Over the coming hours, the House and Senate will vote on a just-released spending package to fund the government for Fiscal Year 2023. Unfortunately, this bill does not demonstrate the political will we desperately need in a time of colliding pandemics.
Instead of funding increases desperately needed for the U.S. bilateral HIV response, Congress will yet again reject community calls for $750 million more for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). A decade of virtual flat funding means the pace of life-saving HIV treatment scale up is faltering. The AIDS response is dangerously off track—particularly for LGBTQ people, people who use drugs, and sex workers. This is not the way to end AIDS.
Even as COVID persists, Congress is shirking leadership in the COVID response at home and around the world. Lawmakers appear poised to decouple Medicaid eligibility from the declaration of Public Health Emergency—even though it could lead to states blocking access to lifesaving healthcare services.
Despite the astoundingly high global prevalence of Long COVID, the budget allocates only $10 million for the management of this condition in the U.S. And Congress remains silent on the creation of a domestic or global plan for Long COVID and associated diseases (such as ME/CFS). Congress shot down the $10 billion requested by the White House for lifesaving COVID programs. Additionally, Congress rejected our calls for $100 million to fund the World Health Organization-backed mRNA vaccine manufacturing hub, which is facing serious funding shortfalls as it attempts to build the capacity of African manufacturers to produce their own vaccines. Local production exists as a key step toward breaking the Big Pharma’s stranglehold on vaccine supply, price, and intellectual property.
I know no one likes to get bad news. But I am still hopeful we can deploy our activist power, guided by evidence, to compel our leaders to act in 2023 and beyond.
Health GAP will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with you, fighting until we win the funding, policies, and accountability we require to defeat AIDS. After all, we know that the struggle for health justice is a long-term commitment. We do not give up.