Republicans’ Biggest Budget Cut Revealed

According to Politico, House Republicans are considering significant budget cuts, including a substantial reduction in funding for America’s AIDS elimination efforts. Four years after former President Donald Trump heavily invested in the “Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S.” initiative, GOP members in the House are proposing a drastic 95% cut to the program’s funding.

Representative Robert Aderholt (R-AL), who chairs the subcommittee responsible for the budget of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), explained to Politico the need to prioritize essential spending, leading to these proposed cuts.

While the Democrat-led Senate is unlikely to approve such a reduction, there are concerns that diminishing Republican support could hinder the progress made in recent years in combating HIV/AIDS. Jeremiah Johnson, the executive director of PrEP4ALL, an advocacy organization, expressed surprise at the severity of the proposed cuts, given the historically bipartisan nature of HIV/AIDS initiatives.

Trump, in his 2019 State of the Union address, set a goal to eradicate the HIV epidemic in the U.S. within a decade. His 2020 fiscal year budget proposal included $291 million for the AIDS initiative, with Congress initially allocating $266 million. Funding has since increased annually, reaching $573 million in 2023. President Joe Biden’s budget proposal for 2023 requested $850 million, while the Senate suggested a $3 million increase.

Recent CDC statistics reveal that nearly 37,000 new HIV diagnoses were reported in 2022, with Blacks and Latinos disproportionately affected. Despite the availability of PrEP, a preventive medication, significant disparities exist in its prescription rates among different racial groups.

House Republicans justify the proposed funding cuts by pointing out these gaps in PrEP prescription rates and citing the program’s perceived shortcomings. The House Appropriations report, as noted by Politico, criticized the initiative for its lack of outcome-based performance data, insufficient budget justifications, and unclear spending plans, claiming it has not achieved its original goals.

Despite these criticisms, HHS data indicates that the program has facilitated millions of HIV tests and helped tens of thousands of HIV-positive individuals access care. Furthermore, CDC figures show an increase in PrEP prescriptions, rising from 22.7% in 2019 to 36% in 2023 among those who could benefit from it.