IN THE LOOP
The news you need to know about this week
Welcome to the latest edition of our update on the news you need to know and how it affects you and the communities we serve. Every couple of weeks we send out an e-mail featuring important updates (you can sign up below!). We know there’s a lot to keep track of out there, and that’s why we’ve made this short and sweet, but also informative. As always, thank you for your support of APLA Health and please share this with others who may be interested.
Trump’s Budget: Feel the Love
If you liked the rollout of the Republicans’ American Health Care Act (and almost no one did), then you’ll love the “skinny budget” the Administration released last week. The abbreviated budget involves a massive shift in spending, with an unprecedented $54 billion increase in defense spending, paid for by devastating cuts to non-defense discretionary spending, including 31% ($2.6 billion) from the Environmental Protection Agency and 16% ($12.6 billion) from the Department of Health and Human Services, which includes approximately 18% ($5.8 billion) from the National Institutes of Health.
The budget savages subsidized housing programs; eliminates the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program; cuts federal support for Meals on Wheels; and while you’re at it, you can kiss the National Endowment for the Arts and public broadcasting goodbye. The budget maintains current patient and treatment levels in the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and prioritizes the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program and community health centers. Legislators have warned, however, that all domestic programs—including Ryan White—could be reduced later by across-the-board spending rescissions. The upside here: The budget now goes to Congress, where legislators will wrangle to salvage favorite programs and where even some Republicans have said this budget is essentially dead on arrival. Stay tuned.
APLA Health Endorses “U=U”
APLA Health recently endorsed the Prevention Access Campaign’s “Undetectable = Untransmittable” consensus statement, which affirms that people living with HIV who have achieved a sustained, undetectable viral load have a negligible risk of transmitting HIV to their sexual partners. A person with HIV becomes undetectable when antiretroviral therapy suppresses the amount of virus in their blood so low that it cannot be detected by measurements.
The consensus statement is based on both real-world experience and research studies, including PARTNER, HPTN 052, Opposites Attract, and the Swiss Statement. In the most recent PARTNER study, there were zero transmissions out of 58,000 condomless sex acts between people living with HIV with undetectable viral loads and their partners who were HIV-negative.
These results provide conclusive evidence that antiretroviral therapy not only improves the health of people living with HIV, but also prevents new infections. It is now more important than ever that we ensure universal access to antiretroviral therapy and educate our friends and families about the public health benefits of effective HIV treatment. You can learn more about the Prevention Access Campaign at www.preventionaccess.org.
Proposed HUD Funding Cuts Would Hit People Living With HIV Hard
The Administration’s new proposed budget includes a $6.2 billion (or 13%) decrease to essential services provided by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Of note, the budget eliminates community development block grants, a critical funding source that helps counties, including Los Angeles, build housing for the homeless and revitalize older urban neighborhoods, and cuts $300 million from the Section 8 Housing Voucher program.
The budget language suggests that local jurisdictions should have greater responsibility and funding authority over housing programs, as they better understand the needs and priorities of their specific communities. Local housing authorities, however, rely heavily on federal funding and these cuts would spell disaster. The $300 million cut for subsidized-housing programs, coupled with cuts to other housing programs, will weaken state and local ability to meet community housing needs. U.S. Rep. Karen Bass noted that L.A.’s newly approved Measure H would be severely undermined by the proposed HUD cuts, forcing the city’s Housing Authority to eliminate thousands of Section 8 vouchers.
It is unclear how the cuts would affect L.A.’s HOPWA program, but there are already a limited number of vouchers available for people living with HIV, and it is likely that remaining funds would need to be redirected to maintain the city’s current housing services profile. Stable housing is incredibly effective in reducing viral loads in people living with HIV and preventing transmission of the virus because it means people are more likely to adhere to their medications when they have a secure place to live. These proposed budget cuts would devastate Los Angeles housing programs and health outcomes for people living with HIV/AIDS.
Stay in the loop!
We will send you regular updates on issues and policies affecting the LGBT and/or HIV communities and urge you to call or e-mail your representatives about key political activity at the local, state, and federal levels.