Thursday, July 12, 2018

Hey Trump! Hands Off Our Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program!

By: Brandon M. Macsata, CEO, ADAP Advocacy Association

Earlier this week, Slate reported that the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services ("HHS") planned to divert funds from existing programs to pay for the rising cost associated with the Trump Administration's controversial "zero-tolerance" immigration policy. The policy, which separates children from their families on the southern border, is overseen by the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement, and it is burning through so much cash that it needs more. In the crossfire is millions of dollars in funding designated for HIV/AIDS services under the Ryan White CARE Act.[1]

According to the reporting by Slate, HHS is planning for a surge in immigrant minors over the next three months:[2]
"The internal documents estimate that if 25,400 beds are needed, ORR would face a budget shortfall of $585 million for ORR in fiscal year 2018, which ends on Sept. 30. Under this scenario, that shortfall would increase to $1.3 billion in the first quarter of fiscal year 2019, adding up to a total shortfall of $1.9 billion for the period between Oct. 1, 2017, and Dec. 31, 2018. The documents stress that these budget estimates represent maximum possible expenditures and that actual expenses may be lower. The Department of Health and Human Services did not respond to multiple requests for comment about these figures or anything else relating to the documents."
In order to offset the budgetary shortfall, HHS will seek supplemental appropriations from Congress, as well as reallocate existing funds from within the department  including Ryan White funding. Slate's reporting also indicates the process of transferring those HIV/AIDS funds is underway.

The ADAP Advocacy Association has strongly condemned this decision. In an era when people living with HIV/AIDS are already facing enough uncertainty over the current government's commitment to fighting the epidemic, it was the latest setback to achieving an AIDS-free generation.

The pushback from a leading national patient advocacy group was swift when news broke that the Trump Administration would use Ryan White HIV/AIDS program dollars to fund its widely unpopular family separation policy at the southern border. AIDS United CEO Jesse Milan, Jr. issued a strongly-worded statement on the funding reallocation:[2]
"As a payer of last resort, the Ryan White Program covers services for people that have no other means to pay for them. Any shortages in funding to the program would result in essential services not provided to potentially thousands of Americans. This could mean people not receiving life-saving medications or losing insurance coverage because funding was not available to cover their premiums. For an administration that just recently proclaimed its commitment to ending the HIV epidemic in this country, stripping funding from the largest HIV-specific federal program defies all logic."
The fact that the money being diverted is "unspent" money makes no difference to people living with HIV/AIDS who rely on Ryan White-related supports and services. There are always creative ways to spend or transfer federal money within an agency's budget,[4] because it happens all of the time. And considering there are ongoing challenges facing ADAP consumers limiting their access to care, such as restrictive drug formularies, that money should be spent on people living with HIV/AIDS. (Editor's Note: Read our previous blog on open drug formularies, "ADAP Open Drug Formulary Programs Improve Access to Care & Treatment; So why are there so few?")

Numerous national LGBTQ groups also condemned the news, including Lambda Legal and Human Rights Campaign. It appears that this development is fluid, and we will continue to closely monitor it.


[1] Stern, Mark Joseph. (2018, July 10). Trump’s Office of Refugee Resettlement Is Budgeting for a Surge in Child Separations. Slate. Retrieved from:
[2] Stern, Mark Joseph. (2018, July 10). Trump’s Office of Refugee Resettlement Is Budgeting for a Surge in Child Separations. Slate. Retrieved from:
[4] (2013, June 6). Transfer and Reprogramming of Appropriations: An Overview of Authorities, Limitations, and Procedures. R43098. Retrieved from

No comments: