By Randy Mayer, Chief, Bureau of HIV, STD, and Hepatitis, Iowa Department of Public Health
Editor’s note: This letter was originally sent to NASTAD members and was published with the permission of the author.
As previously reported by NASTAD, the Budget Control Act of 2011’s sequestration process will result in a cut of up to $1.2 trillion starting in January 2013. This will mean an 8.2 percent cut to HIV/AIDS and viral hepatitis programs. NASTAD’s analysis of these cuts to HIV/AIDS and viral hepatitis programs found that:
- 15,708 enrolled clients will be removed from ADAP
- 412 HIV positive people will not find out their status due to cuts to testing funding
- Ryan White Program Part B grants will be cut by over $34 million
- HIV prevention by health departments will be cut by $28 million
- HIV surveillance by health departments will be cut by $9.7 million
- Viral hepatitis prevention will be cut by $1.6 million, an amount which currently funds nine viral hepatitis prevention coordinators (VHPC)
These figures startled me. The cuts are especially devastating at a time when ending HIV/AIDS and viral hepatitis is within our reach. The National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) and the Department of Health and Human Services Viral Hepatitis Action Plan lay out how to reduce new infections and increase access to care, but with these cuts we may never be able to realize these goals. Inspired by the NASTAD issue profile, NASTAD staff and I have reached out to some Congressional partners to discuss sequestration. I wanted to tell you about our conversations, invoke a call to action, and share tips on how we might be able to make a difference in order to reverse these pending cuts.
In our conversations with Hill staffers, we share what these cuts will mean for state programs. Like most health departments in these tough economic times, Iowa has already faced cuts, particularly to our HIV prevention program. Sequestration will mean further reductions in core activities like condom distribution, partner services, and disease surveillance. There is no way to maintain current levels of health department staff with the cuts from sequestration. When I talk to congressional staff, I share the budget situation for Iowa, and I express my fear that cuts to HIV and viral hepatitis programs will increase infection, reduce access to care, and increase the nation’s health care costs.
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Staff working for one of our key Congressional champions understands the devastating impact that sequestration will bring to HIV/AIDS and viral hepatitis programs. However, they shared with us that Members of Congress are not hearing enough about what these cuts will mean, in real terms, at the state and local level. Simply put: we need to mobilize, by meeting with and writing to our Members of Congress to provide education on how these cuts will affect our programs. We need to act now. Health departments should work in tandem with community partners at the state and local levels to raise the level of awareness and insert our collective voices – we can’t do this alone.
NASTAD is here to help all of us be the voice for HIV/AIDS and viral hepatitis programs. Congressional members are currently on recess so you and/or your community partners will be able to schedule meetings with them locally. To find your representative, click here. A list of Senators can be found here. NASTAD has provided us with a sample meeting request letter and talking points for the meetings.
State numbers will be very important to share in your meetings. Print out a list of all the federal funds you get by program and calculate an 8.2 percent reduction. This will be your state’s cut to services by program. Another resource for state and national numbers is the report released by the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), Education Appropriations Subcommittee.
If you can’t meet in person with your Member of Congress or attend one of their town hall meetings, please tailor a response using this sample letter with your state-specific information. Pass on this information to your community members and encourage them to weigh-in.
Thank you for all you do to protect the HIV/AIDS and viral hepatitis programs. Working together, we can send a strong message to our elected policymakers in Washington about the importance of these programs. Please contact me, Terrance Moore or Emily McCloskey with any questions.
To learn more about about how budget sequestration would impact domestic HIV/AIDS and viral hepatitis programs, please check out the the resources below:
- Press Release: Sequestration Will Cut $659 Million from Domestic HIV/AIDS and Viral Hepatitis Programs (PDF)
- Issue Brief: Sequestration Impacts on Federal Funding for State HIV/AIDS and Viral Hepatitis Programs (NASTAD) (PDF)
- Issue Brief: Estimating the Human Impact of Budget Sequestration on HIV/AIDS in the United States in Fiscal Year 2013 (amfAR) (PDF) and (NMAC) (PDF)
How would sequestration affect your state HIV and hepatitis programs? How are you working to prevent budget sequestration? Tell us how by leaving a comment below.