ONE Campaign slams Trump's HIV cuts

Men look at health data papers. Photo by: Sarah Day Smith / PEPFAR

WASHINGTON — Ahead of World AIDS Day, the development advocacy group ONE Campaign has issued a sharp attack on the Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts and policy changes for U.S.-funded HIV/AIDS programs around the world.

“For the first time in 15 years, the U.S. government is showing signs of retreat from this fight, which would squander the incredible progress that has been made,” the report — titled Red Ribbon or White Flag: The Future of the U.S. Global AIDS Response — reads.

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ONE cites research from the Kaiser Family Foundation showing that a proposed $800 million cut to bilateral HIV/AIDS programs, including the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, launched by President George W. Bush in 2003, and $225 million cut to the multilateral Global Fund, “would force PEPFAR to implement a strategy that could result in nearly 300,000 deaths and more than 1.75 million new infections each year.”

If those cuts were to be passed and sustained until 2020, the world would see more new HIV infections than at any point since 2011, according to the research.

“Federal agencies have been instructed to make even deeper cuts in their FY 2019 proposals, which can only make matters worse,” the report reads, citing a White House memorandum.

So far, the U.S. Congress has rejected the White House’s proposal to slash funding to these programs. PEPFAR, in particular, enjoys broad bipartisan support on Capitol Hill, and multiple lawmakers have voiced their opposition to funding reductions.

In September, the State Department released a new strategy for PEPFAR, which aims to target resources to 13 focus countries with the potential to achieve epidemic control.

“The administration’s budget proposal has forced a new strategy for PEPFAR that is a commendable attempt to make the best of a bad situation, but, if implemented, the budget proposal could see the U.S. unilaterally surrender in the global fight against AIDS,” ONE’s report reads.

The group concludes by calling on Congress and the Trump administration to do four things: maintain full funding; expand the scope of the current strategy to reach epidemic control in 20 countries; support the development of epidemic control strategies in all high-burden countries that commit to meaningfully increase their own domestic expenditures; and continue to concentrate on highest risk populations.

The ONE Campaign was founded in 2004 by a coalition of development organizations and individuals including the rock star Bono. Their current president and CEO is Gayle Smith, former administrator of USAID under President Barack Obama.

Read more Devex coverage on HIV and AIDS.