The administration’s transfer of funds from infectious diseases prevention, care and biomedical research programs to offset the rising costs of the “Unaccompanied Alien Children” program comes as our nation prepares for flu season and confronts unprecedented increases in cases of sexually transmitted diseases, spikes in infections linked to the opioid crisis, and as an ongoing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo highlights needs for national and global public health system and research investments.
The Infectious Diseases Society of America and the HIV Medicine Association are concerned that the funds, transferred before the end of the fiscal year, were taken from public health programs critical to maintaining the health of communities across the country and to supporting necessary research toward more effective responses to our nation’s greatest public health challenges. In addition, when the United States joins leaders from across the globe at the United Nations High Level meeting on Tuberculosis in New York this week and launches a global antimicrobial resistance challenge there, the commitments we make must be backed up by robust and sustained investments, not diminished by funding cuts.
Overall, the transfer of $186 million from the Department of Health and Human Services affects programs across the agency. Infectious diseases programs affected include those at the CDC - Emerging and Zoonotics Infectious Diseases ($1.9 million), Immunization and Respiratory Diseases ($1.6 million), HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB ($3.8 million), Global Health ($1.3 million); Public Health Preparedness and Response ($575,000); at HRSA -- Ryan White HIV/AIDS program ($5.8 million); at SAMHSA – the Minority AIDS Initiative ($1 million); and at the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health ($12.1 million).
Our organizations previously raised concerns regarding the public health implications of the administration’s family separation and border policies. We reiterate that taking funds from public health and research programs critical to preventing and controlling infectious diseases in order to support a program where costs for a number of years have outpaced the amount of funding available to support it is counterproductive and short-sighted. We urge the administration to seek, and the Congress to appropriate, a level of funding sufficient to support the “Unaccompanied Alien Children” program in a manner that will ensure safe and healthy conditions for children.
We urge Congress to intervene immediately, to ensure current funding levels that support the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases and protect those funds from future reallocation to programs for which they were never intended.