Yesterday the White House released the President’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2011, the Administration’s proposal to Congress for federal funding in the next year. Despite across-the-board reductions, this year’s proposal includes a number of important increases, as well as new programs, that will impact LGBT people and those living with HIV and AIDS.
First, the Department of Justice budget includes an 11% increase for the Civil Rights Division, which is charged with enforcing civil rights laws, including the newly-passed Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The budget also includes $6 million for a new hate crimes prevention grant program. Last month, HRC President Joe Solmonese sent a letter to Attorney General Holder asking him to include robust funding [pdf] for implementation of the new hate crimes law in his department’s budget request.
Second, while HIV/AIDS programs were largely flat-funded at last year’s levels, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) budget does include some increases for key HIV/AIDS programs. These include a $31 million increase for HIV prevention efforts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a $40 million increase for treatment programs under the Ryan White CARE Act, and a $97 million increase for HIV/AIDS research at the National Institutes of Health. The CDC is also rolling out a new prevention program, using $26 million from new and existing funds, targeting gay and bisexual men and is allocating a portion of the new prevention dollars to address HIV in special populations, including the transgender community.
As it did last year, the HHS budget proposal also defunds disproven abstinence-only education programs in favor of teen pregnancy prevention efforts that provide evidence-based, medically-accurate resources to reduce the risks of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
We applaud the President for strengthening civil rights enforcement at the Department of Justice and for supporting increases in critical HIV/AIDS funding, even at time when cost-cutting and hard choices are necessary. Unfortunately, while the economic downturn dictates reductions in the federal budget (as well as state budgets), it also increases the burden on federal programs, like Ryan White, which help the most at-risk HIV-positive populations. As the appropriations process moves forward, we will continue to push Congress and the Administration to find ways to ensure that these critical programs continue to help as many people as possible.