (also known as PrEP), a preventative medication against the disease.
Even before the coronavirus pandemic has ended, President Biden is gearing up to tackle another public health crisis — this time for good. In his request for discretionary funding from Congress, Biden requested $670 million with the goal of ending the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
With the money, the Biden administration is committing to “help accelerate and strengthen efforts to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States.” An estimated 1.2 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV today, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and roughly 1 in 7 don't know of their diagnosis. The disease has long battled the stigma related to racial minorities and the LGBTQ+ community, who are disproportionately affected by the epidemic.
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The total amount is a $267 million increase to the HHS's current budget, which is distributed between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, Health Resources and Services Administration and the Indian Health Service. The funding would go towards “access to treatment, expanding the use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (also known as PrEP), and ensuring equitable access to services and supports.”
The president has a track record of supporting these communities through legislation dating back to his days as a senator, when he cosponsored the Ryan White CARE Act 1990, which provided health care to low-income people with HIV. On the campaign trail, the president promised to reverse Department of Defense policies that discriminate against service members with HIV, as well as exposure and transmission laws that still exist in some parts of the country.
"These laws perpetuate discrimination and stigma towards people with HIV/AIDS, and there is simply no ‘scientific basis’ for them," he said.
But activists who have been fighting the epidemic for decades say it's not quite enough, noting that these funds will not go towards addressing the global HIV/AIDS epidemic.
"The last year of unfathomable human loss and health system collapse during colliding pandemics should have taught us the importance of investing in the human right to health, including making life-saving medicines available to all people, worldwide. We know how to end AIDS, but elected leaders still lack the will to make it a reality. This is not the time to turn a blind eye to the devastating impact of underfunding the HIV response," said Matthew Rose, Director of U.S. Policy and Advocacy at Health GAP.
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