Experts gathered in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday warned that at least 1 million people, many in sub-Saharan Africa, could die of AIDS if proposed Trump Administration funding cuts go through.
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The United States now spends over $6 billion each year funding programs to get lifesaving antiretroviral medications to more than 11.5 million people worldwide who are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
According to The New York Times, the Trump Administration has proposed cutting that funding by at least $1.1 billion, said Jen Yates, a vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation.
"These are lifesaving interventions, and these levels of reductions will significantly curtail service delivery," Kates told the Times.
In one calculation, the Global Fund estimated that 133,000 lives are saved for every $100 million invested in anti-AIDS efforts.
But in a news briefing, a State Department official said no one would lose their HIV medications due to the proposed cuts.
"We will currently maintain those patients on the treatment," said Hari Sastry, who directs the department's Office of U.S. Foreign Assistance Resources.
However, according to the Times, Sastri did not explain how full treatment would be maintained despite an approximately 20 percent cut to funding.
The U.S. anti-AIDS programs do have wide support from both parties in Congress, so it's possible the proposed cuts may not be approved, the Times said.
Certainly, keeping people on treatment is vital to stop the virus' spread, another expert said.
"If you cut the funding by this much, I think there's a real risk we will backslide, and a whole lot more people will become infected," Brian Honermann, deputy director at amfAR, a foundation that invests in AIDS research, told the Times.
The Trump Administration has also proposed more than $524 million in cuts to funding for contraceptives and other family planning efforts for women in poorer nations.
In a statement posted on her Facebook page, Melinda Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said that the proposed family planning cuts "would lead to more unintended pregnancies, more maternal deaths."
"This budget threatens to trap millions more families in a cycle of poverty," she said.
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