The Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives is proposing draconian funding cuts of $767 million to key federal HIV prevention and treatment programs for the 2024 fiscal year. However, the gridlocked House budget process has left the spending bill – which includes extreme cuts to other social safety net programs – stuck in a House appropriations subcommittee.
In an unprecedented politicization of effective bipartisan HIV programs, the proposed cuts would zero out funding for the Ending the Epidemic Initiative–launched in 2019 to end the HIV epidemic by 2030–as well as the Ryan White Program Part F. It would slash funding by over half for the Minority HIV/AIDS Initiative. All are programs that expand HIV testing, increase access to PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), and connect people living with HIV to care.
However, the proposed appropriations bill from the GOP-controlled House Subcommittee for Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies must still get through Congress. “We are actively engaged with Congress in fighting these cuts. We are working with our partners in the Senate to make sure the House subcommittee’s proposed spending bill does not see the light of day,” said GMHC’s VP of Communications and Policy Jason Cianciotto.
“GMHC is not alone in the fight,” Cianciotto added. “The community of HIV and AIDS services organizations have come together with a united voice in opposition.” Through GMHC’s membership in AIDS United, the agency belongs to a national coalition of over 55 HIV and AIDS service organizations that are advocating for the continued funding of crucial HIV programs.
“Fortunately, the Republican majority in Congress is slim, there’s a progressive majority in the Senate, and we have a supportive Presidency. So, two of the three steps required to create a federal budget are on our side,” Cianciotto said.
The House subcommittee bill with the proposed HIV funding cuts must first be passed by the full House Appropriations Commitee and then the House. Then it must be reconciled with the Senate spending bill, passed in July, and be signed by President Biden.
The Senate has passed its own $224.4 billion appropriations bill for Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies. That bill allocates $616 million for the Ending the Epidemic Initiative – an increase from FY23 funding of $573.25 million. President Biden’s FY24 budget proposal from March went even further, recommending $850 million in Ending the Epidemic funding.
Compared to the Senate bill, the GOP-controlled House subcommittee’s proposed bill would cut $545.3 million from the Ending the Epidemic Initiative. (That includes: $223 million from Centers for Disease Control programs, $165 million for the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program, and $157.3 million from the HRSA Community Health Centers program.)
It would also zero out funding for Ryan White Part F ($73.5 million) and cut funding by over $151 million for federal Minority AIDS Initiative programs, relative to the Senate appropriations bill.
But House budget talks have been at an impasse, due to factionalism. On the eve of the 2024 fiscal year, which started Oct. 1, Congress approved a continuing resolution to avert a shutdown and fund the government through Nov. 17. That prompted the ouster of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Oct. 3, led by the House Freedom Caucus.
“It is a relatively small group of extremists in the House Republican majority who are focused on stopping our government from working. That has not worked out well when the GOP forced shutdowns in the past, but until their influence is decreased, most likely via the next election, our national social safety net is at risk,” Cianciotto said.
The drastic proposed cuts to HIV funding are part of the MAGA House faction’s larger project to slash public health and social services funding. The GOP-controlled House subcommittee has proposed a 29% cut in overall funding to the $147 billion budget for the combined Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies.
“This bill is shameful – but based on where the majority has taken this entire process, sadly, it is not surprising,’ said Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), the ranking member for the House Appropriations Committee, in her July response to the House subcommittee’s proposed budget for these social service agencies.
Cianciotto emphasized the importance of focusing on the larger strategic picture. “It’s important to recognize that the people trying to force these proposed cuts are not in the majority, in terms of what our nation – and even their political party – stand for,” he said. “The key to ensuring we do not fall back in the fight against HIV is to make sure that this small minority of people lose power. The best way to do that is through elections.”
Want to use your voice? Tell Congress to reject these draconian cuts to HIV funding and support the Senate’s bipartisan funding bill by clicking here.