Sequester Cuts Could Undermine The HIV Research That Helped Doctors Cure A Child

The scientific community is buzzing with the news that doctors may have cured a two-year-old girl of her HIV infection, marking the first time the virus has been eliminated from a child’s system. But thanks to sequestration, scientists may struggle to build upon that potentially groundbreaking study — since the automatic budget cuts that began going into effect at the beginning of the month will undermine this exact type of innovative medical research.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), which co-funded the forthcoming study about the two-year-old’s case, is facing an 8.2 percent across-the-board cut as a result of sequestration. That will slash NIH’s $31 billion budget by about $1.6 billion — leaving considerably less funding for new biomedical research projects:

The NIH, in conjunction with the Foundation for AIDS Research, also known as amfAR, paid for the research of the child who was infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Chris Collins, vice president of public policy for amfAR, said there was a “cruel irony” to the timing of the HIV cure discovery and sequestration.

“As we’ve heard this exciting news about cure research, the entire AIDS research field is experiencing a significant cutback,” said Collins. “If we were in the business of ending AIDS, this would be the time to invest, not pull our resources out.”

A former NIH director has already warned that the sequester cuts could set back medical science for a generation. Existing research will have to be scaled back, and significant cuts to grants could dissuade scientists from getting new projects off the ground.

And that’s not the only way that sequestration could potentially set back progress in combating the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Accpording to the Department of Health and Human Services, budget cuts will result in 424,000 fewer HIV tests conducted by state agencies, as well as an estimated 7,400 fewer patients able to access to their HIV medications through government assistance programs.