WASHINGTON, D.C. — As a major contributor to foreign aid and healthcare development, the United States is an important influence on what priorities other countries set regarding international health. If the U.S. makes the global health budget cuts it is proposing, progress toward establishing quality health services for all global citizens could be at great risk.
If enacted, global health budget cuts would total approximately $2.5 billion. Based on budget impact models, the investment area most at risk is HIV/AIDS. Within one year of cuts going into effect, new HIV infections could range from 49,100 to 198,700, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. The number of people on antiretrovirals crucial in HIV treatment could decline by more than 830,000.
The U.S. is the largest supporter in the global fight against HIV and AIDS. Much of the reduction in HIV/AIDS deaths is thanks to the Presidents Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Individual countries are becoming more equipped to control HIV numbers themselves, but without a vaccine or cure, funding from developed countries is key.
Another key population vulnerable to the budget cuts is women, particularly with respect to their reproductive health. The number of women and couples receiving contraceptives would decline, ranging from 6.2 million to almost 24 million; the increase in the number of abortions would range between 778,000 to almost three million. Also, additional maternal, newborn and child deaths would range between 7,000 and 31,300.
American investment in global health research helps the U.S. economy and creates jobs, returning $33 billion and generating 200,000 jobs between 2007 and 2015. In the same period, the government invested nearly $14 billion in research and development for global health. This money was crucial to developing more than 40 new drugs for diseases like AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.
Contrary to the assumption that global health spending goes straight overseas, 89 cents of every dollar invested in global health research is invested within the U.S. Government investment in disease research helps stimulate work on treatments that would otherwise be unprofitable for pharmaceutical and biotech firms to develop. Both the U.S. and the impoverished would suffer from global health budget cuts.
The progress the United States has already made through its global health spending proves how important it is for those near and far. More than half of people living with HIV globally are now accessing treatment, and deaths have halved since 2005. Coartem Dispersible, a malaria drug designed especially for children, has saved about 750,000 lives so far. Similarly, a 50-cent vaccine called MenAfriVac has already prevented about 378,000 deaths from meningitis and is now on track to save $9 billion in treatment costs by 2020. These innovations help poorer countries become more sustainable and prioritize improving their healthcare.
The Trump administration might see U.S. funding as the obvious priority over global healthcare, but it is ultimately up to Congress to confirm that view. Lawmakers have the choice to vote in this budget proposal, and the people supporting lawmakers can also urge their representatives to maintain foreign aid. Forward progress in global healthcare will be impossible without the funding to back it up, and those fortunate to live in a modern democracy must speak for the impoverished to ensure a healthy future.
– Allie Knofczynski