Science Community Signs Letter to President Trump About HIV/AIDS Funding
Based on information provided by HealthGap.org, on March 7th it was announced that 200 scientists, researchers, and clinicians have come out against the Trump Administration’s policies that continue to undermine the global HIV response. Included in this list were co-discoverer of HIV, Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, a virologist and Nobel Laureate, Linda-Gail Bekker, the President of the International AIDS Society, and the HIV Medicine Association.
They, along with 197 others, have signed an open letter to U.S. President Donald Trump denouncing the deterioration of evidence-based policymaking during his administration.
Since Trump took office on January 20, 2017, the administration has been on a non-stop attack against HIV programming, funding, and policy on a domestic and international level. This started within the first week of office, when the Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) website was completely taken down. The White House initially stated this was due to the normal change in administration, but when the site returned it was archival data only, with no members reassigned to cover the office.
This was followed by a statement in March that HIV funding would be reduced by 300 million dollars, 50 million coming domestically. When the actual budget was submitted in May, the reduction ask would be for nearly 1.2 billion dollars, removing nearly 900 million in funds from the PEPFAR program, which helps treat HIV globally, especially in Africa. There was then an ask that the CDC remove several words from funding document requests, including diversity, transgender, scientific based, and vulnerable, which would again affect the non-profit HIV community that serves many of those demographics. Finally, in December, the President disbanded the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV and AIDS (PACHA).
The letter was released today on the final day of the annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Boston, Massachusetts. CROI is the preeminent HIV research meeting in the world and attracts more than 4,000 HIV/AIDS research leaders internationally. The conference has facilitated the presentation of important discoveries in the field and accelerated progress in HIV/AIDS research.
On this last day of the conference, scientists, researchers, and clinicians spoke out against actions taken during the Trump Presidency, which has been marked by a dramatic decline of evidence-based policymaking and repeated attempts to slash funding for scientific research.
The letter states:
"We, the undersigned, are HIV clinicians, researchers and scientists responding to the AIDS epidemics around the world and in the U.S.
We are gravely concerned by President Trump's pursuit of policies that are out of step with evidence. The most recent examples include:
President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2019 Budget proposal to the U.S. Congress that contains at least $1.284 billion in cuts to life saving global HIV programs, when no less than $850 million in additional funding is needed for PEPFAR, and a full $1.35 billion in funding for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Analyses by UNAIDS show that a surge in global AIDS funding is needed now, in order to accelerate treatment and prevention and attain control of the epidemic by 2030.
Reinstatement and expansion of the Mexico City Policy, now called "Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance." This policy blocks U.S. funding for non-U.S. organizations that use non-U.S. government sources of funding to provide abortion counseling or referrals, advocate to decriminalize abortion or expand abortion services. Expansion of this policy to include PEPFAR and all other health development assistance will reduce the standard of sexual and reproductive care provided to women living with and at risk for HIV.
The establishment of the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division at the Department of Health and Human Services, and the proposed rule regarding "Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care," an Executive action that, if enacted, would provide license for health care providers to discriminate against their patients.
Proposed cuts to the National Institutes of Health, specifically the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the Fogarty International Center, which if enacted would slow urgently needed HIV basic and implementation research and impair work to build research capacity in partner nations to fight HIV.
Science shows us that we can defeat HIV, but not if we defy evidence.
President Trump’s misguided budget proposal, and his Administration’s attempts to scale up policies in defiance of evidence will only undermine the global AIDS response and should be stopped."