Ancito Etienne, Staff Writer~

President Trump’s proposed $300 million fiscal year 2018 budget cut in funding for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is overtly outrageous.

We need to increase HIV/AIDS funding by $700 million in order to close the funding gap and end the epidemic by 2030, not administer cuts.

President George W. Bush introduced PEPFAR in 2003, and it is the largest commitment to combat HIV/AIDS by any nation. Its goal is to help save the lives of those suffering from HIV/AIDS around the world by providing them with antiretroviral therapy (ART).

Cutting PEPFAR funding would endanger both developing nations affected by HIV/AIDS and the United States.

Programs, such as PEPFAR and the Global Fund, help to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS and serve as a mechanism for deterring this disease from wreaking havoc in the U.S. as it has done in developing nations, more specifically sub-Saharan Africa. Countries with prevalence of HIV/AIDS-infected individuals need our support, and helping them is the ethical thing to do.

red ribbon
Illustration by Genevieve Griffin

HIV/AIDS is not an outdated disease. It still causes millions of deaths in the world and destroys the economic abilities of families. There were approximately 36.7 million people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS at the end of 2015.

Today, it is estimated that 78 million people have contracted the disease, and 35 million people have died of AIDS-related illnesses since the inception of the disease. In Virginia alone, an estimated 24,252 adults and adolescents were diagnosed with HIV in 2016.

Without funding to maintain programs such as PEPFAR, we will only see a rise in these numbers.

We have made a lot of progress working toward achieving an AIDS-free generation. PEPFAR is supporting treatment for over 7 million people.

For more than 1.5 million pregnant women, PEPFAR has prevented the transmission of HIV from mothers to children by providing them with antiretroviral therapy. In 2013, PEPFAR reached the one million mark of HIV-free newborns of HIV-positive parents, and this number is exponentially increasing.

We must continue to work toward achieving an AIDS-free generation. You have the power to prevent the $300 million cut and demand that $700 million be added to PEPFAR funding. Your congressional representatives can help in making this happen.

President Trump does not make the budget, Congress does! As a constituent, you can exercise your civil liberty and call your congressional representatives, Rep. Bob Goodlatte and Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, and demand them to support a $700 million increase in PEPFAR funding, rather than cuts!

We need your support. We need advocates. Join us in this fight!