Billion dollar bumble on HIV funds

Published in POLITICO

By J. LESTER FEDER and KATE NOCERA

Congressional staffers working quickly to summarize the 400-plus page budget deal accidentally cut $1 billion in AIDS and STD prevention funding from a document posted on the House Appropriations Committee website Tuesday morning.

“We had a collective heart attack when we saw that number,” said Ronald Johnson, vice president of the advocacy group AIDS United. “So we called to make sure it was correct and it wasn’t.”

The committee quietly updated the table later in the day. “That line was an error,” the committee’s spokeswoman told POLITICO.

Asked if the mistake reflected a proposal that was on the table at some point in the process, a staffer for Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said, “That was just a technical production issue. Remember what time we were working on this, it was very early in the morning. It was very early, 2 in the morning. Just a technical error. All the discussions [about what was or wasn’t on the table] are confidential.”

But one staffer with 30 years of experience working on the Hill remarked, “If you lose a billion dollars in your table, you’re working too fast. If you lose the entire HIV budget, you’re working too far away from the substance.”

Johnson points out that the total FY2010 budget for HIV and STD prevention was $911.9 million. A cut to these programs in excess of $1 billion would also have to take pieces from programs to combat viral hepatitis and tuberculosis. Combined, all these diseases received $1.0755 billion domestically in 2010.

AIDS United understands from Hill and administration sources that there is no specific cut to HIV funding, but a combined $730 million cut to the Centers for Disease Control could affect HIV programs.

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