One Tent Health has been offering free “pop-up” HIV testing in neighborhoods across D.C. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Congress Approves $100m Boost to HIV/AIDS Initiatives

The appropriations bill for the fiscal year 2023 released by Congress on Tuesday contains an additional $100 million for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Ending the HIV Epidemic in the United States initiative.

Among other programs, the funding will strengthen efforts to increase the adoption of preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to reduce the risk of new HIV infections.

In a press release, the HIV+Hepatitis Policy Institute celebrated the boost from Congress but noted that more must be done — including a national PrEP program.

“The increases will help expand HIV programs in the targeted jurisdictions most impacted by HIV,” said Carl Schmid, the group’s executive director. However, “given that Congress again has not fully funded the initiative and has not provided dedicated funding for a national PrEP program, ending HIV by 2030 will be in serious jeopardy.”

President Joe Biden has proposed a $9.8 billion 10-year national PrEP program, which is widely considered a crucial step in addressing the gaps in access to the HIV prevention drugs among, particularly, Black and Latino gay men and Black women.

HHS’s Ending the HIV Epidemic in the United States program, launched in 2019, aims to bring the number of new HIV infections down 90 per cent by 2030 through investing in key strategies for prevention and treatment.

The initiative is coordinated with several other federal agencies: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Health Resources and Services Administration, the Indian Health Service, the National Institutes of Health, and the Office of the HHS Assistant Secretary for Health and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The HIV+Hepatitis Policy Institute’s press release notes Tuesday’s appropriations bill will be the final spending package passed with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) serving as Democratic leader.

Pelosi, in her first speech as a congresswoman in 1987, said to her colleagues that “now we must take leadership of course in the crisis of AIDS.”

“The speaker’s work on this issue continued through her time in leadership, including her passage of foreign aid packages, the Affordable Care Act, and funding for the HHS’s Ending the HIV Epidemic in the United States program,” said the HIV+Hepatitis Policy Institute press release.

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